Once you have found a home that you love, the first thing your agent should do is prepare a comparative market analysis (CMA) to determine a reasonable value for the home.
At this time you should make your agent aware of any special needs you may have regarding the terms and conditions of the contract (such as closing date, amount of the earnest money, extra time needed to complete inspections due to travel requirements, etc.)
You will then strategize with your agent to structure an offer which maximizes your potential of receiving a positive response. Once this is agreed, the agent will prepare the offer for your signatures and present it to the listing agent. A specific time period will be allotted for their response.
The contract will include many important timelines (such as due diligence, inspection and lending time frames) that must be met or extended in writing with the agreement of all parties. It’s very important that your agent discusses each of these with you and explains the possible consequences should you not meet these dates. Some can void your contract and some can cost you money!
HINT: In the past, I recommended that my buyers write a personal letter to the home seller which told the story of who they are and why they want to buy the house. In fact, we often included a family picture. Unfortunately, due to changes in the fair housing laws, this is no longer an acceptable practice. If a buyer chooses to do so outside the transaction they can, but the agent cannot be a party to it.
This is when the negotiating begins! After your offer is presented to the seller it will either be accepted, rejected, ignored or the seller will submit a counter offer. If they make a counter offer that means that they are willing to negotiate, but they have made some changes to the offer. A specific time period will be allotted for you to respond. You will speak with your agent regarding the best option for you and either accept the seller’s counter offer or respond back with a counter offer of your own. Long, protracted negotiations are generally not the first choice of anyone involved, but there are times where they are needed.
Once the buyer and seller reach an agreement, your agent should coordinate with your lender to confirm everything is in order for them to proceed with your financing and you will then schedule any inspections you feel are necessary. If you do not have a list of trusted service providers your comfortable working with, your agent should be able to provide referrals for local vendors and then be available to coordinate access and address any concerns you may have.
HINT: I always work to make my client’s offer as attractive as possible to the home owner in case multiple offers are in play on the home. This is not an unusual situation in our area and it is my goal to make sure that our offer stands out and is ultimately chosen. I always strive to write a very clear offer with few stipulations so that it is easy for everyone involved to understand and creates no undue concern for the seller. Of course, as we discussed earlier, you can make your offer even more attractive by including a copy of your commitment letter from your lender. Depending on the current market and location of the house, you may be able to negotiate a price that is lower than asking price and sometimes you may be forced to offer more than the listing price in order to get the home. In both cases, a clear, concise and respectful offer can prove to be worth its weight in gold.
My negotiating philosophy
There are many factors that go into negotiating on a home, but I always look at what is most important to my clients. It could be a favorable closing date; it could be a playset in the backyard that the kids fall in love with or it could be all about price… it really depends on the clients. At the end of the day, I am a tough negotiator and it is my goal to negotiate in such a way that my clients get what they want. That being said, the best deals are formed when all parties feel that the negotiations are done in a fair, reasonable and respectful way.
Occasionally I will have a client who wants to submit an extremely low offer, just to “test the waters”. There can be multiple reasons for this, but in most cases they simply want to make sure that they’re not paying more than they absolutely have to for the home. Unfortunately, sellers can be very emotional about the sale of a much loved home and an extremely low offer can be seen as personally offensive.
I warn all of my buyers that by putting in an offer that is so low as to create a negative emotional response in the seller, they will never get the lowest price they could have otherwise. I have seen sellers refuse to sell their home to someone who later came back with a generous offer just out of spite. I believe that it is in the buyer’s best interest to structure a fair and respectful offer that allows all parties to work together toward a successful transaction. Keep in mind, you will be negotiating with them again during the inspection phase.