Owner financing is something that has been used for generations and can benefit you regardless if you’re a seller, buyer, investor, wholesaler, or just a regular person. It may seem a little scary for both people involved, but that’s mostly because most loans happen through banks now.
Regardless if you are the buyer or seller, it’s not something you should fear. So, let’s dive in!
- What Is Owner Financing?
- How Does Owner Financing Work?
- Benefits of Owner Financing
- Drawbacks of Owner Financing
- Types of Owner Financing Agreements
- Costs of Owner Financing
- Requirements for Owner Financing
- How to Buy or Sell a Home with Owner Financing
- FAQs About Owner Financing
What Is Owner Financing?
Owner financing is a type of real estate transaction where the seller provides financing directly to the buyer instead of the buyer obtaining a mortgage from a bank. With owner financing, the seller essentially acts as the bank and provides financing to the buyer.
The buyer and seller agree to terms where the buyer makes a down payment, just like with a traditional mortgage, and then repays the remaining loan balance to the seller in monthly installments over a set period. The terms include an interest rate, length of the loan, and monthly payment amount.
Once the loan is fully repaid by the buyer, including all principal and interest, the seller signs over the property title and deed to the buyer. At that point, the buyer owns the home free and clear.
The key distinguishing feature of owner financing compared to a traditional mortgage is that financing comes directly from the seller rather than an institutional lender like a bank. The seller retains ownership until the buyer pays off the loan in full over time.
How Does Owner Financing Work?
Owner financing works by having the buyer make a down payment to the seller, who provides financing for the remainder of the purchase price. The buyer then makes monthly payments to the seller over an agreed-upon term, typically 5-30 years.
The interest rate and exact terms of the owner financing agreement are negotiated between the buyer and seller. This provides more flexibility than traditional bank financing. The interest rate is usually slightly higher with owner financing since the seller is taking on the loan risk.
The buyer makes monthly payments of principal and interest to the seller until the loan is paid off. Once the loan is fully repaid by the buyer, the seller then transfers the property title and ownership to the buyer. This completes the owner financing agreement.
The seller is essentially acting as the bank by providing financing to the buyer. This allows the transaction to move forward without needing formal mortgage financing. It benefits both the buyer and seller when structured properly.
Benefits of Owner Financing
Owner financing offers several potential benefits for both buyers and sellers compared to traditional financing.
Benefits for Buyers
For buyers, owner financing can be easier to qualify for since you are dealing directly with the seller rather than going through a bank’s strict approval process. Owner financing often allows for more flexible terms as well. You may be able to negotiate a lower down payment, longer repayment period, or variable interest rate that better fits your financial needs.
The process is also typically faster since there is less paperwork and underwriting required compared to a standard mortgage loan. This can help you secure the home you want more quickly.
Benefits for Sellers
For sellers, owner financing allows you to earn a higher rate of return than you would likely get investing the proceeds from a cash sale into other types of investments. You also benefit from a steady stream of income in the form of the buyer’s monthly payments. This can supplement your existing income during the payback period.
Additionally, you avoid fees you would incur from prepaying your mortgage if you had one on the property. Owner financing also lets you avoid real estate agent commissions and closing costs associated with selling for cash. By carrying the financing yourself, more of the sale proceeds end up in your pocket.
You are taxed on capital gains the year you receive them. So, if you earn back the principal over several years, your tax burden is deferred until the year you receive the income.
If you have a lot of capital gains, seller financing is a good way to space the gains out.
Drawbacks of Owner Financing
Owner financing can be a great alternative to traditional bank financing, but there are some potential downsides to be aware of for both buyers and sellers.
Drawbacks for Buyers
- Higher interest rates – Owner financing typically comes with higher interest rates when compared to traditional mortgages from banks and lenders. Rates of 8-12% are common but can be much lower or higher depending on the deal.
- Risk of default by seller – If the seller defaults or files for bankruptcy, the buyer could potentially lose all equity invested in the property as well as any payments already made. There is less protection compared to a traditional mortgage.
- Fewer consumer protections – Owner financing agreements don’t fall under the regulations and consumer protections of standard mortgages overseen by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Buyers have less recourse in disputes.
Drawbacks for Sellers
- Risk of default by buyer – If the buyer stops making payments, the seller will need to go through a potentially lengthy and expensive foreclosure process to reclaim the property. This can create major financial headaches.
- Responsible for foreclosure costs – The seller has to handle any foreclosure proceedings if the buyer defaults. This can become costly with legal and court fees.
- Less flexibility – The seller is tied to the property until the loan is repaid in full, which reduces flexibility. It’s more difficult to cash out or sell until the buyer has paid off the loan.
Types of Owner Financing Agreements
There are a few different types of legal agreements that can be used for owner-financing arrangements.
Promissory Note and Mortgage
This is the most common type of owner financing agreement. It consists of two parts:
- A promissory note that contains the amount financed, interest rate, payment schedule, and terms of default. This legally obligates the buyer to repay the loan.
