Saturday, January 3, 2009

Craig Hill with The Norris Group #103

Bruce Norris is joined once again by Craig Hill (hard money loan officer at The Norris Group) and Greg Norris (full-time property buyer for The Norris Group.

Bruce asks Craig about calls from first time investors purchasing homes with structural damage and mold. Craig says he steers newer investors with no construction background away from heavy fixer uppers. Houses don’t have to be a complete disaster. You don’t want their first house to be a bad experience.

Bruce asks Greg what he is doing differently from one year ago to buy and sell properties. Greg says he hasn’t changed that much but has gotten more efficient. At the very beginning he was doing cheaper repairs but now there’s a little more upgrades. Instead of linoleum we use tile in some areas and instead of tile on counters he puts in granite. We need to be the best on the market.

Realtors that deal with buyers are saying great things. One in particular isn’t wasting any more of her time on REOs and has decided to only show our homes because of the quality.

Greg says price and condition are really important in this market. Greg says the higher end listings have disappeared and TNG is typically the highest. Inventory is very low. Even though The Norris Group is the highest, the homes still sell. Consumers don’t want to deal with the fixers and want a nice home.

Appraisals are a bit of a problem. Greg says he’s having to set a top level. Buyers are wanting to see a top payment to be $1200-$1400 per month which is similar to rent if not a little less. Greg talks about the staging of the homes and how it helps with presentation. It helps online showings.

Bruce and Craig talk about the hold ups with selling. Craig says financing and appraisers are the biggest issues. There seems to be willing buyers for fixed homes. Craig says homes are being fixed better than they were in the 90s. More is being spent.

Craig is having to tell people not to chase the market and get very realistic on price. He often calls clients if a loan has been going more than five months. He wants to make sure the investor gets to the finish line. It’s difficult when prices are declining.

Bruce asks Greg about appraisal issues. Greg says the last 30 days has been much more difficult. Banks are so scared they are overcompensating. Appraisals over one month are considered old. Three months is considered too old.

Bruce asks about FHA transactions and the 180 day rule. Greg says he’s never been asked for a second appraisal. Bruce thinks maybe the review appraisal is the second appraisal. Bruce says that some of these appraisers are sitting 500 miles away.

Bruce asks Craig about loans that can’t seem to close. Craig says there is willingness on the side of the buyer but it’s the financing piece that’s causing problems for California real estate transactions. The checks and re-checks of the buyers stall closings.

Bruce asks Craig about the many new trust deed investors The Norris Group has had come on in the last 90 days and what makes them feel secure about doing investments. Craig says perceived safety is key. Craig makes small loans amounts, the investor is a special borrower, and typically the worst case would be the money lender ends up with a property.

Bruce brings up the fact The Norris Group was very conservative over the past few years so some of TNG’s main money investors placed their money elsewhere. Bruce asks about some of the uh-oh stories Craig has heard about. Craig says money investors are attracted to the return and sometimes forget there’s risk, especially if they had been working with TNG who has a very good record.. He told some to be patient and that TNG would be busy again soon. Some of these investors didn’t wait, went elsewhere, and now have a small portfolio of non-paying loans.

Bruce asks Greg what the secrets are to keep good contractors interested in doing our work. Greg says that it’s important to be easy to deal with. We don’t stand in their way and we have work. Consistent work is a big deal.

Bruce asks if there’s red flags when dealing with contractors. Greg says when contractors ask for money before work is done it’s a red flag. Greg typically pays every two weeks. The Norris Group pays for the parts. TNG knows what parts we want installed and we’re really just contracting labor. Greg says contractors resisted his method of buying all the parts at first but later said they liked the system. It allows them to have less money out of pocket and actually take on more jobs. Home Depot was difficult to work with at first but now after dealing with them for a year, it’s really easy and everything happens over email.

Craig says repairs is still a big hurdle but they get used to it. Sometimes Craig forwards them before and after photos and videos of an investor’s work. He’s had money investors turn down a project but then they see before and after videos of an investor’s work and they sign up for several. Once they see what investors do, they feel more comfortable.

Craig talks about holds for repair money. Most houses are needing major repairs so almost all loans have money held for renovation. Red flags for Craig are investors who want money before repairs are finished. Draws are given after things are completed. This protects the money investor and also makes sure the investor stays on track.

Bruce asks Greg how he handles all the showings of the properties since he lists all of the properties for The Norris Group. Greg says he doesn’t show them at all. If interested buyers call, Greg used to tell them to call their local agent after figuring what they were looking for. Greg wants buyers to be pre-qualified and doesn’t have a time deal all of that. He really relies on buyers agents.

Bruce asks Greg how we protect ourselves during escrow. Greg says he does all of his due diligence up front now to make sure he doesn’t go into escrow with someone who can’t close. He wants all buyers to be pre-qualified and not just pre-approved.

Craig Hill has been in the hard money loan business for over 25 years. Greg Norris has been working as the Norris Group's full time property buyer for going on two years. More information about The Norris Group at and

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