Home buyer multiple offer survival guide

Home buyer multiple offer survival guide
Home buyers survival guide to multiple offers (infographic from nar.realtor)

The real estate market is getting increasingly competitive for home buyers.  But it’s not true for all homes.  Neighborhood homes that have been selling the quickest and for most money are the homes that fill the discerning home buyers’ need for a turn-key home.  You can count on these homes attracting many home buyers, as well as multiple offers.  These situations can be frustrating, but being prepared can possibly increase your chances of winning the multiple offer scenario.  Many home buyers need not come up empty, confused, and frustrated when they encounter multiple offer situations. Here’s a home buyer multiple offer survival guide.

The Home buyer’s survival guide to multiple offers

When confronted with a multiple offer scenario, you must understand the seller is in the driver’s seat.  This is a hard pill to swallow for many expecting it to be a buyer’s market.  But for the homes that show the best and are priced the best, you should expect competition from other home buyers.  Giving up the expectation that you’ll be able to negotiate a contract on your terms will help you in formulating a competitive offer.

Although you may not realize it, your emotions guide much about your home buying decisions.  Formulating your offer for a multiple offer situation will be more sound if you stick to the facts. Focusing on the facts will help you stay focused on the larger picture of buying a home.  Using data and facts can also help you be more persuasive when you present your offer to the seller.

Home buyer multiple offer survival guide on the housing market

Understanding the local market can be a major plus when putting your offer together.  Housing trends can influence home buyer competition and price.  However, understanding your limitations can help your home buying strategy too.  You may be limited in the amount you are willing to spend, the type of mortgage for which you qualify, your closing date, and a number of other issues that may affect the terms of the contract.  Don’t be discouraged if you think your limitations may lessen your offer’s attractiveness when it’s compared to others.

Certainly, don’t get caught up in media reports on real estate. The housing market is a hyper-local phenomenon.  Regional markets are different and have different sales trends.  Locally, even neighborhoods may differ significantly.  Be prepared with local market information, as well as your limits.

Home buyer multiple offer survival guide on financing

The general consensus when competing with multiple offers is to put your best foot forward.  Decide on the best price you feel comfortable paying for the home.  Cash deals are difficult to compete against.  However, you can beat a cash deal if your offer has a higher price and your lender has provided you a very strong approval letter.  If you didn’t meet with your lender prior to looking at homes, make an effort to provide your lender with all necessary documents for them to provide you an approval letter that is only subject to underwriting and appraisal (or the equivalent).  The stronger the lender letter, the more confidence the seller will have in you to complete the transaction without delays or hiccups.

Haven’t met with a lender yet? Start your own mortgage file with basic items the lender will need from you. Your lender will need recent pay stubs, W-2 statements, bank statements, 401k statement, and any other financial information you think you may need (which may include child support or disability income). Self employed individuals will need whatever documentation they can muster (including tax returns) to support their declared income. Being organized will facilitate the mortgage process.

Home buyer multiple offer survival guide on contingencies

Try to keep your contingencies to a minimum.  There may be some contingencies you may be able to avoid, and some may be necessary.  You must consider contingencies carefully and soberly, as they offer some protections if you can’t (or don’t want to) move forward with the purchase.

Home buyer multiple offer survival guide on home inspections

Although some agents suggest skipping the home inspection contingency in a multiple offer situation, I do not recommend that.  Many homes have deferred maintenance that can lead to costly repairs.  Even renovated homes that appear to be in good condition can have major issues which can go unnoticed.  Instead of skipping the home inspection, try to have a short inspection period (have the inspection scheduled ahead of time).  Some home buyers have an opportunity to conduct a pre-offer home inspection.  This allows them to eliminate the contingency from their offer, as well as knowing the general condition of the home.