- A mortgage that uses the property as collateral for the loan. If the buyer defaults, the seller can foreclose to reclaim ownership.
The mortgage gets recorded with the county for public record. The promissory note establishes personal liability even if the seller forecloses.
Contract for Deed
Also called an installment sales contract, this is a simpler agreement where the seller finances the property but retains legal title until the buyer finishes all payments.
The contract spells out the purchase price, financing terms, payment schedule, and interest rate. The buyer takes possession and gets equitable title. The contract usually gets recorded.
A lease option agreement, also known as a rent-to-own agreement, is a contract between a seller (landlord) and a buyer (tenant) that allows the buyer to rent the property for a specific period with the option to purchase it at a later date. It combines elements of a lease agreement and a purchase option.
Here’s how it typically works:
- The buyer and seller agree on the terms of the lease, including the monthly rent, lease duration, and the option fee.
- The buyer pays the seller an upfront option fee, usually non-refundable, which grants them the exclusive right to purchase the property within a specified timeframe.
- The buyer then becomes a tenant and pays monthly rent to the seller. During the lease period, the buyer has the opportunity to improve their creditworthiness or save for a down payment.
- If the buyer decides to exercise their option to purchase the property, they can do so by providing written notice to the seller within the specified timeframe.
- Once the buyer exercises the option, the agreed-upon purchase price is typically set in the lease agreement.
- At this point, the lease agreement is terminated, and a new purchase agreement is initiated, allowing the buyer to obtain financing or arrange payment terms for the purchase.
- If the buyer chooses not to exercise their option to purchase, the lease agreement ends, and the buyer may choose to move out or negotiate an extension with the seller if they wish to continue renting.
It’s important to note that the terms and conditions of lease option agreements can vary, so it’s crucial for both parties to clearly outline the terms, including the purchase price, in a written contract. Additionally, it’s advisable to work with a real estate attorney or professional to ensure the agreement is legally sound and protects the interests of both the buyer and the seller.
Wrap Around Mortgage
A wrap-around mortgage is a type of seller financing where the seller agrees to provide a mortgage that “wraps around” an existing mortgage on the property. In other words, the buyer makes mortgage payments to the seller, who in turn uses a portion of that payment to pay off the existing mortgage.
Here’s how it typically works:
- The buyer and seller agree on the terms of the sale, including the purchase price and interest rate for the wrap-around mortgage.
- The seller continues to make payments on the existing mortgage while the buyer makes payments to the seller.
- The buyer’s payments to the seller include both the interest on the wrap-around mortgage and a portion that goes towards paying off the seller’s existing mortgage.
- The seller uses the buyer’s payments to continue paying the original mortgage.
- When the original mortgage is fully paid off, the seller will transfer the property’s legal title to the buyer.
In essence, the buyer has one mortgage that “wraps around” the existing mortgage, resulting in a single monthly payment to the seller. This allows the buyer to purchase the property without needing to qualify for a traditional mortgage from a bank.
It is important to note that the specific terms and conditions of a wrap-around mortgage can vary, so it’s crucial for both parties to clearly outline the terms of the agreement in a legal contract. Additionally, a wrap-around mortgage may have risks and complexities, so it’s advisable to consult with a real estate attorney or financial professional before entering into such an arrangement.
Costs of Owner Financing
The costs associated with owner financing include:
- Interest charges – The buyer pays an agreed upon interest rate to the seller, usually higher than traditional mortgage rates. The specific interest rate is negotiated between the buyer and seller based on factors like the buyer’s credit, the amount of down payment, and current market rates.
- Legal fees – Drafting the owner financing agreements involves attorney fees to ensure the proper legal documents are created, including the promissory note and mortgage or deed of trust. This provides legal protections for both the buyer and seller. Expect to pay $1,000-$2,000 or more for an attorney.
- Ongoing property taxes and insurance – Even with owner financing, property taxes and homeowners insurance still need to be paid. The mortgage agreement will specify if these costs are the responsibility of the buyer or seller. Typically the buyer pays property taxes and insurance as part of the monthly payments to the seller.
Owner financing avoids costs associated with traditional mortgages, like lender fees, closing costs, and mortgage insurance. However, both parties take on legal fees, interest charges to the buyer, and the ongoing property expenses. Proper budgeting and planning for these costs are important when considering an owner financed deal.
Requirements for Owner Financing
To qualify for owner financing, the buyer will need to meet certain requirements set by the seller. These typically include:
- Down Payment – Most owner financing agreements require the buyer to make a down payment of 10-20% of the total purchase price. This gives the seller some cash upfront and demonstrates the buyer’s commitment to the purchase. The larger the down payment, the lower risk it is for the seller.
- Stable Income and Good Credit – The buyer will need to provide proof of stable income, through pay stubs, tax returns, or bank statements. The seller wants assurance the buyer has the means to make the monthly payments. A credit check showing the buyer has good credit with few late payments is also key. The seller is acting as the bank, so wants confidence the buyer can repay the loan.
