This year the Spring real estate market has been particularly heated. Combine few houses for sale with our thriving community and historically low interest rates, and you have a perfect recipe for multiple offers. So how can you make sure you win without overpaying?
1. Get a real agent.
The school of hard knocks is the best teacher for success in bidding wars. Make sure your agent has been in the business long enough to know what you need to do. The highest price isn't always what wins. A skilled and professional agent will know how to sell your bid to the sellers.
2. Go in at your BEST PRICE
You have ONE shot at this. Make it the most you are willing to pay for this house. Keep going up, a dollar at a time if necessary, and find your 'no thanks' point. A good agent will look over comparables in the neighbourhood with you, and hopefully you will have seen a few houses so you have a good feel for the market and local pricing. Don't worry if you don't think you aren't high enough - still try because you have nothing to lose. However, if you really want the house, make sure you go in at a price that is your best and final.
3. Go in with LEAST CONDITIONS POSSIBLE
Scary, right? But an offer laden with conditions is really just a half offer because there are so many stipulations. A few standard conditions will be financing, inspection, insurance, sale of you current property. You can avoid putting these in, but have your sh*t together, and always add the agent recommended conditions unless you are positive you don't need them. For example, if you have had lengthy conversations with your lender, and they have done all the required credit checks, you can ask the lender how they feel about you removing that condition in your offer. At the very least attach a letter of pre-approval to your offer if you include a financing condition. This shows the seller that you are already on track. If you have really no knowledge about your current financial state, NEVER leave a financing condition out. As for the other possible conditions, check with your agent. But try to deal with as many as possible ahead of time to avoid them being obstacles.
4. Write a Letter to the Seller
Super cheesy - agreed. But this can work well if the sellers have been in the house a long time. They may be emotionally attached to the house and want to know someone loves it like they do. It won't always work, but it never hurts. Submit it with your offer.
5. Have your agent present it personally
Person-to-person is still the best way to communicate. With technology as it is, agents can now just email offers instead of meeting the sellers directly. Unless the sellers have specifically requested to not see agents, their agent is obligated to allow your agent to present your offer to the sellers. This is a great way for your agent to plea your case, to explain why any conditions might be in there, and to generally put them at ease and sell your offer. A professional agent with a lower priced offer can often (in my experience) beat out an agent who shows up unprepared in jeans and flip-flops. Chose your representation wisely.
6. Loiter in the area
Sometimes sellers have questions. For example, at the offer table they may say they like the offer, but wonder if the client can possibly change the date. If an agent can reach my buyers immediately and make the required changes, they have a better chance of securing the house than the agent who can't find or reach his clients as quickly.
Remember - if you want the house and there are other offers, make your offer count. Chose excellent and experienced representation. Be friends with your lender. Know the risks. And if you still don't get the house, I promise that there are always other houses.
Charlotte Karger is a real estate sales representative with fourteen years experience in Kitchener-Waterloo with the brokerage Royal LePage Wolle Realty.
Sometimes I run into past clients or neighbours, and naturally, the question they always ask is, 'How's the market?". I respond that it is in great shape, and their home is likely worth much more than they expect. They take two steps back. Their physical stance changes. The arms cross. Their eyes squint. "Oh no, I don't care because I'm NEVER moving!". This isn't exactly music to my ears, but it's also an irresponsible comment. There are a slew of amazing reasons why you must always care about the value of your home, and it should always be maintained and respected for what it is - a huge asset. A real estate agent is a great advisor who can help you to protect your home's equity.
This may shock you, but not all the sellers I meet expected to move. A myriad reasons bring this about with the most common being a change in work, marital status, or to accommodate multi-generations. It is in these moments that careless owners pay the price. They say, "But we love our hot pink and neon green kitchen cupboards!", or, "We didn't know that knocking that wall out could compromise the structural integrity of out home!". Well - know it or not, the permanent or quasi-permanent changes made without even considering a future sale is a costly mistake. There may come a point where you need to liquidate this amazing falling-down home with a hot pink kitchen. Changes should be made carefully, and with a goal of protecting or improving your asset. Know what your house is worth, and consult a realtor before making changes.
