Making an offer on the home of your dreams has the potential to turn into a nightmare… if the offer goes sour. A trusted realtor can help ensure you take a calm—and strategic— approach during negotiations, one of the most critical parts of the home-buying process. Below are some tips to ensure you are making the best, most confident offer possible when it’s time to step up to the plate.
Identify The Seller’s Motivation
It helps to know what motivates the seller beyond simply moving the property. For some, the only motivating factor is money. For instance, in a sellers’ market, a seller knows he can get top dollar for his home and he’s willing to wait for the best offer. Conversely, if a seller is more motivated by terms (Is he under pressure to sell for financial reasons? Does he want to downsize, or need room to grow?), the seller might lower the price for you to fund any identified needed repairs.
Determine The Market Value
Putting a value on your home doesn’t have a strict set of parameters. The value depends on a number of factors, like the age of the house, the square footage, the number of baths and bedrooms, whether the home appears well-kept and modern, as well as the school district/location.
A professional agent has easy access to the public records on price per square foot and average sales prices for recent purchases in the area. While you can find the same yourself on real estate sites (like trulia.com or zillow.com), an agent typically has more experience navigating these sources.
Make Your Best Offer
Once you’ve found the house you want and know the market value, it’s time to make an offer. While prospective buyers usually aim to buy at bargain prices and make offers below asking rates, sellers have been seeing a steady rise in sales creeping closer to asking prices, reaching 98% of list price in 2015.
Why are sales approaching asking prices? You may not be the only bidder, meaning you may have to go head-to-head with another possible buyer. Most agents will have a good idea if your offer is likely to win, but it’s never an exact science; this means if you’re serious about the property you’re making an offer on, it’s best to put your best offer forward. Smart sellers will answer every offer, rejecting the lowest bids and countering the best ones.
If you do end up competing against another potential buyer, consider earnest money (offering a deposit). This will show the seller you’re serious. Any willingness to offer the down payment, or part of it (in cash), will attract and hold the seller’s attention. Just be sure to make any offer contingent upon inspection (to ensure you’re not buying a problem property with unseen issues) and disclosure statements (if you haven’t received these documents yet; more on disclosure below).
Remember: the most appropriate offer is one you can afford. If increasing your bid to meet the seller’s demands leaves you financially strapped, it isn’t appropriate. Consult your financial institution to help you find the mortgage arrangement that best works for you.
Review Disclosure Documents and Reports
Once your offer is accepted, be sure you’ve reviewed all necessary paperwork. Disclosure informs the buyer of all the specifics of the home and their purchase, ultimately defining exactly what they are getting, and protects the seller from future liability. Requirements can vary from one jurisdiction to another but could include knowledge of a leaky roof or cracked foundation, or reporting work done with or without permits. A professional realtor will help you to complete any necessary documents and reports.
Disclosure does not necessarily include assessment or inspection, but if the seller has such reports, it must be indicated and provided to the buyer when the offer has been accepted (some will provide before an official offer). Most disclosure regulations are handled on the state level (with the exception of lead paint). While states vary and often change their rules, any licensed agent will be able to guide you through this process to ensure you are totally covered.
If you are going it alone, you will rely on the inspections and disclosures of the seller; both sides can cover their interests by signing a disclosure agreement.
Inspect The Home Before Completing The Purchase
Don’t just trust your eyes. Once your offer is accepted, order a professional home inspection.
Home inspections may reveal problems such as termites, mold and pests. Depending on the seriousness of the problem that’s discovered, a home warranty or reduction in price may be deemed appropriate by both the buyer and seller.
Consider a Seller Concession in Your Negotiations
Keep in mind: While the seller may close at what he considers an appropriate price, he still may make concessions in the buyer’s interest. These concessions can take various forms; for instance, the seller may pay for a licensed inspector or agree to repair problems identified by an inspector. Sellers may also agree to pay closing costs, concede taxes or fees paid in advance, cover appraisal fees, or offer decorating allowances.
If you’re working with a realtor, he or she can help you negotiate these requests and put them into your purchase contract. If you’re making the offer on your own, you’ll have to speak with the seller directly and make an agreement (in writing) that suits both of you.
Buyers and sellers reach agreements on their own every day. However, most transactions benefit from the input of a trained and licensed real estate agent, home inspector, broker or attorney. Buying a home can be stressful; consider using professional help to make your home ownership dreams a reality.
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