Home buyer multiple offer survival guide on finding homes

If you’re finding multiple offer situations too intense, try to find homes that have little or no home buyer competition.  Ask your agent about finding homes that are not listed in the MLS.  Some agents already seek out such homes.  Alternatives could be For Sale By Owner, bank owned, auctions, and even farming specific neighborhoods for owners ready to sell. Your agent can also search through expired and withdrawn MLS listings to find homes.

There are a couple of disadvantages to looking for homes not in the MLS.  Although you may reducing the home buyer competition, you may encounter competition from real estate agents looking for listings.  Additionally, finding a willing seller of home you desire may take some time.

Copyright© Dan Krell
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Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

35 years of home buying changes

home buying changes
Years of home buying changes? (infographic from keepingcurrentmatters.com)

This week’s release of the National Association of Realtors® Annual Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers marks the 35th year of NAR’s analysis and description of home buyer and seller behaviors and attitudes.  You may not remember what it was like in 1981, but the country was coming out of a deep recession.  The economy was still scarred with double-digit unemployment, inflation and interest rates.  The 35th issue makes us think about home buying changes over the years.

According to the US Census Bureau (census.gov), the median price for a new home in 1981 was $68,900, while in 2010 the average new home price was $221,800.  Freddie Mac’s (freddiemac.com) data indicates that the average mortgage interest rate in 1981 was 16.63 percent, and 4.69 percent in 2010.  Surprisingly, the cost of housing (when financing 100 percent of the sale price) has only increased about 17.5 percent from 1981 to 2010!

People want their space and privacy.  According to the American Enterprise Institute (aei.org), the median square feet per person in a home in 1981 was about 550sf, while in 2014 it was 987sf.  This expansion in personal space was expressed in the home size.  The median size of a home in 1981 1,550sf, while 2010 it was 2,169sf (according to the Census Bureau).  Also consider that the typical home of 1981 only had one and a half bathrooms, and the expectation today is that a home should have at least two and a half bathrooms.

An October 18th news release from the NAR (Five Notable Nuggets from NAR’s Home Buyer and Sellers Survey’s 35-Year History; realtor.org) provided some insight into how the housing market has changed through the years.  One noticeable factor is the reduced number of first time home buyers entering the market due to underemployment, student debt, lack of down payment, or delaying family formation.  Last year’s percentage of first time home buyers dropped the lowest rate since 1987; and “according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the homeownership rate for 18-35 year-olds is currently at 34.1 percent, the lowest level in records dating back to 1994.”

It’s becoming apparent that real estate agents are not being replaced by the internet.  Although a majority of home buyers use the internet to assist them with the home buying process, the NAR reported that 90 percent of home buyers and sellers surveyed for this year’s profile worked with a real estate agent.  As a result, for-sale-by-owner transactions were at the lowest level ever (FSBO transactions peaked during 2003-2004).

The home buying process now takes longer than it used to.  Putting aside recent changes to the mortgage process, the 2016 Home Buyer and Seller Profile brings attention to the amount of time a home buyer needs to find a home.  According to the NAR, the average time to find a home was relatively unchanged from the 1980’s to about 2007; which about seven to eight weeks.  The duration of the home search peaked at twelve weeks from 2009 to 2013.  However, since then the average time needed to find a home is about ten weeks.  The increased search time is due to a number of factors.  Brisk sales combined with periods of low inventory has not provided home buyers with much of a choice from which to select.  Not to mention an unprecedented amount of available information that has created a savvy home buyer.

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About friendly advice

friendly advice
Human behavior (from thediagonal.com).

Home buyers and sellers often seek advice from others.  Even when they’re working with a professional who provides expert guidance.  You might think it’s good to get validation from others on your real estate decisions.  However, a Vancouver consumer study suggests that following friendly advice may be a bad idea (Friends give bad advice; The Sun, 4/14/2011, p29).

