The Nation's Housing Column: Home deals worth checking out

Fannie temporarily is offering qualified owner-occupant purchasers — but not investors — cash incentives toward closing costs of 3.5 percent of the purchase price.
Published: February 22, 2014
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— If you’re planning to shop for a home in the coming few weeks, here’s an early spring buying season come-on that just might save you some money if you qualify.

Fannie Mae, the largest mortgage investor in the country, has a bulging portfolio of houses acquired through foreclosures nationwide. Roughly 31,000 of these properties are listed on its “HomePath” (www.homepath.com) resale marketing site.

To move them quickly out of inventory, Fannie temporarily is offering qualified owner-occupant purchasers — but not investors — cash incentives toward closing costs of 3.5 percent of the purchase price. But you have to submit your initial offer no later than March 31 and close by May 31.

What sort of houses are we talking about? Visit the site and you’ll see. They run the gamut — from a one-bedroom condo unit in San Diego to a four-bedroom, four-bath single family home in suburban Montgomery Village, Md.

Some states have thousands of HomePath listings online: Florida has nearly 12,000; Illinois, 4,360; Ohio, 2,800; California, more than 2,300; Washington state, nearly 1,800 and Nevada, around 1,400. Asking prices range from $30,000 to $600,000 or more. On a $400,000 house, the 3.5-percent closing cost incentive would amount to $14,000.

To ensure that buyers who intend to occupy its homes get an opportunity to fully check them out and bid without competition from investment groups offering all-cash deals, Fannie has instituted what it calls a “First Look” program. It essentially prohibits bids from investors on properties during the first 20 days after listing (30 days in Nevada). After that, investors are free to jump in. Each “First Look” listing has a countdown clock attached to it that indicates the number of days remaining before bidding is opened to all comers.

The new 3.5-percent closing cost offer is only available during active “First Look” periods from mid-February through March, so there’s not a lot of time to get involved. Bidders will need to indicate up front that they want to be considered for a closing costs discount.

Who is eligible? No. 1, you’ve got to be a bona fide owner-occupant purchaser and commit to live in the house as a primary residence for at least a year. You’ll need to fill out a certification to that effect that can be found on the HomePath site. Properties are not available in all states.

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