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Real Estate Tips: The Risks and Benefits of Seller Financing

Written by Ilyce Glink on November 1, 2013 in Real Estate  |   4 comments

The real estate market has finally begun to rebound from its lowest point in decades, and the Case-Shiller Home Price Index shows home prices are steadily increasing from last year. If you’re selling a home, now could be the time to put up that “For…

selling a homeThe real estate market has finally begun to rebound from its lowest point in decades, and the Case-Shiller Home Price Index shows home prices are steadily increasing from last year. If you’re selling a home, now could be the time to put up that “For Sale” sign in the front yard.

The only problem is that banks are keeping mortgage lending restrictions tight. This means some buyers—especially those with less-than-perfect credit—are being kept out of the home-buying game, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR).

The new owner of your home could be out there waiting for you without a way to make a purchase. So what’s an anxious seller to do? Consider taking on the role of lender.

What is seller financing?

Seller financing, also known as owner financing, happens when you (the seller) offer a loan to the buyer. In many cases, the buyer pays a portion of the purchase price up front and then pays the rest—anywhere from 20 to 50 percent—back over time, with interest. This could be an option if a buyer can’t obtain a loan from a bank.

The move might not be for everyone, though. Here’s a quick rundown of pros and cons you may want to consider before financing a purchase for a buyer.

Pros of seller financing

  • Your home is appealing to a wider audience. Your home becomes accessible to another group of buyers, which could mean selling quicker. “It’s an avenue that provides credit where credit otherwise might not be available due to poor credit history, lack of verifiable income, or when the down payment is a gift,” says Greg McBride, senior financial analyst at Bankrate.com.
  • You may increase your cash flow. Just as if you rented out your home, financing the purchase for your buyer means you’ll be receiving regular payments, plus interest. “The advantage of it is you earn a rate of return and generate a stream of income,” McBride says.

Cons of seller financing

  • You become a landlord (of sorts). The flip side of getting loan payments from the buyer is you won’t get a lump sum for your sale and you’ll still be tied to the house. “You’ll have to go through a foreclosure process if the buyer doesn’t follow through on payments,” McBride says.
  • You must do the bank’s work. You’re the bank for the buyer, and just like a bank, you’ll have to track payments, interest, and all the accounting that goes into a home loan.

As with traditional home sales, NAR recommends getting expert advice from accountants and real estate lawyers, where necessary, to keep things fair and legal. If you’ve never financed the sale of a home before, expert advice will be key to helping ensure the process goes smoothly.

Ilyce Glink is the author of ten books, including the bestselling 100 Questions Every First-Time Home Buyer Should Ask. Her nationally syndicated column, “Real Estate Matters,” appears in more than 125 newspapers and Websites, and her online “Ask Ilyce” columns are read by hundreds of thousands of people every month. She is a top-rated radio host on WSB Radio in Atlanta, the Home Equity blogger at CBS MoneyWatch.com, host of the Internet program “Expert Real Estate Tips,” managing editor of the Equifax Personal Finance Blog, and publisher of ThinkGlink.com.

The information contained in this blog post is designed to generally educate and inform visitors to the Equifax Finance Blog. The blog posts do not give, and should not be assumed to provide, personalized tax, investment, real estate, legal, retirement, credit, personal financial, or other professional advice. Before making any financial decision, you should always consult with the appropriate professionals who can explain your options, rights, and legal responsibilities, and advise you on any tax, legal, credit, or business implications that may result from those decisions. The views and opinions expressed by the authors of blog posts are their own views and may not be the views or opinions of Equifax, Inc. and/or its affiliates.


  1. ben says:

    what if the seller has a mortgage?

    • Anonymous says:

      In that case they have what is called a “wraparound” or “all-inclusive” mortgage or trust deed. A good knowledgeable agent or real estate attorney should know all about that.
      Dick Dennis

    • Anonymous 2 says:

      If the Seller’s mortgage balance is low enough so that the buyer’s down payment pays it off, then the Seller can still do Seller financing; Example; Loan Balance = $130,000; Sales Price = $450,000. If the Buyer has $130,000 or more to put down, then the Seller’s mortgage is paid off and the Buyer can get Seller Financing. Doesn’t always work but is worth researching.

  2. Real Estate Strategy says:

    Lovely real estate marketing tips you got there. I can’t agree more that real estate is a very competitive industry and you always need to be one step better than your competitor in order to compete. Appreciate the time writing and keep it up.


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