Excerpted from the L.A. Times, written by Lew Sichelman
Being the first to see a house in today's feverish market is just half the battle. Nowadays, once you find a place that meets your needs, you have to take your best shot. Otherwise, you may not get a second chance.
"Write your best offer first," advises Nellie Arrington of Long & Foster Real Estate in Columbia, Md. "Odds are, even if the house has miraculously been on the market for a week or so, other buyers will be interested."
Indeed they will be. In many places throughout the country, there is currently such a dearth of houses for sale that when one comes on the market, potential buyers climb all over themselves to catch the seller's eyes with offers that often exceed the original asking price. This happens even when the house is nothing special.
Because there are so few houses to go around right now, the combatants often engage in bidding wars, trumping one another until the winning offer bears no resemblance to the starting number.
All of which begs the question: What steps can you take to ensure that your contract is the last one standing when the smoke clears?
One ploy that has proven popular is to include an escalation clause, which says you'll top any other bid by a certain amount--say $500 or $1000. No matter how much the opposition offers, your contract will be higher.
Also, try attaching a good-size deposit check to your offer sheet--the bigger the better. Why go in weak?
Another technique used with some frequency these days is to present a clean contract with no conditions that must be met before the deal can close. That means no provision that you must sell your present house, that you must be approved for financing or that the property under contract must pass an independent home inspection.
Some agents demand to present their clients' propositions in person--and not just to the seller's agents, but to the seller himself. When you write your offer, put in that your agent must physically present the offer. That way, your agent can get face-to-face with the seller and make a sales pitch that presents you and your offer in the best possible light.
Charlotte Laws, Ph.D.
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