Buying a home is never a simple process! When you are in a Seller’s Market it can be doubly hard to buy a home because there are likely other buyers competing for the same house. That is exactly where we are now in our Lubbock market A Seller’s Market occurs when demand exceeds supply. Since there are fewer homes available than there are buyers, sellers have the advantage. In a seller’s market, homes sell faster, and what we are seeing now in Lubbock in many instances is that multiple buyers are submitting contracts on a home giving the seller the ability to pick the best offer. (Our current Seller’s Market is primarily impacting homes priced up to $275,000.00 that are in preferred locations and in good condition)
If you want to buy a home now, you have got to know what makes your offer strong versus weak and why. In some cases, it just is what it is, but be armed with this information so you can improve the odds of having your offer accepted.
Financing – Have your financing worked out before you start shopping for a home! Looking at homes is NOT the first step in buying one.
Strongest – Cash. A cash offer can often close quicker and the uncertainty of final loan approval is not involved so less risk for the seller. Seller’s love cash offers for those reasons and will sometimes accept a cash offer even if the sales price is a bit lower. If you are able to pay cash for a home be prepared to provide a ‘proof of funds’ along with your contract so the seller can trust that you have the money available.
Strong – Conventional loan with pre-approval from a local lender. Seller’s often prefer a conventional loan over FHA or VA. Have your Realtor prepare a pre-approval letter to be submitted with your contract. Seller’s feel more secure when you are working with a local lender rather than an internet lender.
Less Strong – FHA, VA. These government-backed loans will take a closer look at condition issues that must be remedied before closing, usually by the seller. On a newer home that has been well-maintained, FHA and VA loans may not weaken the offer but for homes that are older and have obvious condition issues a conventional loan is preferred and will beat out FHA/VA loans.
Weakest – FHA/VA offer that is Contingent on the Sale of Other Property. This is what we call a contingency and specifically means that you (the buyer) have to sell your current home because those funds will be what you use to make your down payment on the home you want to buy. If your offer must be contingent (which is the case for many buyers) be sure your home is already listed for sale or ready to go in a matter of days. Most sellers will not accept your offer if you are just getting your home ready to put on the market so don’t start looking at homes too early.
Sales Price – How much will you offer for this home?
Strongest – You would think strongest would be a full price offer with no concessions but in this market strongest is often a sales price above what the seller requested. If you are ‘Frugal Fred’ and getting a ‘deal or a steal’ on a home is part of your motivation, you should wait until we are no longer in a Seller’s Market. Before making an offer over list price, consider these questions? How much do you like this house over others you have seen? How much is your loan approval, and can it be raised? How long do you plan to live in this home? You could be ‘under water’ (owe more on the home than you can sell it for) if you try to sell it too soon so will want to stay long enough to build up your equity). Look to your Realtor for guidance as she/he can do some research and about the home’s estimated value as well as average values for homes in the area. Your agent will prepare an addendum to your contract to protect you if the home appraises for less than you offer. (Your lender will not loan more than the home appraises for no matter how gorgeous master bath or kitchen)
Strong – At or near full price with no concessions. If you are ‘Bargain Betty’ and you insist on offering 10% under list price despite your agent’s advice, be prepared to find out tomorrow morning that another buyer beat you out. Think about how you will feel if that happens. Perhaps you will be fine and are just really opposed to paying full price for a home. While that is okay, looking and making such offers in a strong Seller’s Market may be an exercise in futility for you and your agent.
Less Strong – Significantly less than list price. When a buyer sees a home with condition issues or one that doesn’t quite check all their wish list boxes, they may offer many thousands less than list price. Just be aware that if you and 10 others are looking for a similar home, your competition, let’s call her ‘Anxious Annie’, may want the home enough to accept the house in its present condition and present a stronger contract. You will have a chance to address condition issues during the option period when you have the home inspected and ask for repairs. (Your Realtor can order the inspection, review the report with you, and write up an amendment asking for the seller to make some repairs.)
Weak – A contract with a sales price far below asking price. There is always a ‘Larry Low Ball’ out there looking for a steal. If you really want to buy a decent home in today’s market, don’t be that guy!
Terms – Other ways to improve your chances
Strongest – Don’t ask the seller to pay for anything that you don’t absolutely need. To compete best against other buyers, your offer should not include concessions (asking the seller to contribute money toward your closing costs), a home warranty, a survey at seller’s expense AND you should request a quick closing date, 30 days or less depending on your lender and the title company. If you are paying cash you may be able to do a 7 or 10 day close. Most buyers now days want a home warranty but if you want to ‘win’ and get the home you don’t have to ask the seller to buy it for you. You can still have a home warranty but at your expense.
Strong – You need no closing cost assistance but ask the seller to buy the survey and home warranty. This sounds reasonable and is reasonable however the survey and home warranty can add up to $1000.00 or more and if a competing buyer doesn’t ask the seller to spend that, you will probably lose out on this house.
Less Strong – You ask for minimal closing cost assistance and you offer to pay for the survey and forego a home warranty. You can ask your mortgage lender if there are special programs that would help with closings costs and down payment so you don’t have to ask the seller for assistance.
Weak – You aren’t sure when you can be packed up so you ask for a 60 day closing, you ask the seller to pay for the survey, to buy you a home warranty, and ask them to contribute $5000.00 or more to your closing costs. If you are competing against buyers who already have money saved up for closing costs you are at a disadvantage so start socking away some funds as soon as home buying is on your radar.
Are there ways to bolster an offer that out of necessity is not among the strongest or improve your chances of buying a home sooner than later?
Yes, there are ways that might give a slight edge such as writing a personal letter to the sellers letting them know a bit about your family, and what it would mean to you to live there. A letter could make a difference if there is little separating your offer from the others.
If you find yourself being beat out multiple times, see if your lender has any flexibility in increasing your pre-approval and ask your lender how to use a gift from family instead of asking the seller for closing cost assistance.
To eliminate some of the competition, you might consider expanding your search to other neighborhoods and consider looking at fixer-upper homes and those that are not updated.
Lastly, have you heard what they say about our West Texas weather? If you don’t like it, wait a while and it will change. Similarly, the local housing market can change quickly but we are likely to stay in this Seller’s Market at least through the summer.
When you are contemplating buying a home, give us a call. Whether you are ready to jump into today’s real estate market or just planning ahead, we can give you the guidance you need. We have the experience, knowledge, and tenacity to help you achieve your home buying goals.