A booming Canadian real estate market over the past 15 years has ensured that the majority of home-owners have been vigilant with home repair and maintenance. Allowing these to slide can seriously bite into the equity tied up in the house. Everyone knows "that" house in their neighbourhood. The one with curling shingles or broken and missing downspouts. I cringe knowing the damage and costs caused by these seemingly innocuous home maintenance issues. A roof is not an optional home maintenance issue, and letting it go too long can cause major damage. Not keeping up on these home repairs because you aren't planning a sale? What a shock it will be when even after the roof is replaced, we discover an attic full of mould. Nothing makes a potential buyer run faster than a mouldy attic. Listen to real estate agents even if you are NEVER moving. We offer great tips in how to protect your home.
As the past the Vice-Chair of Waterloo Regional Crime Stoppers, and a member of WRPS Citizens' Police Academy Alumni, one of my real estate passions is neighbourhood safety. A home should be safe above all else. Nobody cares about the great kitchen if the neighbourhood is violent and unsafe. In policing there is a 'Broken-Window' Theory developed by a Criminologist who noted that one broken window left for too long in a neighbourhood leads to more as the behaviour becomes accepted. More broken windows lead to graffiti, which leads to other crime and a neighbourhood full of problems. Even if you are never moving, and you don't care if the window is broken forever, please fix it anyway. Small details paint a large picture of what is tolerated in a neighbourhood. If you don't care about personal safety, be aware that others do. People own homes in communities, and we all need to maintain our homes for the safety of the community as a whole.
Whether people anticipate a move or not, there will eventually come a day when the owner or the descendants need to sell. A responsible homeowner will always keep an eye on the value of what is probably their largest asset. You don't need to be moving (EVER) to have a conversation with your Realtor. I regularly post articles and tips to twitter about home maintenance and the community we live. Be diligent with maintenance and repairs, and be aware of your contribution to the overall safety of your 'hood. And with any luck, when you do decide to move, you will be on track with a healthy profit.
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Buzz words and phrases such as 'GREEN', 'SUSTAINABLE', 'CARBON FOOTPRINT' are incredibly popular and trendy, and very hard to avoid. And yet we still seem to manage.
While our cars, industry, and food choices remain top contributors in the battle against global warming, few of us seem to be willing to make changes to our houses - another offender. Major renovations are expensive, and few of us have thousands of dollars to make all the desired improvements. But by becoming aware of our bad habits, we make positive strides.
My neighbours leave their bathroom window open 24-7, 365 days a year. Other than some debilitating illness that warrants such a huge fresh air intake, I can think of no reason why such a gross waste of resources is required, especially when their A/C is running at the same time. Maybe they like fresh air? Maybe. But if we all exhibited such entitlement, imagine our predicament.
Many of my friends have old fridges in the basement for cooling beer. These energy-guzzling relics are definitely drawing on the beer slush fund, and not great for our planet.
All of us impact groundwater with the run off from our houses. Salt used to clear ice on sidewalks and driveways mixes with pet waste, fertilizer from lawns, and cleaning chemicals, combining to form a delicious sludge that oozes its way into our storm management ponds. A portion of this is treated, and then we drink it. Mmmmmmmmmm...
Correcting environmentally damaging behaviours can be cheap and easy, and as home-owners we can all do our part. As a first step, I recommend a visit to REEP house at 20 Mill Street, Kitchener, or www.reepgreen.ca. REEP is a not-for-profit home demonstrating sustainable home construction. Their website is filled with useful information for sustainable home renovations, and also gives important details abut REBATES from the government. They also offer free courses, such as one on how to select good windows, which is coming up in March.
Building energy-efficient homes is the ideal. And in older homes we can replace old furnaces, add new roofs, new windows, new insulation - the list goes on. These are all features today's buyers value in a house. But the small changes are equally significant, and can be done with little to no money. If we all take baby steps together, by making some small manageable changes, we will all be better off.