oh my gosh… being a buyer right now is like being thrown into the Gladiator pit. It. Is TOUGH. During our team meeting the other day agents that have been at this for many many years are saying that this is the roughest market for buyers that they have EVER seen.
I thought it was crazy last summer. And then I think everyone kind of held their breath and hoped that one “positive” of having a pandemic may be a bit more balance in the housing market. It has not happened.
So, if you want to buy a home in the Twin Cities metro, there are things you need to know and understand up front before you innocently walk into the pit thinking you can take your time, or not be prepared, or ask for seller concessions. Just for fun I’m going to post some screen shots of a discussion we recently had on our office facebook group – a bunch of agents discussing what it’s like representing buyers right now. Hold onto your hats! Horror stories coming!
So what is a buyer to do? Well, I am going to tell you!
- FINANCES. The most important thing you can do is to be pre-approved for a loan. Know what you can afford and have proof in the form of a letter that you can attach to a purchase agreement. In addition to this, know that a conventional loan with a decent downpayment or a cash offer are far more attractive to sellers than an FHA loan or another that puts requirements on the seller and indicates that credit may not be as clean as it could be.
- SPEED. Do not use one of the big search engines to find a home. Zillow and others are notoriously inaccurate and will not have updated info available in a timely manner. Your agent will set up a search that reflects exactly what YOU want and can set it to send the listings to you immediately. Speed is very important! If you can be the first one to see a listing (or have your agent see it and do a virtual showing as I often do) and put in your offer you are far better off than coming in to a multiple offer situation.
- CLEAN. Have as few contingencies as possible. What is a contingency? Well, it’s any barrier to closing the deal. If you have another home to sell, have to get approved for financing, want the home to pass an inspection, etc. Your best bet is to have your financing ready, be able to perform on the purchase of the home without needing to sell, and make your inspection contingency as light as possible. If there are contingencies related to selling a home, you MUST have a contract on that home already and a close date to add to the contract.
- CLOSING COSTS. the best approach is to plan to pay them and not ask for seller contribution OR ask for very little, possibly with the sale price elevated to account for it, essentially rolling them into the mortgage. The big catch here is that you’ll pay interest on them over time and the house needs to appraise for the amount you offer if you’re getting a loan.
- SKIN IN THE GAME. Earnest money. Here in MN we typically do 1% of the sale price as earnest money. Earnest money is your good faith deposit on a home. If you increase the size of this deposit it shows that you are more serious about the property, and some are even stipulating that all or part will be non-refundable to the buyer for a home that is particularly desirable and in multiple offers. It shows a seriousness about the offer and is a tempting carrot for the seller to know they will get at least X$.
- INSPECTION. Make your inspection period shorter if possible. Typical has been 10 days and I really work to still get that for my clients because I work with a lot of relocation clients and traveling to MN or arranging for inspection remedy long distance can be a challenge. That said, sellers want to have a good idea if a deal will go through or if they should take the next offer as quickly as possible so that they do not have wasted days on market without the potential to sell to someone else.
- INSPECTION PART II. Request only health and safety remedies. If things are functioning but not brand new, that is acceptable. No house is perfect. EVERY house has flaws, even brand spanking new ones. One of the best favors you can do for yourself is to get the inspection as early in the inspection period as possible. This is important for a couple of reasons: 1.) if the house doesn’t come near to passing inspection in your opinion, you can exit the transaction and be on to the next one as soon as possible and 2.) if you request remedies, there is time to work with the seller on it and not be forced into a corner. What I mean is that if you get an inspection on the last day of the period and require remedies (fixes), if the seller doesn’t respond to that request by the end of the period your options are to a.) accept the original agreement as written (no fixes) OR b.) cancel the agreement entirely. In this market that favors sellers 100% because they likely have another offer waiting and are fine with a cancellation.
- MOVE IN DATE. From a risk perspective, you always want to take possession of the home at closing. However, your best option for getting to that point is knowing what the preferred closing date is for the seller if you have any wiggle room at all. Many of them are being cast into the same pit to find a home and may need some extra time to do so, knowing their preferences up front may sweeten the deal for them because having that uncertainty may be worth more than money.
- *LETTER. This one can be a tipping point or make no difference whatsoever. If you write a letter to the seller telling them why you love their home and neighborhood and how you look forward to caring for it and enjoying it in the way that they have. Avoid mentioning anything to do with protected groups and focus on what you love about the house and area and what made you pick that home. Most people have some emotional attachment to their home and want to feel that they are passing it on to someone who will care for it.