One of Compass Real Estate’s Core Principles is “Learning From Realty.” While this is a rule the company uses in listening to us, as agents, it’s also a good rule of thumb for agents. After losing a number of multiple-offer bids, here is what I have learned while representing buyers in the most competitive market in the US.
By Barbara Van Dyke, Broker Associate
Compass RE, Texas
With the stiff, almost cutthroat, competition we are seeing in Austin’s housing market, here is a list of best practices that we will use to ensure you have the best chance of actually winning the house of your dreams.
1) Be prepared to offer well over asking. Since January 2021, I have been seeing homes selling for 10 to 25 percent or more over the list price. That may mean we need to search for homes that are priced significantly below your approved budget in order to even have a shot at winning.
2) Waive your right to terminate if the property doesn’t appraise. The truth is, with prices escalating so quickly, homes will not appraise. Why? Because coms are lagging indicators. Appraisers use SOLD comparables when determining appraised value and they look back six months. That means the houses selling today are outpacing the comps. It will take several months—at least—for comps to catch up. But, if you want to win, you must be ok with waiving appraisal. NO ONE is accepting offers that are not using the appraisal waiver.
3) Make sure you have the cash to make up the difference between the appraised value and the contract price. Sellers will require you to show proof that you have that cash on hand—called proof of funds. Typically, this means showing the seller a copy of your bank statement with a cash balance that is in excess of the cash down payment PLUS an amount sufficient to cover the appraisal gap. Without this, the seller will reject your offer.
4) Waive buyer’s approval. Whoa! What? If you are not paying all cash for your new home, you should have gone through underwriting with your lender so that you are FULLY approved and ready to go. Sellers want guarantees that you are able to complete the transaction and will not terminate because you can’t get approved for the loan. This is RISKY, but as long as you feel secure in your ability to complete the transaction and you have that discussion with your lender, making a contract NOT subject to you being approved will give you a competitive edge. As a reminder, a pre-approval letter from your lender MUST be submitted with your offer. Using a trusted local lender is critical and can be the difference between winning and losing the bid.
5) Pay for all the “seller” expenses. This is a big one. In a normal market, it is common to write a contract with the seller paying for the owner’s title policy, a new survey if needed, a home warranty, HOA documents and transfer fees. Forget about that in this competitive environment. Those expenses have always been negotiable, but today, I recommend all buyers offer to pay these expenses. Remember, the goal is to make your offer most attractive to the seller.
6) Increase your earnest money to at least 2 percent if not more. If the contract terminates, the earnest money is returned to the buyer in most circumstances, so it’s a fairly low-risk strategy. To the seller, it shows you have more “skin in the game” and can be a competitive edge in helping you win. Remember, if the deal does go through, this money is credited to your purchase price and closing costs.
7) Offer a VERY large option fee for as few days as is reasonable. I have seen some contracts waive their option period. I DO NOT recommend this unless you are a builder, an experienced remodeler, or perhaps if you are buying new construction or are going into a home that you know you plan to totally remodel. Otherwise, I can’t, in all good conscience, recommend this. Instead, offering a very large option fee ($5,000, $10,000, etc.) for a few days is a good strategy. The key is to have an inspector lined up and ready to go the minute the contract is executed and knowing, what, if anything, would cause you to walk away.
8) Get creative. Some buyers in today’s market have even offered to pay the agents’ commissions and the sellers’ moving expenses just to win the deal. What extra things can you throw in to the offer?
9) At the end of the day, cash is king. Paying all cash for your home is one of the best competitive strategies available. Not everyone can do this of course, but if you are in a position to do that, do it and be prepared to show proof of funds.
10) Pray. It can’t hurt!