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Luxury homes at deep discounts

Internist Dirghayu Desai and his wife, Tejal, had searched for more than two years.

They agreed that a good house would be "nicely built," set within a neighborhood they liked, contain four-plus bedrooms and include a first-floor suite for his mother.

And the ideal home would need to include all of that at a great price.

So the doctor looked thrilled as he glanced from fireplace to cathedral ceiling to spacious gourmet kitchen, then past the custom window treatments to the pool, landscape and enclosed kitchen out back. He anticipated closing on this dream home around mid-September.

He'd be hard-pressed to have found anything better than 6,300 square feet of brick-, mural- and granite-clad luxury within a budget that would have bought half the house only six years earlier.

In fact, this home had been listed this year for $1.2 million - about $100,000 more than its 2004 purchase price, but perhaps unrealistic for the post-boom housing market, said Sona Shah of Prudential Towne Realty in Chesapeake.

Shortly after the Desais asked several friends and real estate agents to be on the lookout for a well-priced, well-equipped abode, Shah presented this newly bank-owned property in Chesapeake's Emerald Greens community.

Intrigued by the $608,900 asking price, the Desais had to view it. They decided that day to make an offer.

"I wouldn't say (the Desai home) is an extreme example" of the deals available in this "second wave" of foreclosures since about 2008, Shah said. Still, "you don't get too many of these at this great a discount."

A bidding war ended at $625,000, a victory for the Desai family.

Success in this situation boiled down to speed, finances and knowing "what you're getting into," Desai said, adding "you have to be ready to make a (fast) decision." He also advised having a "clean contract, without any major contingencies" and that potential buyers consider property taxes, home owners' association fees (if applicable) and the cost of repairs or upgrades.

Then, "if you really like the house," he said, "put in a realistic offer."

Desai said he couldn't have acted as quickly on the contract without the speed and efficiency of his private banker at TowneBank in Portsmouth.

Alan Turissini of the Hampton Roads Real Estate Group of Keller Williams Elite Realtors has been listing bank-owned property for more than six years. One of his latest was the house that ultimately attracted the Desais.

Based on his research for broker price opinions, he said, the foreclosure rate in Hampton Roads "appears to have peaked, as there are less bank-owned listings in the last two months

."

Some areas, including downtown Newport News and Portsmouth, "were hit much harder by the foreclosure rate," Turissini said. Some local bank-owned houses have sold for less than $10,000.

As a buyer, Desai recognizes his good fortune. As a seller, he realizes that his competition now includes banks.

"So what I gain here I should be ready to lose" on the other side, he noted.

Though typically the deepest discounts can be found in short sales and foreclosures, not all the good deals are bank-owned, said Brenda Rawls, a Realtor with Rose & Womble Realty in Virginia Beach.

She's had a hand in about six great buys within the luxury home market in the past 24 months, as either a seller's or buyer's agent. Often today's discounts are a result of unrealistic pricing from the start, she said.

Homes within the high-end market, priced at $800,000 and up, can take as long as 36 months to move, Rawls said. She presents figures and facts, based on analysis of current absorption rates, and the seller must decide whether to price it to sell or to sit.

"We are in a price war and a beauty contest," she opined. Homes should be staged physically and priced correctly in order to compete effectively.

In a normal market, 10 viewings should result in a contract. In this market "if you don't have a contract (within 15), you've got to adjust for something."

Five years ago, Sanjay Patel thought it impossible to purchase a waterfront home twice the size of the one he and his wife, Chhaya, owned in Virginia Beach.

In July 2010, with help from Shah, they found a seven-bedroom, seven-bathroom beauty on 1.7 acres in Witchduck Point.

"I was very excited," Patel said of the $1.66 million purchase price - about half what the home had listed for in June 2009.

The only issue, Patel said, was that he'd have to sell his home in Brighton on the Bay. Shah listed that within weeks; it sold by December. Through a trustee-account arrangement, the Patels moved into the house that same month and finally closed on it in July of this year.

He recommends that buyers looking for such a deal have financing in place before signing a contract. Everyone should understand that if the buyer's there, but financing is hard, "the deal can fall through." Buyers "should be very careful getting into this price range" today, he added. "In this economy... it's very hard to support two mortgages. And this economy may not support long-term mortgages of this nature."

Patel, whose purchase was not bank-owned, also warned buyers against signing a contract without a clearly identified financing contingency.

But Shah noted that with today's low interest rates many buyers may qualify for more funding than in years past. She and Desai recommend using experienced agents, clearly conveying criteria and being accessible night and day as new information becomes available.

Be prepared for "extreme scrutiny" by banks of distressed properties, Desai added. Have cash for the down payment "readily available and clearly explained."

Said Turissini,"Have patience, as there are legal procedures that must be completed before the bank can sell a property. Follow listing-agent instructions for the proper documentation required by banks, and know that the listing agent holds the earnest money deposit and that proof of funds or a pre-qualification letter are always required, he said.

Rawls recommend that both buyers and sellers focus on facts and figures and keep emotion out of the equation.

"I would not have afforded this house if not for this deal," Desai admitted appreciatively. Fortunately or unfortunately, "because of the current market, dreams are coming true."

Nora Firestone,

nfirestone@verizon.net

Posted to: Home Spotlight Virginia Beach

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