Q: I reserved a lot in a community by paying a non-refundable $1,000 deposit. I was told at the time of the initial deposit that no further deposit would be necessary until closing.
Now, the developer wants me to sign a contract and I have been told that I need to put down another non-refundable deposit of 3 percent, and I must commit to a lender.
If I change my lender between signing the contract and the closing, I was told I’ll be charged another $1,500. Is this normal and ethical?
A: It would be highly unusual for a developer to sell a lot and only require a $1,000 deposit. But you are correct to be annoyed or angry at the misinformation given to you.
You have a couple of choices: You can confront the individual that gave you the misinformation to make sure this person does not give out bad information in the future. Or, if you are really angered by the misinformation you were given, you can demand the return of the $1,000 due to the misinformation.
But before you talk to the developer, why don’t you take a look at the document you signed when you handed over the first $1000. It’s possible that this document contains other information relating to what would be expected of you after the initial deposit.
If the initial documentation outlines an increase in the deposit, you should have read the document and questioned the salesperson further before you signed on the dotted line. In general, a 3 percent down payment requirement is quite reasonable.
Many developers want to make sure that a buyer not only has the desire to buy the property but has the financial wherewithal to actually close on the purchase.
Clearly, this developer wants to make sure that you apply for a loan and follow through with that lender. The developer might have been burned in the past with buyers who switched lenders late in the game and then were not ready to close on the purchase on time.
In other cases, some lenders request information from the developers to approve the project and the loan. In approving the project, the developer may have to complete some forms and return them to the lender. Switching lenders just before closing can mean the developer has to resend the information and get the development reapproved by the new lender.
While that may be the rationale you’re given, it certainly poses limitations on what you can do, and that may be uncomfortable. It may even be unacceptable.
The real issue is whether it is normal in your area to charge that “lender change fee.” While it’s not a particularly common fee, you should try to determine if all other developers in your area charge it, or something similar. If not, you can object and if the real estate market has balanced out or swung to be more of a buyer’s market (where there are more homes for sale than there are buyers willing to buy them), you may prevail.
But first, go back and look at the document you signed. If you don’t understand what you’ve agreed to, please consult with a real estate attorney.