As a listing agent in certain price points and certain neighborhoods in Alexandria, VA, I know that as soon as I put a new listing on the market, I need to be prepared for non stop phone calls, emails and texts. Buyers and their agents are sometimes frantic - and unrelenting - in their desire to see a property and possibly write an offer on it. So, here are some tips for prevailing in a highly competitive real estate marketplace:
1. This is the hottest tip of all: BE PREPARED. Your preapproval letter from your mortgage lender should be in hand, and your lender should have pre-processed your information as much as possible. You cannot wait until you find "the house" before speaking with a loan officer. If you have any hope of getting into a property in the next few months, you should have already spoken to a local lender - and if you have not, do it as soon as possible. Oh, yeah, and we're kinda picky about our lenders here...no online lender "prequal" letters will make the cut.
2. UNDERSTAND THIS IS NOT ABOUT GETTING A BARGAIN. This is actually about getting a house. This is not the time to throw an offer out there and see what a great deal you can get - in multiple offer situations, unless the offers are all exactly the same, with no clear winner, you may very well not have a second chance. No, sellers are not obligated to respond to you, much less counter your less than stellar offer. If you are approved to $800,000 and cannot go a penny over, then you need to be looking at houses in a lower price range, because that $800,000 list price in many neighborhoods is going to be a much higher sales price when all is said and done.
3. KNOW WHICH CONTINGENCIES YOU ARE COMFORTABLE LIVING WITHOUT. It is not at all unusual for serious buyers to waive all contingencies in their offers. In some cases, asking for a home inspection or appraisal contingency is the kiss of death for any offer. Now, I would never insist someone go contingency free unless they were completely comfortable with the idea, but buyers do need to understand you cannot always be risk adverse and prevail. It may be you'll need to change your priorities and forego certain properties if you are unable or unwilling to waive some contingencies.
4. BE FLEXIBLE. Sure, it's nice to have a seamless moving process when you leave one property and step effortlessly into another, but flexibility about settlement dates and occupancy can often be the key factor in ensuring yours is the prevailing offer. No one wants to be inconvenienced, but in some cases, the seller is holding all the cards and they want to be the least inconvenienced. I've had clients who put belongings in storage and lived 3 months in temporary housing with 3 kids and 3 pets. It isn't pretty, but with the right attitude, you can make it happen.
5. TRUST YOUR AGENT. Seriously, if you think you know more than your agent does, get a new agent. If you would prefer to take counsel from your used-to-be-a-real-estate-agent-15-years-ago-in another-state-relative or from the nice lady you work with who lives in the 'burbs miles from where you wish to live or from HGTV, I cannot predict a successful outcome for you in this market.
Your agent knows (or should know - and if they don't, you need to rethink the relationship) exactly how to write a winning offer; you need to put your faith in their advice if you hope to prevail.
Trust me, we don't like pressuring people to bid higher (do the math - we're really not making big bank on a $25,000 or $50,000 price increase) or eliminate contingencies or put more money down. We're just advising you what you need to do to prevail in a highly competitive multiple offer situation. And if you don't trust that your agent's only motives are to serve your best interests, then, seriously, get a new agent.
It is not unusual for a house to go on the market in some neighborhoods and some price points in Alexandria VA and have dozens upon dozens of showings the first day. Receiving offers the same day on market is a regular occurrence, so if you target a desirable home, you need to move fast, take time off from work and take a look ASAP. No, we don't have the luxury of waiting until the weekend to show it, you have to jump as soon as the house comes on the market. I cannot count the number of out of town buyer clients I have had buy a house sight unseen because they did not have the luxury of actually seeing it before an offer was made. Of course, with Skype and Facetime, it's not as if they have no idea what they are getting into, but still...yes, it can be that crazy.
A fast moving market can be exhausting and frustrating for all concerned and despite your best efforts, you may not prevail, even if you follow all of the tips above. However, I can pretty much guarantee if you don't follow this advice, your odds of buying that dream home go down substantially. So, if you're ready to jump into Alexandria's busy real estate market, take a deep breath, get qualified, hire a capable agent who knows the ins and outs of the market and get out there.
After all, SOMEONE is going to win the house and it may as well be you!