After just living through this process, I wanted to share some tips for house hunting in this crazy market! As you guys know, COVID has created crazy shifts in the real estate market all across the nation, and especially in NYC. We knew that any house we were interested in would likely be a multiple-offer situation, and thus we would need to find a way to stand out. I’m sharing below a few of my tips, but I am by NO means an expert on this topic. This is (of course) the first house we ever bought and we only put in one offer. But nevertheless, I did want to pass along what we learned along the way!
I cannot stress this one enough! Find an agent that is an expert on the specific town you are interested in. This way they may even have a relationship with the selling agent and will hopefully have intel on the market that an agent that just casually sells in that area will not. Our agent only does real estate in the town we purchased and seemed like she knew everyone! She actually found out that our house was going on the market two weeks before it went up. In some situations (but not ours) you can see the house early and even keep it from ever going to the market at all.
First impressions mean something, and I think there is something to be said to be the first one to see the house and show interest. We dropped everything to be at the house the day it went on the market because we had a feeling it could be the one.
After seeing the house and knowing we wanted to make an offer, we raced home and immediately drafted a letter to the owners to let them know how excited we were about the prospect of living there. Make sure the letter is descriptive and makes the owner get a feel for you and why you would be a good fit. Also make sure to get the owners names so you can address it to them! In our case, after we sent the first letter, we looked at a booklet the owners created for potential buyers highlighting what they loved about the house. We were so excited after seeing the house we failed to even look at this when we sent the first letter. So we decided to write a follow-up letter to tell the owners how much the booklet resonated with us and again underscoring our interest.
We tried to write a flexible offer letter. For example, we knew the family had several children in school so we told them we could be really flexible on the closing date (especially since we had our lease). We later found out that there were three other offers for the home, but the owners got the impression that the other two could be a pain and make for a difficult closing, whereas they thought we would be reasonable and make for a more smooth and enjoyable closing process. I think some of this came with the flexibility we showed. On the other hand, you don’t want to be too flexible/easy going to the point that it could prejudice your rights (for example, I would never waive an inspection, I personally would be too nervous!!). But I think you can still retain your rights, while showing the owner you are a reasonable person.
When I said I was working on this post, one agent wrote me with this tip on Instagram that I thought was pretty insightful and wanted to pass along: “Make sure you find an agent that is well versed in writing competitive offers in this market. There are many ways to make an offer more appealing to the seller (even without being the highest in price). It’s amazing how many people don’t do these things. I’ve seen people lose out on house after house because their agent isn’t writing a competitive offer.” This was definitely our experience! We know there were higher offers and they still went with us, and never subjected us to a bidding war — which was so nice because I don’t know if I could have handled that stress!!!
These are just a few of my thoughts that I wanted to pass along! Good luck to everyone house hunting out there!