Since the housing bust of 2008, a lot of homeowners let their homes go into foreclosure and ultimately back to the bank. Reports of thievery by homeowners taking out appliances, light fixtures, ceiling fans, cabinets, and the like, out of the house before it goes into foreclosure were widespread and an all too common occurrence. This forced the banks to list a lot of homes in an “as-is” condition; that is, in their existing state, with no promise of potential repairs. This is in contrast to a traditional sale, where owners are often required to provide seller disclosure statements, and any unsatisfactory results of buyer’s inspections and investigations are often used to negotiate additional repairs or price adjustments.
The common misconception is that any home that is being sold “as-is” will be in shambles, but the truth is, there are some surprisingly decent deals available in this arena. Informed buyers, who do their research and understand what they are getting into, can pick up some pretty good bargains.
What Does As-Is Mean?
As mentioned previously, many people assume “as-is” means a home is in serious disrepair, but that’s not necessarily true. Simply put, the seller is providing notification up front that they will make no repairs to the property as a condition of sale. A house advertised “as-is” may range from near-mint condition to a lemon, depending on each seller’s unique situation.
Why Might a House Be Sold As-Is?
The most common reason for a home being advertised in this condition may be because the home is a foreclosure or a bank REO; that is, it has been repossessed by the lender and is Real Estate Owned. Foreclosures are almost always sold as-is, and due to the fact that the lender has never occupied the actual house, they are often not aware of the intricacies that may typically be required on a seller’s disclosure. Relatives may sell properties they have inherited in “estate condition” because they are in a hurry to settle an estate and don’t want to spend money on a house they have no financial or emotional interest in. Finally, a seller simply may not have the time, money, or desire to deal with making repairs, and may be willing to take a significant cut in proceeds to avoid the extra effort.
Is a Foreclosure Always Listed As-Is?
Or is it possible to negotiate with the bank for repairs or improvements? As a buyer, you can always try to negotiate, but conditions of the home foreclosures market are more likely to favor the lender, who will in most cases be able to sell the property as-is.
Conduct a Professional Home Inspection
As with any home purchase, but particularly important with an as-is home, you should conduct a thorough professional home inspection with a well-respected home inspection company. Here are some basic tips and things to think about if you find yourself considering this type of home investment:
- Offer less than the asking price. Well, duh, that seems pretty obvious in this market, doesn’t it? But how much below? First, you need to establish the true market price. A realtor can determine this based on recent similar sales in the neighborhood, and there are a number of websites out there that also provide estimates or comparable houses for sale, although we recommend using those with caution as you can’t be certain the data utilized is representative or necessarily accurate. Once you obtain this data, use the lower end of the spectrum and subtract from it the estimated costs of potential repairs necessary for the property. Be sure to err on the conservative side in your estimates for repairs. Even then, knock another 5 to 10 percent or so off your offer price; it’s a buyer’s market, and they can only say no, or counter, or accept.
- Have the property inspected thoroughly by a licensed, experienced professional inspector. Try to always choose a home inspector who is a member of the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI). This organization has the toughest experience and membership standards; you can find qualified inspectors at their website, ASHI.org. Prospective buyers of as-is homes should condition their purchase offers on a satisfactory professional inspection report to be obtained by the buyer after the seller accepts the purchase offer. If the seller refuses to allow an inspection or this contingency as part of the purchase contract, run, don’t walk, away from that deal.
- Are you really prepared for a potential major renovation job? Think long and hard about this before committing to this type of purchase. Consider the physical, mental and financial aspects of the project you may be taking on before finalizing your purchase commitment.
- Evaluate financing and insurance needs upfront given that the property may require unique financing or insurance programs designed for renovation properties. You don’t want to find out you can’t ensure or finance the property after your earnest money goes hard.
When a home is marketed as-is, it gives the home buyer the advantage. The words as-is have a negative connotation and signal fixer-upper to many buyers. Use this to your advantage when negotiating with the seller because with the proper research, you could come out with an excellent deal.