The days are cooler, the school buses running, the Seahawks winning (yay) and the number of houses available has dipped slightly, only because everyone who needed to be in a house before school began has taken the inventory down a bit. Tis the season of the serious fall buyer.
The serious fall buyer is, more often than not, one who needs to change residence, rather than simply looking to change. Job transitions are probably the biggest factor in off-season real estate and whether you’re moving into or out of an area, both sides of the transaction are a bit more focused than at the height of summer.
There are fewer buyers, but the flip side is they are less likely to be “Looky-Loo’s.” There is a determination in the off-season on the part of those out looking for new homes, when everyone else is parked with buffalo wings watching men push each other around on turf.
- Pay attention to your curb appeal; the winter garden lacks the color spots of summer.
- Make sure the front porch is clean with splashes of color. Horn of Plenty with assorted gourds or wheat stalk bundles in the early fall, festive wreaths with color splashes for the winter. Resist the kitchy and the cute.
- Avoid holiday décor, as it may turn off a buyer. Personally I would be not pleased to have to push past fake spider webs to view a house. As with staging, the goal is to help the prospective buyer picture themselves in the house, not to let them know about you.
- Staging is super important. Consult with your agent about how best to do it. Obviously moving out and having professional staging will reap the best results, but if you need to occupy the house till closing, paring down to the minimum will not only show better, but make your ultimate move easier.
- A broker’s open will help other agents know what to promote to their clients. During the off season, they may need to do some extra enticing to get broker’s to attend. Big note – do not expect your broker to do opens if you do not have the home ready to show. It will be a waste of everyone’s time, so coordinate carefully.
- In as much as possible, do not require an appointment to show. Understandably this is harder on you, because the house has to be in a constant state of readiness, but showing agents may pass on “please give at least 4 hours notice” if they are already out and about with clients. Again, the paring down which happens with staging will help keep the, “Oh drats, I have to hurry and put things away” to a minimum.
And the buyers?
You have even less inventory to work with than a few weeks ago. Talk with your agent and get as specific as possible, then be prepared to jump on anything that tickles your fancy.
- Come prepared with preapproval from a top-tier lender, even if you don’t plan on using them. Bank of Key Wells of American Chase is going to look much more reassuring to a seller contemplating your offer than Dan’s Real Estate Investor’s Training and Hard Money, LLC. If Dan is your only source of funding, he probably has a strategy to deal with this situation!
- Consider all aspects of a strong offer. Remember that, as I write this, it is still a seller’s market. You’re kissing their proverbial feet, rather than them yours. Your offer needs to reach out, shake their hand, make eye contact and have a presence that makes the seller say, “Where have you been all my life?”
- Financing. Put your best offer forward. If you can do a conventional 80% loan (as demonstrated by your strong preapproval), the only thing to top that is either a bigger down, or a cash sale. Resist the urge to go FHA, because the seller’s agent will advise against problems associated with a more stringent appraisal criteria.
- Inspection. In all cases I recommend a licensed, experienced professional do an inspection. This is your due diligence and buyer beware if they neglect. That having been said, there are a number of non-US buyers who are buying cash without any inspection contingency. You will be hard pressed to make a stronger offer than that but you can still make it as strong as possible.
Inspection contingency time computations were set up when the inspector used film photography and typewriters. 10 days was just barely enough time to squeak out a full report, so historically those numbers didn’t move. Nowadays you can find many inspectors with mobile WiFi, uploading their digital photos and comments as they work, and the report is accomplished by the push of a button when they are done. I have sat on an inspection at 10 in the morning and had the report in my email inbox at 2. Consider strengthening your inspection contingency by decreasing the time requested. If you have an inspector picked out and on standby, 3-5 days is more than sufficient. Make sure the inspector you choose is not still using a typewriter 🙂
- Flexibility. If the seller has a situation which requires non-traditional contract requirements, the more flexible you are, the more likely your offer is to be considered. An example might look like this: “My job has been transferred to Pittsburgh and I have to leave right now. My daughter has the lead in the school play however, and needs to be here with my wife till December. Would you consider a leaseback for that time?” A yes answer will endear you to the seller more than a, “Heck no. I am buying because I need a place to live.”
If you’re in the casually looking market, consider fall. Less competition, more motivated sellers and you could put the lights on your new staircase by December!