Simply put, buyers’ markets exist when there are a lot of homes on the market and very few buyers. If inventory–the number of homes on the market in your neighborhood–has been rising, it’s likely that the days on market have been increasing. Couple that with declining sales figures over previous months, and home buyers are in an enviable position to negotiate. Here is how you can write a buyer’s offer to your advantage.
1. Request E-Mail Listings & Updates
Almost 80% of home buyers today start a home search online. However, many buyers are unaware that the data they are viewing could be dated. Many Web sites reboot every 24 hours. On other sites, agents sometimes leave expired and sold listings as active, hoping for ad calls. To avoid wasting your time, ask your agent to register your e-mail address so you can receive daily MLS changes of reduced prices and new listings. This is one way to gain access to the same data agents receive.
2. Tour Price Reductions
If you’re like most buyers, you will want to offer less than asking price. It’s just human nature. But if you plan to low-ball, you’ll probably be unsuccessful at getting that type of offer accepted if the home was just listed. Instead, tour homes that have had recent price reductions or have been on the market for at least 30 days or more. These sellers are more likely to be receptive to a low-ball offer.
3. Obtain Comparable Sales
When you find a home you want to buy, ask your real estate agent to print out a list of similar homes in the same neighborhood over the last six months sorted by:
- Active Listings
- Pending Sales
The list should contain the following specifics:
- Property Address
- Square Footage
- Lot size
- Bedrooms & Baths
- Sales Price
Compare this data with online home value sites such as Zillow and RealEstateABC, and you’ll see first-hand why the data your agent gives you will be more accurate.
4. Request Contingencies
In a buyers’ market, you’re in control. Write your offer contingent upon the property appraising at the agreed upon sales price and on obtaining your loan. Check with your lawyer to find out if you can ask for a loan contingency that will protect you all the way to closing. Ask for a reasonable period to conduct inspections and to approve title, geological and pest reports. Ordinarily, during contingency periods, buyers can back out without risking a good faith deposit.
5. Ask for an Allowance or Credit
If you find the perfect home but you don’t like the color or condition of the carpet, for example, ask the seller to give you a carpeting allowance in your offer. Check with your lender before you write the offer to find out how to word a credit clause that is acceptable to the lender. You can ask for more than it will cost to repair or replace an item to cover your “hassle” factor. Many lenders let borrowers receive up to 6% of the sales price as a cash credit against closing costs.
6. Reduce Your Closing Costs
Depending on your local area, there may be fees associated with closing that are customarily paid by the buyer such as title insurance, property taxes, recording fees or escrow. In a buyers’ market, you can ask the seller to pay those closing costs. Typically, those costs can add up to one or two percent of the sales price and are often paid out-of-pocket by buyers. Ask your agent if these fees are negotiable. Then ask the seller to pay them.
7. Renegotiate After Home Inspections
All buyers should obtain a home inspection. Most contracts give buyers the right to cancel a contract if the home inspection reveals repairs or defects that are unacceptable to a buyer. However, if the repairs are minor, you might want to renegotiate the sales price or ask for a credit against your closing costs. Caution: don’t ask for a price reduction if the repairs were evident when you first saw the home or the seller might not be willing to negotiate with you.
8. Request Extras
Sellers realize that in buyers’ markets, often they have to give a little something extra to the buyers to entice a sale. Don’t be afraid to ask for a home warranty protection plan that covers you in the event an appliance breaks down or the plumbing or heating malfunctions. Normally these plans protect you for one full year from the date of closing.
9. Ask for an Item You Don’t Want
Did you like the sellers’ dining room table? China cabinet? Fish tank? Ask for it in your offer and use it as a negotiating tool. Often this draws the sellers’ thoughts away from price and directs those thoughts toward the personal property. If the listing stated the washer and dryer are not included in the sales price, ask for them. If the sellers balk, tell your agent to say, “OK, if we leave the washer & dryer, are you then ready to sign the offer?”
10. Shorten Acceptance Period
There often is no reason to give a seller more than 24 hours to make a decision about your offer. If your agent is presenting the offer in person, she may ask for a decision upon presentation. But don’t give them days to talk to Uncle Harry, their neighbor down the street or the coworker who knows everything about real estate. There are a lot more homes on the market and you deserve a fast answer.
By Elizabeth Weintraub,