Let's face it, it seems like pretty much every home on the market right now in LA is getting multiple offers. With a strong economy, good job growth, interest rates near-historical lows, and plenty of cash floating around there are simply more buyers looking for homes than there are sellers looking to sell. This can sound intimidating for buyers but it doesn't need to be. With a great agent by your side (hi!) you can conquer this market like a champ as long as you're properly prepared for what's ahead.
1. Bidding Wars Aren't Always About the Highest Price
It's important to remember every home-seller has different needs. There's no hard & fast rule for what a seller wants; cash isn't always king and the absolute highest offer doesn't always get the home. Maybe they're transferring out of state next week and looking for a buyer who can close quickly with no contingencies. Maybe they need a buyer who will wait for them to find a replacement home before closing or one who will lease the home back to them after closing. All of these bargaining chips are the terms of the offer and are just as important as the price.
The majority of home sellers will accept whatever has the best combination of both price and terms. This means in a situation with multiples that are all at or near the same price a seller will choose the one offering the terms that best suit their needs. Finding out what a seller is looking for and customizing your offer with those terms is our first line of defense to stand out in the crowd. You'd be surprised how many home sales I've represented where we've gotten dozens of offers but only a few buyer's agents bothered to call me to find out if my seller had any specific needs. I'll let you guess which offers usually move to the top of the stack.
2. Competing Against Cash Offers When You Have a Loan
About 1/4 of home sales in Southern California right now are cash. With that stat in mind we can assume if there are multiple offers on the table there's a good chance at least one is cash. If your offer is being funded with a loan it will inherently include more contingencies and a longer close than someone offering cash, which translates to a seller as more risk. It's a tough pill to swallow but with 2 similarly-priced offers side-by-side the seller is going to pick the one with the least risk.
If you're up against cash offers the most obvious way to compensate is by offering a higher purchase price - many sellers are happy to absorb a little more risk if it ultimately means more money in their pockets. It also helps to be as flexible as possible with things like your move-in date and requested repairs. Lastly we'll work closely with your trusted local lender to get your loan on the fast-track, tightening your loan and appraisal contingencies and even removing them entirely in some cases. Now we're cookin'!
3. Be Prepared
The Los Angeles market moves at lightening speeds - a character home in an up & coming area may get dozens of offers before the first open house and go off-market in less than a week. It can be overwhelming as a new buyer, but solidifying your finances ahead of time will put you at a huge advantage over the masses which aren't as prepared. It's fun to window shop, but there's nothing more heartbreaking than seeing someone fall head-over-heels in love with a home they've decided is "the one" and then miss the boat on putting in an offer because they didn't have their paperwork ready on the back-end.
Before you start browsing listings and visiting open houses you should have a pre-approval letter from a local lender and/or have your cash affairs in order, keeping funds needed for inspections, down payment, and closing costs in mind. If you still need to file taxes for this year or will be borrowing funds from a relative now is the time to explore doing so. Avoid online mortgage calculators - they're fun but they don't usually account for your credit score (which affects your interest rate), PMI, local property taxes, homeowners insurance, or a host of other things a real-life loan officer could better assist you with.
4. Be Patient:
I know it's hard - you've got that pre-approval burning a hole in your pocket and rates feel like they're going up by the hour. Your friend who bought a home last year already has $100k in equity because values are rising so fast. This is so exciting! Do yourself a favor . . . breathe. Our market tends to come in waves - you may not see a home within your price-range in a certain neighborhood for many weeks, then suddenly 5 pop up on the same day. Keep your eyes on the prize, don't burn yourself out considering homes that aren't what you really want just because that's the only thing on the market today. Remember we're looking for Mr. Right, not Mr. Right Now.
5. Be Realistic:
Keep in mind many homes are purposely underpriced to attract multiple offers quickly - don't let yourself get hung-up chasing the dream of an unbelievably low asking price. Think of the LA real estate market like ebay and think of asking prices simply as starting bids. We'll discuss your budget and must-haves, pulling comps so you can see what similar homes are currently selling for and what kind of jump to expect in asking price vs selling price. You can trustingly shop with these comps in mind - if recent sales tell us to expect to pay a certain price for a home in a certain neighborhood with a certain level of finishes, that's what a home will end up selling for regardless of how low it's been initially priced.
My goal is to arm you with an understanding of the market so you can purchase a home with confidence. While other buyers are getting into an emotional frenzy over their offer on a home that was comically underpriced and subsequently sold $100,000 over their budget, you will be cool as a cucumber because you walked into the situation with realistic expectations. You came in armed with your paperwork and a basic understanding of the home's value, you tightened your terms wherever you could, and you offered accordingly. Pat yourself on the back, you are a soon-to-be home-owning badass!