Telling people what they need to hear

Back when I was so overweight, I dreaded going to the doctor. They would always tell me all the ways being overweight would affect my health. It’s not like I didn’t know that. I just didn’t want to accept it.

A lot of buyers are in the same situation today. The reality of what it takes to get a home seems overwhelming. It is easier to just hope somehow it will all work out and you’ll get a house somehow if you submit enough offers.

Reality checks are never fun. One day I accepted everything the doctors had always told me. Once I did that, I knew what I needed to do if I didn’t want to have health issues as I aged.

I sold a house over the weekend to a new client who had lost several houses previously with their last realtor. I didn’t really do anything special. I did my usual good job in trying to make our offer the most appealing to the seller. The hero of this story is the buyer. I was just like the doctors telling me the reality I didn’t want to here. He took in all the information and chose to do something about it.

Like all houses these days, it got several offers the first day on the market. It is normal to go over the list price these days so we did an escalation clause up to a certain amount. The buyer was a little anxious about going that high. I explained that odds are we would not need to go that high, but that he would have hated to have lost the house by just a little bit. He agreed.

Once the offer was sent and I told the Seller’s Realtor a few things, I got a question about not having an appraisal gap waiver. I knew this meant that our offer was one being seriously considered. If we were not the best or one of the best offers they had, why would he ask about it?

I told my buyer this good news. He didn’t really want to risk having to put out more cash should the house not appraise for the sale price. I told him that this is getting more and more common with every house I’ve sold. If we didn’t do it this time, odds are we would be in the same situation on the next house when prices and interest rates might be higher. He agreed.

A few hours later I got a text that he got the house!!!!!

The hero here is my client. All I did was tell him the reality of what would most likely happen just like all those doctors did for me. My client accepted the reality of today’s market. He realized he wasn’t going to magically escape some of these uncomfortable things and end up winning a house in multiple offers. Once he saw that, he knew what he had to do just as I saw what I had to do.

My Dad always said “Living in reality is never fun, but what other choice do you have?” to which I will now add “Plus living in reality with a house is better than not doing so and waiting for the next new listing to hit the market and do it all over again and again.”

Best way to get top dollar

It’s sort of a given that almost any house is going to get multiple offers, but how do you get buyers to do even better than the offer they submitted?

Common these days is the quickly becoming old school way of having a deadline for submitting offers. That makes it easy for the realtor, but doesn’t really give the buyers much motivation to get an amazing offer in as quickly as possible.

What I like to do is have the deadline, but add that the seller reserves the right to accept their ideal offer at any point prior to that.

This does a few things: 1. It gets you an offer in hand fast so that when realtors ask “Do you have an offer yet?” you can say yes! 2. It usually gets at least one buyer thinking they might get the house if they throw out a crazy high offer. Sometimes this works if the offer is higher than the seller and I expected or if it is that high and cash. 3. It also helps you if you don’t get more than one offer at all…..but more on that in a minute.

If I have more than 3 offers, I will let the realtors who sent the offers know I have several offers and I will highlight some of the best terms. You have to have 3 or more offers to do this though since each realtor knows what their offer was. I might say “I have 3 offers, all over list price, 2 of them waived the home inspection, etc. This lets realtors know that somebody has a better term than they did on their offer. I usually can get realtors to revise their offer with more competitive terms.

From here it is mostly waiting for the deadline.

But what do you do if you only have one offer and it isn’t that good? Well, a few hours before the deadline, you call up the realtor with the only offer. You let them know that you are willing to cancel the remaining showings and not wait for the deadline if they agree to whatever counter your seller wants to make. I have NEVER had a realtor not take me up on this. If you wait until the deadline and then try to counter, you have lost all leverage because they know they had your only offer. There has to be the fear that one of those remaining showings could be the buyer who outbids them.

So that’s it. It has never failed me and unless every realtor in town reads this, it will be our little secret.

How to make a good choice in a frenzied market

It used to be real estate was all about “Location, location, location.”

Today real estate seems to be more about “Finishes, finishes,finishes.”

This disturbs me. Why? Because one day there will be enough houses for sale that a buyer has a choice on location. Right now, with so few houses for sale, buyers are considering ANY house in their price range. When you only have one or two choices, you can’t afford to be picky.

Something else that disturbs me are all the houses that have been extensively renovated and are selling for twice what a similar non-renovated house is worth in the same neighborhood.

I am not sure why this is but I suspect it has to do with the speed of the market. Nobody has time to do a market analysis and see what the house is worth compared to other recent sales or see if it is overimproved for the neighborhood

This is what I tell my buyers:

  1. Location is still important. Any house can be updated but you can’t easily move a house to a better location.
  2. Only buy at the top of the neighborhood’s price range if there are several other homes equal in finishes and value. You do not want that $400k house that looks like the reveal at the end of an HGTV show and is surrounded by $200k houses. In a balanced market, or even worse in a buyer’s market, potential buyers will love your house but will not buy it. They will be in a $400k price range and expecting a $400k neighborhood. They won’t like the cheaper houses around it. Remember when you buy a house, you are also buying stock in the neighborhood.
  3. Don’t compromise on the lot. Right now nobody cares. Buyers are just excited about any house in their price range. You don’t want the house with the tiniest or oddly shaped lot in the neighborhood. Remember neighborhoods are about conformity……fitting in among the rest of the houses. It’s okay to have the biggest or best lot in the neighborhood of course, but if most of the lots in the neighborhood are flat, you don’t want one that isn’t. If most are large, you don’t want the smallest one. Avoid driveways that are pretty steep. It is better to have a lot where the backyard slopes downhill away the house verses sloping uphill.