- Appraisal of the Property – An independent appraisal helps establish the fair market value of the home. This protects both the buyer and seller by ensuring the sale price is reasonable. It also verifies the property has sufficient equity to cover the financing.
- Agreed Upon Terms – Buyer and seller must agree on key terms like the interest rate, total loan amount, length of the loan, and monthly payment amount. These terms will be spelled out in the financing contract. Having clear agreed upon terms upfront prevents misunderstandings.
By meeting these standard requirements, the buyer demonstrates they are financially qualified and able to repay the owner financing loan under the agreed upon terms. This provides security to the seller who is acting as the bank.
How to Buy or Sell a Home with Owner Financing
Buying or selling a home with owner financing involves a few key steps:
Negotiate the Terms
The buyer and seller will negotiate the specifics of the owner financing agreement, including:
- Purchase price
- Down payment amount
- Length of the loan term
- Interest rate and whether it’s fixed or adjustable
- Monthly payment amount
- Any balloon payments or prepayment terms
Both parties should agree on terms that meet their needs and interests. Make sure to account for factors like market rates, the condition of the home, and the buyer’s financial situation.
Have an Attorney Review and Draft Documents
It’s highly recommended to have a real estate attorney draft the legal owner financing documents like the promissory note and deed of trust. This will ensure the correct language is included and the agreement complies with state laws.
An attorney can also advise on risks and ensure documents are recorded properly. Never DIY legal forms for owner financing.
Sign Paperwork and Finalize Sale
The buyer and seller will sign the official owner financing paperwork, including the promissory note, deed of trust, and any additional agreements.
This process is similar to a normal real estate closing, where deeds are conveyed and keys are exchanged after funds are received. Title insurance can provide added security.
Set Up Payment Schedule and System
The buyer and seller should set up a clear payment schedule and system for making and collecting monthly payments. Many arrange automatic bank drafts.
Keep a record of payments for taxes and proof of payment history. Having a process in place makes ongoing owner financing smooth.
Following these steps allows both parties to transact a home sale with owner financing in a secure and seamless manner. Be sure to consult professionals to protect your interests.
Interest Rates for Owner Financing
Owner financing typically comes with higher interest rates than you would get with a traditional mortgage. Interest rates for owner financing loans tend to fall somewhere between 6-12%.
The exact interest rate offered will depend on several factors:
- Down payment amount – The larger the down payment, the lower the interest rate is likely to be. Buyers who can put down 20-30% or more of the purchase price will qualify for the lowest rates.
- Credit score – Buyers with excellent credit (scores above 700) will qualify for the lowest interest rates on an owner financing loan, while lower scores will bump up the rate.
- Property type – An owner may offer better rates for a primary residence property than for an investment property. Vacation homes often come with slightly higher interest rates as well.
- Loan term – Shorter loan terms of 5-10 years generally have lower interest rates than longer 15-30 year loans.
- Loan to value ratio – If the loan amount is a high percentage of the total property value, the interest rate will be higher. Lower LTVs get better rates.
- Market rates – An owner will consider prevailing mortgage rates when setting their owner financing interest rate. In a lower rate environment they can offer more attractive financing.
The interest rate offered will come down to the negotiation between the buyer and seller based on the factors above. With owner financing typically costing more than a traditional mortgage, buyers should shop around for the best rate possible.
FAQs About Owner Financing
Is owner financing safe?
Owner financing can be a safe method of financing real estate if it is properly structured with the guidance of legal counsel. The seller takes on the risk that the buyer may default on payments, so it’s important for the seller to vet the buyer thoroughly, require a substantial down payment, and create a detailed legal contract. As long as the agreement protects the interests of both parties, owner financing can be a viable alternative to traditional mortgage financing.
Who pays the property taxes and insurance?
With owner financing, the buyer is usually responsible for paying the property taxes and insurance directly. This should be clearly outlined in the legal agreement. The seller still technically owns the home until the buyer has paid the loan in full, but the buyer takes over these recurring housing costs.
What happens if the buyer defaults on the loan?
If the buyer defaults on an owner financing agreement, the seller has several options:
- Work with the buyer to catch up on late payments with a payment plan
- Restructure the loan terms if the buyer is having trouble making payments
- Foreclose on the property to take back ownership
- Sell the remaining mortgage note to an investor
The legal agreement should outline the seller’s rights and the foreclosure process in the case of buyer non-payment. Foreclosure can be complicated, so the seller may need to hire a real estate attorney if the buyer defaults.
Eric Bowlin has 15 years of experience in the real estate industry and is a real estate investor, author, speaker, real estate agent, and coach. He focuses on multifamily, house flipping. and wholesaling and has owned over 470 units of multifamily.
Eric spends his time with his family, growing his businesses, diversifying his income, and teaching others how to achieve financial independence through real estate.
You may have seen Eric on Forbes, Bigger Pockets, Trulia, WiseBread, TheStreet, Inc, The Texan, Dallas Morning News, dozens of podcasts, and many others.