House Hunting: How to Win a Bidding War
House hunting can be a little stressful, especially if your dream home is located in a sought-after area. So, how do you put in an offer that will be accepted? How do you get the upper hand in a bidding war? Here are some home-buying tips to help get you started:
Set the Stage
Start by figuring out exactly how much you can afford before you look for a property. Your income, credit rating, monthly expenses, down payment and the mortgage rate can help determine your loan approval. Many experts suggest selecting a lender and type of loan, and then obtaining an approval letter — all before you make an offer, says Zillow. To a seller, it can be tangible proof of your financial ability to close a transaction and may bump you ahead of other potential buyers, adds Zillow.
While it might seem logical that a seller would automatically accept the highest bid, this is not always the case. While price is important, sellers also want offers that are certain to go through (that’s why a preapproval letter makes sense). According to Zillow, putting in a high bid can be a risk. You may run into a problem if the home does not appraise at the sale price, because lenders normally won’t fund loans in excess of the appraised value of a property. So, you might possibly lose out on the deal if your financing falls through.
Timing Is Everything
While slow and steady might win the race, it’s not going to win a bidding war. When you’re competing against other potential buyers, it’s in your best interest to be on top of things and scan housing listings on a daily basis, says Zillow. Once you see a home on the market that sparks your interest, consider acting quickly. Delay a day or two and somebody else may already have the advantage.
Make Your Strongest Offer
In a tight housing market, you can rightly assume there are going to be multiple offers on a property. Rather than going in with the mindset of negotiating to your final price, try going in with your strongest offer, adds Zillow.
Package the Offer
In competitive real estate markets, some buyers are minimizing the contingencies on their offer. Think of a contingency as a condition or clause in the offer contract that can allow you (the buyer) to opt out of purchasing the home if a certain issue comes up, says Zillow. And while it would likely be unwise to waive the home inspection contingency, there are things you can do to help make the process easier on the sellers. For instance, you might agree not to have the sale contingent on the sale of your existing home (the risk, of course, is that you end up with two mortgages). You can also be flexible on the closing date, or perhaps even offer to cover some closing costs for the seller, says Zillow.
Successful home buying in a hot market is a result of good planning, financial preparedness and timing. But it can also come out of self-discipline, too. A bidding war can become an emotional experience, so having the restraint to avoid getting caught up in the drama can help ensure that you don’t end up paying more than you can actually afford.
Originally published on April 10, 2013.