Of Apples and Houses

One of the trickier concepts in residential real estate — especially for first-time home buyers — is seller-paid points.

Think of it like this:  if you buy an apple from me, is there a difference between paying me 97¢, or paying $1 and getting back 3¢?

Not to me — either way, I end up with 97¢.

And arguably not to you, either; your net cost is 97¢ regardless.

“$1 less 3¢ Rebate”

To make the foregoing apply to residential real estate, now just make two changes:  1) instead of pocketing the 3¢ rebate, apply that amount to the Buyer’s closing costs (mortgage origination, appraisal, taxes, etc.); and 2) add five zeroes.

Easy, huh? 

Why is real estate sold that way, especially to first-time Buyers?

Because they can often afford the monthly payments — especially in an environment of dirt-cheap interest rates and rising rents — but have difficulty coming up with the cash for the down payment and . . . yup, closing costs.

See also, “Maximum Seller Contribution:  Not Just 3% Any More.”

Effect on Commission

Is there a difference to the Realtors between 97¢ and “$1 less 3¢”?

Not really.

The convention is to calculate the commission on the gross sale price, so the sale for $1 yields a higher commission than one for 97¢.

However, the difference — usually 6% to 7% of  $3,000 — is miniscule on a average sale.

By contrast, it matters (a little) more to the Seller, whose commission expense would be nominally higher when points are included in the sale price.

On a $200,000 home sale with 3% in seller-paid points, the difference comes to $180.

About the author

Ross Kaplan has 19+ years experience selling real estate all over the Twin Cities. He is also a 12-time consecutive "Super Real Estate Agent," as determined by Mpls. - St. Paul Magazine and Twin Cities Business Magazine. Prior to becoming a Realtor, Ross was an attorney (corporate law), CPA, and entrepreneur. He holds an economics degree from Stanford.

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