Prior to the pandemic, with each new announcement apparently not starting a bidding war, Evergreen Home Loans was set to launch a cash bid program in Washington state.
An independent regional mortgage bank licensed in 10 western states, Bellevue-based Evergreen, prides itself on the level of service it provides to realtors – 70% of the company’s fixtures are purchase loans.
Founder and Chairman Don Burton is a former real estate agent who started Evergreen in 1987, with the goal of eliminating long delays and last-minute surprises in loans that can derail closures.
The CashUp by Evergreen program – in which Evergreen pays cash for homes on behalf of homebuyers and then provides ongoing financing when it transfers ownership to them – was Burton’s idea, said Tamra Rieger, chief operating officer of Evergreen.
Burton “is actively involved in the business every day, and it was his idea,” said Rieger. “He was a real estate agent before starting the mortgage company, and Evergreen’s goal has always been, ‘How can we help agents and add value to agents?’ “
Rieger oversaw a special product team at Evergreen which developed the CashUp program over six months. The team was preparing to launch the cash offers program in March 2020 when the pandemic struck.
“There was so much risk in the regular lending environment that we had to opt out of the CashUp program,” Rieger recalled. But, “Fast forward a year, and we’re getting through COVID and managing the risk pretty well.” So we started with a pilot launch in February.
A handful of Evergreen’s top loan officers – about 10 out of a total of 260 – have dedicated themselves to deploying the CashUp program in Washington state, she said.
Once homebuyers have been pre-approved, the CashUp program allows them to submit a cash offer without funding or unscheduled appraisals. If the offer is accepted, Evergreen purchases the home and transfers it to the buyer once its permanent financing is finalized.
“What’s exciting for the agent is that this is a guaranteed cash close,” says Rieger. “There is nothing that will derail the closure. I have respected the closing date each time.
Because Evergreen is a mortgage bank, it has the funds to not only buy homes for cash, but also to provide permanent financing directly to the buyer. That means it can close faster than cash offer programs that outsource funding, Rieger said.
“We have our own funds and we control the mortgage process,” Rieger said. We fully approve the buyer in advance for the cash offer and can close in as little as 10 days. “
The buyer’s mortgage is finalized after Evergreen purchases a home on their behalf. Because they have already been pre-approved, permanent funding ends quickly.
“About a week after closing with cash, I close the client’s financing” to buy the house at Evergreen, said Rieger.
Some large real estate brokerage firms cannot meet this deadline because they are relying on another lender to pay off their purchase in cash, Rieger said.
“I spoke to a real estate company that is setting up a cash offer program that asked for our help,” Rieger said. “Because they don’t have control over the mortgage process, it takes them 30 days from the time they close with their money for their client’s loan to close. It is too long.”
Develop in new markets
Evergreen, which partners with real estate agents to make the CashUp program accessible to more homebuyers, says the program was successful, leading him to expand the program beyond Washington State to Arizona and Idaho . A pilot program is operational in Nevada and Rieger hopes to launch it in California in October.
As Evergreen rolled out the program, “The good thing is that I was able to talk to everyone involved, including the buyer’s agent and the listing agent. Especially at the beginning, they wanted to talk to me to make sure it was real, ”said Rieger.
“I have received great feedback from agents that this is a real cash offer. The only contingency I have is on inspection, and I will accept seller’s inspection if Evergreen can verify that it was not produced by a related party.
Not all customers start with the CashUp program, Rieger said. But once a buyer has made several traditional offers on different houses, “you get a little discouraged when you don’t win the house.”
To help the CashUp program gain traction, Evergreen has tried to cut costs, she said. Evergreen charges a 1% origination fee at the close of the buyer’s loan, and other costs such as escrow, title and registration fees typically add up to around $ 1,400, Rieger said.
The CashUp program requires home buyers to use Evergreen for financing their permanent home. Evergreen’s goal is to help buyers get their offer approved, then provide them with ongoing financing, not make money on fees.
“A lot of the programs charge higher fees – I saw 2.3 percent,” Rieger said. “We are doing this to help our buyers win the home. We have really tried to keep CashUp attractive to the customer, so that the cost does not prevent them from using it.
When deciding in which market to deploy the CashUp program, it is necessary to take into account the property transfer taxes.
“When I close in cash, I own this house and the seller pays the property transfer tax. In the second step, I am the seller and I technically transfer ownership of Evergreen to the borrower, ”generating another transfer of ownership or excise tax, Rieger said.
So the easiest states to run a cash offering program are those that don’t have an excise tax, Rieger said. Then, she searches for states with lower transaction fees, such as Arizona, Idaho, and Montana.
Although closing costs in Washington state may be higher than in other states, Evergreen started CashUp there because that’s where the company is headquartered and “because probably 50 or 60 % of our transactions are done in Washington, ”said Rieger.
The long term goal is to make CashUp available in all states where Evergreen is licensed. So far, that’s 10 states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Texas, Washington and Wyoming
But Colorado, Texas and Montana are recent additions to Evergreen, which also plans to expand into other western states, Rieger said.
“We have a bit of a philosophy of knowing your market and going into states that are close to where you already do business, rather than going across the country across the country to somewhere like Florida,” said Rieger. “We’re out west and we’re moving east,” while continuing to add branches into Evergreen’s existing footprint.
Will each lender have a cash offering product?
If a licensed regional mortgage lender in 10 states can offer a cash offer product, does that mean each lender will eventually launch their own offer?
“I don’t know if this will be the mainstream, or if all the lenders will be able to do it,” Rieger said. “It might sound easy, but there is a lot of work to be done. I have a good training process and disclosures. But for a lender to create a product like this, I think it takes 6 months to build it, 3 months to pilot it, and you need a lot of resources to do it.
Rieger said any lenders who aren’t already working on launching a cash offering product could miss the boat.
“There is a time for this product. Right now it’s very popular and I’m happy we’re positioned where we are, ”said Rieger. “I think there is a window, and as more homes come on the market and more inventories are online, it’s likely that there will be less demand for a program like this.”
At the moment, stocks are still scarce in many markets, she said.
“We’re still seeing cash offers above the list price, multiple offers, and escalation,” Rieger said. “I think Evergreen was in a good position because we launched in February. If you are a mortgage company trying to launch this product now, you might miss your window.
Email Matt Carter