Basically, the best thing to remember as you frantically are trying to decide how much over the asking price you want to go is that one day you will be selling the house. The market may not be as tight. You won’t know whether the house you picked was a good decision or a bad one until it is your time to sell it.

So, always go into a purchase being mindful of your exit plan.

Here’s why you’re not winning in multiple offers

Some offers are better than others. Some people think it is all about who makes the highest offer but there are other things to take into consideration.

Here is the hierarchy of offers:

  1. Cash offer.
  2. Conventional loan with large down payment.
  3. Conventional loan with smaller down payment.
  4. FHA/VA loans. (Because the appraiser for these loan types does a minor assessment of the house. If the condition does not meet minimum standards set out for each loan type, the Seller HAS to do the repairs in order for the Buyer to get their loan.)
  5. Any loan with down payment assistance where there are two loans that have to go through two different underwriting guidelines.

Then there is the offer amount:

  1. Offer over list price.
  2. Offer list price.
  3. Offer less than list price.

Then there is the home inspection. Three choices there:

  1. No home inspection at all.
  2. Buyer does home inspection but won’t ask for repairs. Will either accept the house or walk away.
  3. Buyer wants to negotiate repairs with Seller.

Then there is the appriasal:

  1. Buyer will cover any possible gap between sale price and appraised value in cash.
  2. Buyer won’t cover any possible gap between sale price and appraised value in cash.

Then there is the Buyer’s lender:

  1. Buyer will use a local lender that every realtor knows does a good job.
  2. Buyer will use a non-local mortgage company.
  3. Buyer will use a local lender that every realtor knows preapproves any buyer with a pulse.
  4. Buyer will use a bank that begins with the letter C that everybody knows will be difficult to work with and that it is unlikely to close on time.

Then there is the closing date and when the buyer can move in the house:

  1. Buyer’s realtor found out when Sellers want to close and put that date on the offer.
  2. Buyer’s realtor doesn’t know to ask this and that it can really help make their client’s offer more attractive.

Then there are contingencies:

  1. Buyer has no contingencies.
  2. Buyer needs to close their old house first in order to buy the new one.
  3. Buyer needs to sell their old house first in order to buy the new one, meaning it currently may not be on the market and definitely doesn’t have a contract on it.

Then there are closing costs:

  1. Buyer will pay their own closing costs.
  2. Buyer needs Seller to pay some of their closing costs.
  3. Buyer needs Seller to pay all of their closing costs.

What are your numbers? If you are a 1 in all of these, go out and make your offer. You will probably get the house. If you are a low number in any of these, best of luck. If you are the bottom of any or all of these, then you are wasting your time. Sorry, but you are. You are not going to get a house making an offer less than list price with an FHA loan, wanting to negotiate repairs with the Seller and needing to close or sell your old house.

Now that you know all the things a listing realtor is thinking about when they process all the offers, do what you can to make your offer the best it can possibly be. If you are doing a conventional loan and think you are going up against other cash offers, maybe waive the home inspection and offer to let the seller stay in the house briefly after the closing? If you have to close on your old house to buy, make your offer the highest one they get (realize too that moving twice costs money and it might be cheaper to pay the most for a house verses paying to move twice, live somewhere temporarily and then look for another house which will have gone up in value while you wait.)

When I moved in 2012, I was up against 4 other offers. Two of them were cash. That was unheard of back then but common today. I knew I couldn’t compete with cash so I went a little over the list price, waived the home inspection and offered to let the Sellers rent back from me until they found their new house. This was appealing to them since they had not found their new house yet.

Why now is the best time to buy all year

At the risk of sounding like the stereotypical realtor who is always saying that now is the best time to buy, it really is the best time to be a buyer since before COVID hit.

Why? Lots of reasons but the biggest single reason is that we are seeing more listings hit the market at a time when most everybody who was going to buy a house in 2021 has already done so. If the market were a restaurant, picture that time when you walk into a very popular place that is hard to get into at noon, but you have arrived at 12:45 and there is plenty of seating.

This won’t last long though, which is why I think now is a great time.

I put on a new listing for $185k last week. We had tons of showings, some interested buyers, but only one full price offer. That hasn’t happened all year. One of the agents that showed it gave me some feedback. She said that her buyer opted to buy another house that was closer to her grandparents whom she took care of. I read that and I was a little shocked. It was the first time in the past two years I have seen where a buyer had a choice between two houses. Lately the choice has been the one house on the market or waiting for the next new listing.

The week before that, I put 3 new listings on the market. Granted all sold the first day, but two of them sold for slightly less that the list price and only got one offer.

I think the market will remain strong for years to come. It might not be the frenzy we have seen but there is no doubt we will have more buyers than sellers for quite some time. We will see what next spring brings. That is usually when we see prices got up the most. That is why I think between now and late winter might be the best shot you have for getting a house!