Research of consumer psychology and behavior have time and again found that consumers want to be correct in their choices.  They want to feel good about their decisions.  They want to believe that their purchases are the best, and the professionals they choose are tops in their field.  Consumers are known to behave irrationally to prevent the cognitive dissonance that occurs when they are confronted with conflicting thoughts about their choices. And that means they often make poor decisions.

Mintel’s American Lifestyles 2015 report indicated that 69% of those surveyed sought out product and service reviews before purchasing.  While 57% of those surveyed sought out recommendations from social media.  Given the finding, it is suggested that there may be emphasis for communal thinking over “individual preference.”  However, about 38% of those surveyed considered independent review websites as “trustworthy;” while 34% found them useful.  But, 31% found social media contacts trustworthy; while 25% found them useful (Seven in 10 Americans seek out opinions before making purchases; mintel.com; 6/3/2015).

Seeking out friendly advice is part of herding behavior, which has been found to be a part of our everyday decision making process.  A groundbreaking study of home owners’ decisions to walk away from their mortgages (strategic default) during the great recession revealed how people seek and give advice (Luchtenberg & Seiler (2013). The effect of exogenous information signal strength on herding. Review of Behavioral Finance, 5(2),153-174).  The study concluded that people tend to seek advice when they feel that their choice is not in agreement with others.  While advice was readily given by those who felt their choices were believed to be the consensus.

Buying and selling a home may not always feel as if it is a rational process. And you may think it logical to seek friendly advice.  However, indiscriminately following advice may not be the best practice because all real estate transactions are different.  Each transaction presents a different set of variables such as personalities, market conditions, contract terms, etc.

Given the research, more often than not, you are doomed to follow the advice of a friend or family member – even when confronted with the evidence that the advice is ill advised.   You can infer from the Vancouver study mentioned earlier that friends and family feel “pressured” to give you advice on your real estate transaction because they want to be helpful.  Furthermore, herding research suggests that you probably give emphasis to advice from friends and family because following their advice will likely make you feel you are “doing the right thing,” as well as increase your acceptance by them.

Regardless of your rationale, your real estate decisions are most likely based in psycho-emotional needs and/or fears (such as status, acceptance, and avoidance of failure).  Breaking away from the herd is difficult.  Improve your decisions and make your transaction successful by pursuing balanced information and becoming aware of your motivations.

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Subtext is important when buying or selling a home

Subtext is important when buying or selling a home.
(Infographic on househunt.com) Subtext is important when buying or selling a home.

“Buyers are liars” is a saying that many real estate agents seem to verbalize when things don’t work out with a home buyer.  It’s an insulting false aphorism that is proclaimed as an attempt to shift all responsibility by saying that the buyer was deceptive and did not cooperate.  And when things fall apart with home sellers, the same agents won’t take responsibility and start hurling insults such as wacko, ignorant, or greedy.  Of course, if the relationship becomes contentious, then you can imagine that the name calling becomes increasingly harsh.

And it goes both ways, of course.  Real estate agents, as a profession, have a bad rap; and conditioned consumers bring those expectations into their relationships with their agents.  Many buyers and sellers have a low opinion of real estate agents while often having high expectations for the outcome of their experience.

You may begin to see that, unless the settlement is flawless, these mindset combinations don’t bode well for the agent-consumer relationship.  The home sale transaction is full of pitfalls.  And if there is an underlying distrust between you and your agent, then the outcome can become an ordeal for you both.

Writing for RealtorMag, Jason Forrest laid out why such buyer (and seller) repudiation by agents is wrong (Agents: Stop Saying Buyers Are Liars: realtormag.realtor.org; September 2015).  He pointed out that agents often blame the buyer (or seller) when the relationship and transaction is unsuccessful.  But in reality, Forrest stated, the agent is the one who fails by not taking the time to understand and coach their client.

Research of real estate outcomes suggest that your experience during a real estate transaction may depend on both the agent’s and your ability to communicate.  Clear communication between you and your agent should leave no doubt about your intentions, as well as your agent’s ability to convey and interpret motivations from your transaction counterpart.

