Residential real estate prices are rising throughout the country, and of course, the Bay Area is no exception, due to its long-time status as the hottest seller’s market in the nation. So how do homebuyers up their odds at getting the property they want when multiple offers are the norm, homes in the most desirable locations are in short supply and properties often sell quickly at or above asking price? While a reasonable offer and even a heartfelt letter to the current owner help, these astute tactics can also tip the scales in your favor:
Get a preapproval letter for a mortgage: By taking the steps necessary to demonstrate that you’re qualified for a home loan for a specific amount (albeit subject to certain conditions), you’ll demonstrate to the seller that you’re a serious buyer. Perhaps more importantly, the fact that a lender has done a thorough investigation into your finances and found you eligible will give the seller greater confidence that the transaction will go smoothly. In many cases, preapproval is actually required in order to make an offer on a home. Be sure not to confuse preapproval with prequalification, the latter of which does not require verification of your documentation by the lender.
Find a great real estate agent: Although you can work with the listing agent to buy a home, you may give yourself a major advantage by hiring a successful buyer’s agent with deep knowledge of the specific communities where you are considering buying. Local expertise generally means the agent has a steady finger on the pulse of market trends in that area, including sale prices and how quickly homes are selling. It can also be a good idea to work with someone who is familiar with what’s important or pertinent to you – whether this might mean expertise in a certain architectural style, first-time homebuyers, condominium purchases, etc. For excellent advice in forging an effective relationship with an agent, check out “Rules for Working With Real Estate Agents” from The Balance.
Decide what’s most important to you: None of us likes to be told we should settle for less, but in a tight housing market, it can be helpful to determine ahead of time where you are willing to compromise. For instance, if a top-notch school district and sizeable yard are high priorities for you, it may be worthwhile to consider buying a home “as-is”, with the realization that you can make upgrades such as a bathroom remodel or updated kitchen once you’ve gotten settled.
Consider making a larger deposit: If you can afford to put down a larger initial deposit on a home, this can also make you a better candidate as a homebuyer. Like a mortgage preapproval, your earnest money deposit communicates to the seller that you’re motivated to buy. In general, earnest money is applied to your loan’s closing costs or to your down payment, so you’ll need to use this money by the time you close on the mortgage. You can get a fuller understanding of how this aspect of the home buying process works by reading “The Earnest Money Deposit: What You Need to Know” from Realtor.com.
Get ready to be flexible and act fast: It probably comes as no surprise to you that in a hot housing market like the Bay Area, homes don’t tend to stay listed for long. Instead of waiting for a weekend showing, try to see the home as soon as it is available. If you find a home that’s an ideal match, be ready to move fairly quickly on an offer. And as The Balance points out, it’s helpful to make sure your agent prepares your offer as your seller expects to see it. This way, you’re less likely to risk the buyer entertaining other offers in the time it takes for your agent to prepare a counteroffer. You can also improve your chances of having your offer accepted over those that are similarly priced by being more accommodating to the seller’s needs, whether they’re interested in a quick closing date, want extra time to move out before you take possession of the house or prefer to leave behind certain items once they move.
To help you get the mortgage that’s right for you when you are serious about buying or refinancing, check with us first. SFPCU offers highly competitive rates, below-market fees and our Mortgage Loan Officers are non-commissioned, which means you get objective, honest guidance and help. And to boost your odds of finding the home you want at the best price possible, check out our Realtor Referral Affinity Program—it’s an excellent source for locating experienced and highly reputable agents. What’s more, you can save thousands of dollars in closing costs when you purchase your new home with a Century 21 agent, where you’ll receive access to exclusive Bay Area real estate listings. At the close of escrow, you’ll receive 20 percent of the commission credited back to you. Our Realtor Referral Affinity Program also offers special discounts on home protection, moving services and more. For details, visit http://bit.ly/SFPCUCentury21AllianceProgram.