Whether you’re casually browsing or currently trapped in the midst of a bidding war, no matter what stage of the home-buying or home-selling process you’re in, there will always be things you wished you had known beforehand. For any homeowner, the post-stress of buying or selling real estate comes down to the should haves, could haves, and would haves. Could I have put in a lower bid? Should I have considered other brokers? Wonder no more.
If you’ve ever wanted to get inside the mind of a real estate agent, now is your chance. From the do’s and don’ts of selling to how to negotiate like a pro, to what to know before you browse, we took some of your most pressing housing questions to the experts at Manhattan-based real estate firm Warburg Realty. Read on for everything they want you to know.
Stage Your Home, Just Do It
You love your stuff. And while we’re all for showing off your most precious possessions, that doesn’t mean the potential buyers coming to tour your space will feel the same. For sellers, staging your home can mean a lot of things, but it ultimately means creating a blank slate for future residents.
“It’s important to make the apartment look and feel as neutral as possible but give that sense that it feels like it can be lived in, even move-in ready if possible. Painting a fresh neutral color is a quick thing on the cheaper side that can always help,” Gannon Forrester, an agent at Warburg Realty, tells Domino.
Need help finding a suitable neutral paint? Here are our top 10 choices.
“While buyers may not decide to purchase a home within moments of entering, they most certainly decide not to buy it in those crucial first few minutes,” reveals Lisa Larson. “Staging to me means not just editing an overly cluttered apartment. It also means painting (which I consider the least expensive facelift you can give an apartment), removing and storing furniture, and bringing in new furniture and accessories.”
Greedy Sellers Come in Last
We get that you want the most bang for your buck, but don’t be unrealistic. Overpricing almost always discourages traffic and bids, and it’s one of the biggest reasons a beautiful home will sit on the market and go stale.
“For properties to sell in this market the price needs to be priced right from the beginning. After the initial burst of activity in the first two weeks or so, viewing request start to wane and at times there will be weeks without a call. If your home has not sold in the first few weeks, sellers should consider a meaningful price drop or risk the property languishing on the market for months,” suggests Larson.
The same sentiment rings true about getting a great offer right away. “The thing about sellers is if they get a great offer too soon, then they think it was underpriced. Before listing your property, calculate the net worth and make sure you are comfortable with the asking price,” explains listing agent Brandon Major.
Do Your Shopping in the Summer (or Over the Holidays!)
Some agents will tell you that there isn’t necessarily a golden month or season to buy a home. And while it all really depends on where you live, there are certain times of the year when competition is low and those selling are more motivated to negotiate.
“The thing about sellers is if they get a great offer too soon, then they think it was underpriced.”
“Sellers who list in the summer are generally serious sellers and thus willing to consider all deals,” notes Larson. “School is set to begin in August or September and so no major life changes to cause a family to move are on the horizon. Therefore, summer is also a terrific time to shop.”
Likewise, you might be more likely to snag your dream home for your dream price come the holidays. “I’ve done a lot of deals in December when everyone thinks it’s slow,” says Forrester. “Yes, there’s less inventory, but the apartments that are listed usually know what kind of market they are in and will be more willing to negotiate.”
“Sellers who list in the summer are generally serious sellers and thus willing to consider all deals.”
Always Bid an Odd Number
“By doing this, your bid likely won’t match the bid of another party,” says Warburg agent Susan Abrams of one strong money strategy. Her other bidding tip? Make things personal!
Good Negotiation Comes Down to Knowledge
If negotiating was as simple as calling up Drew Scott from the Property Brothers and having him handle all the haggling on your behalf, we’d all be doing it. Considering very few of us will ever have the chance to turn our HGTV dreams into a reality, we have to put in the extra elbow grease.
“Try to find out when the seller wants to close and accommodate their closing date. Writing a personal letter about your family and why you would be perfect for their home and your genuine appreciation of their home can sway a seller.”
“Do your homework. Know the comparables for the property you are considering. Also, it’s important to understand the seller’s degree of motivation. Are they moving out of town for a new job or are they just testing the market? Assuming you’re dealing with a serious seller, make a bid that is not insulting, but based on real market data,” Larson tells Domino.
Don’t Put a Time Limit on an Offer
Really want to hurt your chances of negotiation? Putting an expiration date on an offer or counteroffer might seem like a solid strategy to get your seller to come down, but it often has the opposite effect.
“Buyers generally never walk away after the expiration date passes and sellers typically get annoyed by such a demand,” says Larson. “Sometimes just letting an offer sit says more than jumping in and demanding a response. A day or two of silence can work wonders.”
Case in point: Don’t play head games.
“Sometimes just letting an offer sit says more than jumping in and demanding a response. A day or two of silence can work wonders.”
Give the Full Price With No Contingencies
There might come a day when you’ll find yourself stuck in the middle of a bidding war. Want to come out on top? If you’re really looking to go all in, you might want to consider waiving your mortgage contingency, suggests Major. “Sellers love non-contingent offers, so waive that and your offer is as good as all cash, essentially,” he says.
Let the seller know that you’re serious about wanting the property. To avoid getting trapped in a back-and-forth bidding war be early, explains Larson. “Being the first to make a solid offer can give you an edge. And be thorough: A well-prepared offering package can be a leg up for buyers.”
Always Have a Walkaway Price
If you’re the type of shopper who tends to go over budget no matter what you’re buying (shoes, groceries, a car, etc.), it’s important to give yourself parameters. “Ask yourself: What is the number I’m willing to go up to and be able to sleep at night knowing you would not have raised your bid even $10 higher?” says Larson.
City Dwellers Have to Come Prepared
Not to burst your bubble, but if you live in a city like New York, you’re going to have to put in a whole lot more effort to get your dream place. Before you even think about putting in an offer on a place, make sure you have all of your funding lined up, have an attorney, and get pre-approval for your mortgage.
“Being prepared also means having an understanding of the market. Many buyers will act on something based on the most recent article they read. A real estate market like NYC is a micro-market and many times people read about macro-trends. Nothing is worse than making a low ball offer based on old information and then losing out on the apartment you wanted,” shares Forrester.
Consider Taking the First Offer
Let’s get back to not being greedy. While it might feel tempting to decline an offer at full asking price that comes in right away, you can never be sure that another equally-great (or even better) offer is a guarantee.
“A client always wants an agent to sell the apartment as fast as possible, but when an offer comes in right away, this weird paradox occurs,” explains Forrester. “Instead of being happy many clients will start second-guessing things. Clients think that if one buyer comes along that quick, there will be several others just as interested, maybe even more interested. Months go by and when it sells, it was for a lower price than that first offer.”
Interview 2-3 Brokers Before You Browse
Sure, you might only be casually looking now. But before you get serious about buying a home, you need to get serious about your broker.
“Meet for coffee and interview two to three buyer’s brokers and decide who you want to collaborate with on your home purchase,” suggests Abrams. “Properties featured online can be very deceptive and searching through all the online property options is time-consuming. A buyer’s broker can help you understand the options and make sure you don’t waste your time looking at the wrong homes for your needs.”
The View Should Be Higher on Your Must-Have List
While a stellar view might not be a priority for every home buyer, it should rank higher on your must-have list or nice-to-have list than it currently does. Location, location, location, has as much to do with how close you are to the office and to shops and restaurants as it does with noisy streets and poor views. Two red flags you need to pay attention to when touring a space? The curtains are drawn and there’s music playing.
“Make sure the views and light are acceptable and that the music isn’t masking neighborhood noise. In general, look past the furniture and study the bones of the house. Come prepared with your list of must-haves but allow yourself to be open to some flaws. No house will check every single box,” shares Larson.
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