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Getting a Mortgage? Don't expect any favors from your old bank.

by Jeremy Larkin

Are people getting mortgages? YES. Is it as easy as it used to be? THANK HEAVENS NO.

We've recently had many would-be Buyer clients tell us that they met with their "old bank" and the bank wouldn't just give them a home mortgage loan right there on the spot.

That was 2005, (or maybe 1935?), this is 2010 - post real estate melt-down. The banks learned their lessons so don't plan on running down to your old Savings & Loan and saying, "Barney, how's the wife and kids? I need a loan - where do I sign?"

We've all got to jump through the hoops of the mortgage system now, and that's just fine.

I’m sure I’m going to take some heat from my peers for this, but I’ll take that risk to present the following long-range views on the subject.


There’s a lot of “buzz” in the St. George real estate market right now about the upcoming “Utah Real Estate Auction”, ( I’m not sure what that buzz looks or sounds like outside of my professional peer group, but it seems that every time I turn around this week another agent is talking about it. 



The concept behind the auction is quite simple, and on the surface, makes complete sense: Put together a huge list of properties that are (supposedly) distressed and ripe for deal-seekers. Compile them all into a big online database, roll out the direct mail and billboards announcing “deals of the century”, and set the “contract room” up for hungry Buyers and elated Sellers.


In theory, everyone wins. Sellers get what they want, Buyers the same, and any involved Realtors pick up a quick, albeit reduced, commission.  So what’s wrong with the program?


Nothing, perhaps, but if you take a long-term view of the market and the perceptions that get created when things like “auctions” take place, there are some potential pitfalls. Here are a few to chew on:


Potential Pitfall #1: Buyers’ perception of possible savings become distorted.  For months and months now, the average home in Washington County has sold for 85-100% of the list price. Now hold on for the next part: many homes, almost all bank foreclosures, are selling for 100% of the list price or MORE! I am hearing weekly of “bidding wars” being created on homes priced so aggressively that multiple buyers are trying to get in on the action.


With the hype of an auction, buyers, especially out of town buyers, get the idea that they can come to town and “name their price” when the reality just isn’t so. This creates disappointed buyers and lots of wasted time.


Potential Pitfall #2:  3rd-Party lender and lien-holder buy-off. Many of these homes are “short-sales” and lack the required 3rd party approvals at their current prices….what happens when bidders come in and offer another 25% lower?


What happens is more disappointment. We saw this happen in the past 90 days in Northern Utah. It was all over local and state news. Would-be deal seekers showed up an a similar commercial auction, made their bids and had them “accepted” at the auction…only to find out later that the banks and 3rd-party lien holders wouldn’t buy off on the high bids. I saw some ANGRY people on the news that day……whoops.


Potential Pitfall #3: The “perception” of a good deal does not a good deal make. I am always reminded of the story my Keller Williams Sales manager told me about his first iPod purchase on eBay. The poor guy stayed up ½ the night to ensure a winning bid, only to find out later he had paid higher than retail price!


In a KSL piece dated August 6, 2008, Paul Nielson wrote about the fact that real estate auctions are not always a good investment. This goes back pitfall #1. Read the following excerpt from that article: As for those great deals where people can buy a home at auction for less than half it's worth, some attorneys say that's not really happening in Utah right now. Sometimes at foreclosure auctions, the bank will charge what it is owed, even if it's more than what the house is worth.”


Well that’s interesting. Unfortunately, just as there is always a dummy who will respond to an email from the “Princess of an African King” to make a few million dollars, there will always be people who will show up to a real estate auction and over-pay for a property due to the inherent “perception” of a good deal.

Now can I be completely frank with the following? When you go to the auction website you will see the "Estimated Value" vs. the "Opening Bid." There are very "Estimated Values" that I can comfortably say are the "Actual Values." From my personal observation, many of those estimated values seem high to the tune of 5-15%. In many cases the "Opening Bid" is just about the actual current market value. DO YOUR HOMEWORK!

And don't forget that they are tacking a 6% "premium fee" on top of the winning bid price!

Here is a link to the auction inventory which stands at 72 properties at this writing:

So why go?

Lots of reasons. Sheer Curiosity and the fact that you really might find a sweet deal are two really great reasons. Another is that you will just learn a lot in the process as a bystander.


The Utah REA people and their local contacts are doing a super job promoting the even and all of the potential pitfalls aside, it is great exposure for our local market.

The other thing I really like is that in a market of "bystanders," these people are actually out making it happen. There is also the potential to move a large volume of inventory in a very short period of time....very cool.


Here are some useful tips to make sure you don’t end up as one of the “dummies” I described above:

  1. Do your homework first. This means contacting a good local Realtor who has solid contacts with people like home inspectors. Get out and physically view the properties in advance, ask questions, and have your agent run some “comps” (comparable sales data) to determine what would be a good price for the home.

If you’re concerned about how your agent, as well as “listing” agents get paid (cause you don’t want to pay more than you have to, right?), contact me directly for a copy of the auction company’s rules, forms, etc.


  1. Pre-determine your absolute max asking price in advance. This will also ensure that you don’t get caught up in the wave of emotions that can come along with an auction-type setting.
  2. Be sure about your big “why” before bidding. Do you need a home or are you just someone who buys 5 pallets of Diet Coke at Costco because it’s “on sale?” Real estate investment may be the greatest long-term wealth building tool in the world, but buying and “flipping” homes like the masses did in 2005 is a dangerous game nowadays, so but be sure you have a solid game plan put together before bidding at an auction.

Auction Date: Thursday February 13th - 7:00 PM.

Location: The Dixie Convention Center - 1835 S. Covention Center Dr., St. George.


I will be there. We will be driving the shuttle…you can’t miss us! Please chime in with your thoughts and opinions about the auction process. Good? Bad? Indifferent?

Displaying blog entries 1-2 of 2




Contact Information

Photo of Jeremy Larkin - The Larkin Group Real Estate
Jeremy Larkin - The Larkin Group
Keller Williams Realty
50 E 100 S, Suite 300
St. George UT 84770
Fax: 435-359-5085

St. George Real Estate - Your premier destination for St. George,Utah Real Estate Listings, Home Values, MLS Search, REO/Foreclosure Info &  St. George Real Estate Statistics.  Serving St. George, Santa Clara, Ivins, Washington, Hurricane, LaVerkin, Toquerville & more! Specializing in REO/foreclosure properties, frustrated Sellers, First-Time home buyers, and Investors. Looking for the most LOCAL St. George, Utah real estate information available? Your search is over!