Sarah thinks I suck. “My bf is all ‘Garth this’ and ‘Garth said that’ and he reads your stupid blog before he comes to bed, so thanks for nothing. We’re buying a house. Go away.”
Well, what a lucky dude Sarah’s guy is. Nothing like a strong woman to remind us this wretched sex was invented to serve and protect. Just like cops. But unarmed.
Actually, real estate turns me on. However I worry about people who buy at the top of an unsteady market, or take on staggering debt for an emotional reason, or have the bulk of their net worth in a single asset at one address. All of that leads to the same place. Risk.
But if you’re horny to make an offer, at least follow my ten basic rules.
First, get an agent. One who’s experienced in the hood, has an independent streak and knows how to dicker. This person should help you research properties, pull comparables, get past selling histories and represent you through the bargaining process. In most cases the seller pays all costs, so this guy comes free of charge, and yet is legally bound to act in your best interests. Why would you not want this?
Second, research the sellers once you target a listing. Find out what they want (besides a lot of money). Why do they have a certain closing date? What are the circumstances of the sale? Are they desperate or fishing? You only get one shot at making a good first impression with an offer. You might discover that by offering them something they value (like a long close so they can find another home) you get the house for less.
Third, try not to be a dick. If you get all Calgary on people, coming on like a vulture with a lowball offer covered in testosterone, you’ll usually get a fight instead of results. When people are vultched they usually respond with a sign-back at, or near, the original asking price. Now you’re miles apart, and they’re pissed. Hardly the environment in which to strike a deal. Your smart agent will tell you this. Listen.
Fourth, always scrub your offer. The cleaner the better. Conditions turn a strong offer into something quivering and flaccid, like Sarah’s boyfriend.
Fifth. However, never buy a house without insisting on a home inspection. If it’s a hot market with competing interest for the place, get the inspection done before you offer. Otherwise, it’s common practice now to have someone come and dissect the property, usually within five business days of an accepted offer. If you find something revolting, you can bail. If repairs are needed, you can reopen up the offer by refusing to remove the inspection condition until a lower price is negotiated. Have an estimate to back it up.
Sixth, never make an offer conditional on selling another property or on securing financing. Okay, this may work in Hicksville, or if the seller is a complete idiot, or drives a Kia, but in real life this is not considered a serious offer. Besides, conditions always mean you end up paying more money. So, sell your other house first and get pre-approved for a mortgage. Then go clean.
Seventh, get a survey. And title insurance. So many buyers miss ensuring there is an up-to-date survey and come to regret it later when a mortgage company insists on seeing one or the city parks a backhoe on your lawn. If the seller has no survey, insist one is done at his or her expense. As for title insurance, it’s cheap protection against not only a lousy lawyer but also little irritations like the former owner not having paid property taxes or municipal services. Remember that a title dispute of any kind can keep you from being able to sell.
Eighth, put down the biggest deposit you can muster. It impresses sellers and people who shop at Costco. It gives your offer weight and authority. It lets you negotiate a better price (as strange as that seems). And it need not actually be paid until the thing is done and the offer is accepted. BTW, if the deal falls through – even if you walk – you’ll get your deposit back (although with other consequences). Unfair to the seller, but tough.
Ninth, make the sign-back period on your offer short. Don’t give them two days to mull it over or for their agent to call everybody who was remotely interested in the house, looking for competition. Present it at 6 pm and give them until midnight. Tops. Have your agent present it in person. Wait in the car. Carpe diem.
Finally, remember that stale listings rock best. If you want real estate that’s cheap, go for the ugly ducklings that have the fattest DOMs. Often originally mispriced by a bad realtor, they languish through several price cuts until finally selling for below market value. Sellers are far more motivated, sick of empty open houses and afflicted with showing fatigue. Put them out of their misery, and reap the rewards.
So, Sarah. There ya go. Just come back to bed.