The evolution of the real estate industry has not really improved the quality of communication between agent and consumer.  Agents focusing on high volume sales along with the public’s reliance of the internet for home information reduce face-to-face interactions; which may allow for the creation of false expectations while decreasing overall consumer satisfaction.

In his book Re-examining The Art of Sales: Broadway Style (AuthorHouse, 2006), real estate broker Nilton De Macedo asserted that the key to communication and understanding lies in the subtext of the dialogue.  Having stated that subtext is “what you really mean under what you say,” he provided an example: saying “I’m going to bed” may sometimes imply “I don’t want to talk to you now.”

De Macedo explains that as a sales professional, it is essential to discover the subtext of the conversation.  The real estate agent should not only attempt to decipher the client’s subtext to reveal their “unspoken intentions” – but they should also work to discover the subtext of their own communication.  He proclaims that this approach deeply influences how we relate to each other and will greatly improve communication.

Although De Macedo places the responsibility of communication square on the shoulders of the real estate agent, it really goes both ways.  Your agent may also be communicating something else through subtext, implied by what or how it is said.  You can improve your outcome by becoming aware of the subtext in the communication between you and your agent.

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Real estate bargains

real estateThe typical real estate investor and the average home buyer have something in common – they both are looking for a home that makes financial sense, a bargain if you will. After all, who wants to overpay for their home? Although the investor’s priority is purely financial, a home buyer’s priority is a mix of lifestyle requirements that fits a budget. Even with priorities in line, both investors and home buyers don’t always recognize a bargain when it presents itself.

Finding a bargain home is not as easy as some will have you believe. Bargain hunters typically look for distressed properties such as foreclosures (also known as “bank owned” or REO homes) and short sales. Although there was abundant opportunity to buying such homes immediately after the housing crash, many were hesitant due to lack of market confidence. However, as confidence was revived in the housing market, the courthouse real estate auctions were once again attended home buyers and investors looking for good buys. And as home prices increased, so did the price for distressed properties; making it more difficult to find the bargain home. Even “motivated” home owners may not be as motivated as you think in today’s market.

real estate bargains
from Trulia.com

This phenomenon is corroborated by a recent study of “bargain homes” by Trulia’s research blog. Ralph McLaughlin reported on January 7th (Where Is A “Bargain” Really A Bargain?; trulia.com) that advertised bargains were actually good buys in 55 of 100 housing markets. Furthermore, hot markets tend to offer less price discounting than cooler markets; home sellers are less inclined to make price reductions in markets where there is increased buyer competition. Locally, the Baltimore metro region was found to be in the top discounted markets for bargain homes (with an average discount of 11.3%); while the Washington DC metro region was found to be in bottom of discounted markets with an average of 4% discount on a bargain home.

It’s clear now that home prices were at the bottom during 2008-2009. At that time, home inventories swelled and there was an abundance of (what would seem today) “cheap” homes for sale. I wrote at that time (If Cheap isn’t Selling, What is?; May 28, 2008) about how cheap homes were not selling, and how home buyers changed their focus from “buy anything” to buying quality homes that impart value. Of course, one of the main reasons cheap homes were not selling quickly was that there was an additional cost associated with the purchase; most of the cheap homes were distressed and required rehab, or at the very least needed updates and minor renovations.

For most investors, the concept of a bargain home is strictly the result of numbers in a formula; and for some home buyers, the bargain may be about getting a good price. However, a bargain home could be more than just the price tag. Maybe the bargain home is also the “value added” home. Rather than just focusing on price, buyers should also be aware of a home’s potential. Of course there is always risk when buying a home, which we experienced during the financial meltdown eight years ago.

Regardless, many lament having not bought homes at or near the price bottom. But hindsight is 20/20. And what didn’t seem like a bargain just a few years ago, is in comparison to today’s increasing home prices and an active housing market, a missed opportunity.

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Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.