After months, maybe even years, of looking at homes online, going to open houses and stalking listing data, the time has come. You’ve fallen for a home, and you’re ready to make your first offer. It can be scary, but it’s exciting at the same time.
Here are some pointers to keep in mind as you throw your home-buying hat in the ring for the first time.
Have confidence in your search experience
Keep in mind that when it comes to making an offer, there is no single right answer and no “exact” price or terms for a home you covet. As a savvy buyer, you’ve got the market knowledge and experience it takes to analyze the deal. Believe in yourself.
Take what you’ve learned, partner with a great agent, and trust your judgment. Think about the homes you’ve toured and open houses you’ve attended, and you will naturally start to see where your home of choice fits in the context of the market.
Learn all you can before deciding on your offer
If you are ready to pull the trigger, first find out what the story is with the listing. In order to come up with the best offer, you’ll need to know how long the home has been on the market, if there are other offers on the table currently, and if there’s a specific day the sellers will review the offers.
You can uncover a lot by learning about the seller. Find out why they’re selling and what their motivations are. Pull all that information together and then mesh it with comparable homes’ sales data.
Reviewing comps is crucial
Your agent should send you the last six months of recent sales data to review and compare. These “comps” tell about the most recent market and what current buyers/sellers have agreed on for a sale price.
Look at the pending sales first and see if your agent can uncover some information about those transactions. You want to ask about the number of offers they received or a ballpark selling price. The pending sales represent the most up-to-date market statistics. Ask your agent what his opinion of the home’s value is and start to mull over this information.
Give your lender a heads up
Your lender should be on speed dial at this point. Let her know you plan to make an offer on the home. Not only will you need a pre-approval letter with your offer, but you will want an update on mortgage rates and products, since these change daily.
From the time you applied for pre-approval until now, there could have been a massive shift in rates or a new product that could benefit you. For all you know, you can afford more, or that bonus you received last month could mean a higher down payment and qualifying for a better product.
In addition to price, you will need to decide on terms. How long will you take for your inspections? Do you want to close quickly or take a longer time? Will you need an appraisal and loan contingency? How long should that be?
The terms of your offer can make or break your deal. If the seller wants a quick close, and you can do it, give it to them. If you are competing with a cash offer, make your loan terms foolproof. Marry all of the data from above and take your best shot.
Remember, there will be other houses
Rarely does a buyer score the first house they offer on. And it’s not the end of the world if you don’t. There will be other homes for sale.
People change jobs, get divorced, move closer to family, have children or pass away. All of these things can result in a home sale or purchase.
Have faith that another home will come along in the future. There’s no rush, and you should never buy real estate overnight. Have fun, and learn from each offer you make.