I’m often asked by people who like to prey on others how to buy real estate in a falling market, like this one. The danger of doing so is that you buy before the bottom arrives, and take a capital gains hit. The advantage is you hold absolutely all the cards, and can strike a great deal while the victim-seller is writhing in pain and begging for mercy. That’s the fun part.
So, don’t ask me if it’s time to buy yet, because you won’t like the answer. But if you want some tips on being a vulture, for when the moment’s right, then clip this and stick it on the fridge. (By the way, this is another preview of my coming book.)
* Offer what you want to pay, not what the vendor is asking to be paid. With so many properties listed, and so little sales activity, every offer has to be taken seriously. Only by writing up an offer on your own terms, at your own price, will you get a sign-back showing the true level of desperation youâ€™re dealing with.
* Always submit the offer with a deposit cheque, which is like putting a shiny lure on the end of your fishing line. However, the offer must stipulate the cheque is not cashable until a firm and binding agreement is reached. So, it means nothing, while having a powerful psychological impact.
* Throw in as many conditions as you want. This will create an offer that is completely tailored to your needs and wants while providing elements you can remove in order to gain things you truly want. So, for example, make the offer conditional on the vendors paying all your closing costs, including land transfer tax. While you never expect that to happen, you can remove it during negotiations in order to get what you do want and expect, which is a bargain price.
* Ditto for conditions giving you time to arrange financing or even to sell another property â€“ they are both traditional deal-breakers, and the vendorâ€™s agent will know that immediately. So, by reluctantly removing them you move far closer to getting that price.
* Best, however, to insist on a home inspection. This condition should give you five business days to complete the process, and is normally done at the purchaserâ€™s expense. The reason you want this is because almost all properties need some kind of work done in order to make them perfect, and when you get the inspectorâ€™s report you have leverage to help you drive down the price. Simply get an estimate of the cost of the repairs and ask for the deal to be rewritten with a price reduced by that amount. Since the vendor knows the condition is entirely for your benefit and the deal will die unless you sign a waiver, well, guess what? Vulture.
* And remember that the closing date is also an important poker chip to play. Have your agent find out what the vendor wants, and then use that to help leverage the price down. Additionally, you can throw any assets you see around the property into your offer â€“ power tools, appliances, lawn tractor, Harley-Davidson, whatever. The more you put in, the more clutter there is for the vendor to wade through, and the better chance you have of securing the best deal.
* Speaking of which, why not make two offers at the same time on two competing properties, and then let that fact be known (through your agent) to the vendor? That will add even more pressure to the poor guy, as he tries to figure out what he must do to save the deal, and give you what you want. This may be cruel and unusual, but just consider it payback for all those multiple-offer situations greedy vendors placed buyers in during the bubble years.
* And, of course, you can make a low-ball offer, get a sign-back, and then just let it die. Wait a week and go back in with another one, for the same low price. Odds are you will not get the same response this time. The stressed-out vendor may hate you, but heâ€™ll close.