What to do when you have to sell your old house first

I’ve got several clients right now that need to sell their old house before they can buy a new one.  It’s not a fun spot to be in during a seller’s market.

You would think when almost all houses sell quickly that a seller would happily accept an offer from somebody who needs to sell their old house first.  But, odds are the seller is getting multiple offers, so why wouldn’t they pick the one without a contingency to sell?

Time to clarify a few things:  A contingency to sell is when you haven’t sold your old house yet and nobody has any idea when you can actually close on the new house.  A contingency to close means your old house has in fact sold, and assuming the buyer of your old house makes it to the finish line, so will you.

When you make an offer contingent on selling your old house, it is pretty standard for a seller to counter back with what is called a kickout clause.  That means that the seller will accept your offer, but they will keep their house on the market and hope to catch a buyer without a contingency.  If they do, then you’ll have a limited amount of time to remove the contingency and buy the house without having to sell your old one, or you agree to walk away and let the seller and their new buyer enter into a sale together.  If it is impossible for you to remove the contingency and buy the house, then you will lose the house to the new buyer.

For this reason, I am telling my buyers who need to sell their old house first to not even look at a house until it has been on the market for a while.  Let’s say you are the first buyer to see a house and you make an offer contingent on selling your old house.  The seller accepts it with a kickout clause.  You are feeling good.  Then the next day, the seller gets an offer without a contingency.  You lose it.  If you think about it……whether you buy it the first day on the market or the 10th day on the market, the end result is the same:  IF another buyer comes around and wants it, you will get kicked out.  IF no buyer comes along, then it will still be there when you make an offer after every other buyer has had a chance to see it.  There really is no urgency to write a contingency offer due to this reason, and waiting a bit prevents a lot of heartache for you.

So what’s the strategy then?

If you can, the best solution to preventing this problem is to sell your old house first.  You will then be able to make an offer without a contingency.  You stand a better chance of getting the house you want.  This will also keep your from having to potentially sell your house for a little less than it is worth to ensure it sells immediately and you don’t loose your new house.  The downside of this is that you are moving twice.

You can pay a premium for the new house.  Sometimes if a seller is getting a few thousand more than the next offer, they might choose not to kick you out.  The downside of this route is that you are paying a premium for the luxury of not having to move twice.  Moving twice costs you more and is more of a hassle, so maybe it is worth it to you.

Either way is painful really.  There is no easy button to push when you have to sell your old house to buy a new one.  Not in such a seller’s market.


What bugs The LEXpert

Know what The LEXpert is thinking about today?  Termite inspections….well, there is more than just termites.  You’ve got Carpenter Ants, Carpenter Bees, Termites, Powder Post Beetles and maybe even more.  Those are just the ones I’ve encountered over the past  11 years.

Most people only get inspections when they buy a house.  That means that when you see on the PVA or a Seller Disclosure that the seller has owned the house for a long time, odds are that there miiiiight not have been a termite inspection since then.  It isn’t rare for a house to need a termite treatment in our area.  Seeing a lot of damage is rare though.  And the times I have seen the most damage have been when a seller has been there for a mighty long time.  A termites first bite might have been the night the seller watched the last episode of Cheers.  Now they just watched the season finale of N.C.I.S and the original termite’s great-great-great-great-great-great grandkids are half way up the first floor.

Now that I have scared you into having YOUR house inspected, there are a few things I want to share about how we Realtors handle wood destroying organisms in the Bluegrass area.

The contracts we use say that the buyer may get a termite inspection at their own expense (except for VA loans where the seller has to pay for it for some reason), and IF there is evidence of live or dead insects, or any damage from them, the seller has to pay for a treatment.

Our contracts also say that if there is any damage, the seller is automatically on the hook to pay up to 1% of the contract amount for repairs.  Anything above that amount is to be negotiated.  The attorney who wrote our contracts but have been about to be a buyer, since it sure favors the buyer.

So, if you are a buyer, you definitely want to do a termite inspection.  If you are a seller, you really hope nothing is found.  Speaking of that, there is a place on the standard Wood Destroying Insect Report (WDIR) where inspectors write a bunch of numbers.  If you look down at the key, those numbers are all the places the inspector can’t get to, such as behind drywall, under carpet, behind insulation, etc.  I like to point that out to my people because a clean report really just means no insects were FOUND.

The best time to do a termite inspection is after you have negotiated the normal home inspection repair items.  That way you don’t end up spending the money on the termite inspection until after you have any home inspection repairs resolved.  Our contract just says that it has to be done before the closing if one is going to be done.  The termite inspection does not fall under the same paragraph/time line for the normal home inspection.  Another reason to wait is this:  Since the seller has already agreed to a treatment and repairing damage up to 1% of the contract price if needed, you want to drop that news after you have worked out your normal home inspection repair list.  The seller is only going to spend so much money on repairs.  You want all of the budget for the home inspection repairs.  Let the seller know there are termites at the same time you present the repair list and you get fewer inspection repairs because he is now subtracting the termite treatment/repairs from his budget.