Google “real estate bidding war” and “real estate tips for buyers” and you’ll find tons of information (some good and some not so good) to read. The most important detail for buyers to remember -real estate is local- and what works in Chicago, Boston or Indy may not work here in the greater Cincinnati real estate market.
5 Tips for buyers to think about before making an offer on a home or condo are:
When it comes to mortgages-the term pre-approved sends a much strong signal to sellers that you survived a thorough credit check/ review and, at this time the lender considers you to be “credit worthy”. Note that not all pre-approvals are the same and no industry standard exists make sure you or your agents obtains a written approval document which states what exactly was verified by the potential lender. Usually the letter will not disclose the actual dollar amount because that may hinder the negotiations. No seller wants to compromise with somebody who’s able to pay more.
Know your personal numbers. Quite often buyers are persuaded to spend more in order to buy the home of their dreams. The pressure can come from lenders, Realtors, spouses or partners, family members, friends or all of them. Too many buyers underestimate the true cost of owning property by only calculating the fixed costs of mortgage, interest, insurance and taxes….while true ownership may include maintenance, updates, unknowns (lawn burns out) and a multitude of costs that are beyond your control. Assuming the value of the property will appreciate and incomes will rise every year are just two of the reasons for the recent real estate market crash. So be wise and and be comfortable with your personal numbers.
Know the real numbers. Not quite the same as knowing your personal numbers – but just as important. Don’t fall in love with a property and make an offer without reviewing a comprehensive Market Analysis for the neighborhood. Most of today’s buyers are pretty savvy however if you looked at 10-12 homes in a particular school district and decide on the one for you-make sure you know the stats for that particular neighborhood before writing a purchase offer.
Make a great first offer! There’s a strategy to making offers and timing is everything. The seller of a property that has been for sale for 6 months may be more willing to negotiate than the seller that listed last Friday. Ask any Realtor and they’ll probably agree that a decent first offer is often accepted and low ball first offers often result with paying more because of the back and forth negotiations. What makes an offer decent? Good question and it may depend on one or all of the following: price, items you want the seller to pay for- closing costs, title insurance, down payment, closing date, occupancy date and the deal wrecking requests for unusual personal items (flat screen tv, lawn mower, couch….). These items are “deal wreckers” not only because some sellers don’t want to include but because lenders don’t want to see personal items on real estate contracts. A seller may accept a slightly lower offer on price because the buyers are more flexible on occupancy date and that has a dollar value for the seller. As the buyer you may need help with closing costs and you shouldn’t expect the seller of a well priced home, to not only accept a below market offer and also pay for your closing costs. A good offer is based on factoring in all the seller costs and offering a deal that is a win/win for both parties. For example an offer on a property priced at $250,000 that is expected to sell somewhere between $238,000 to $245,000 and you offer $228,000 plus seller paying $6,000 in closing costs is viewed as an offer of $222,000 not $228,000. I’m not saying it’s a bad offer-but it may be countered at a higher price because you needed to come in with a slightly higher first offer- just something to think about.
Follow through on everything! The purchase contract specifies dates for everything including loan approval, reviewing HOA and condo docs, inspections, inspection negotiations, closing and occupancy dates. As the buyer you need to meet those dates or formally ask for “extensions”. Schedule the home inspection as soon as possible because you never know if additional inspections may be required and you don’t want to run out of time. Read and review condo and/or HOA documents. Buyer’s who ignore the documents and then build or install something not allowed by Home Owner’s Association are usually looking for somebody to blame. Just remember it’s your job to read and understand the rules and regulations. Buyers also need to stay on top of their loans. In today’s environment many lenders will not provide status updates to anybody including your Realtor. Problems and issues with loans can happen and quick handling and good communication can help smooth any bumps on the road to closing- but if the buyer assumes everything is ok and the loan isn’t approved on time- everybody suffers. The final dates are important to everybody-closing and occupancy. If buyers expect to move in the day of closing and their money isn’t wired in time by their lender-the seller does not have to give you occupancy until they have been paid. This “non funded” closing is referred to as a dry closing. And they happen more often in today’s nervous and jerky world of mortgage lending.
Buying real estate can be emotional, gut wrenching, nerve wracking and fun- being prepared for the entire process is the best way to approach the purchase of your next home….it’s really up to you.