You may have heard that the Silicon Valley real estate market is slightly softer now than it was a a few months ago. That’s true – at least for most of Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties and nearby. In many cases there are now half as many offers as there were in February, March, or April. But it’s still a hot seller’s market, and that means that often there are multiple offers, overbids, and sales with no contingencies.
For my last few listings – which have been in San Jose, Saratoga, Los Gatos, the Cambrian area of San Jose and the Campbell area of San Jose – there’s been a consistent “spread” of offers. If there were 6 offers, it might look like this:
- Best offer frequently the highest price and best terms. It is 10-20% over list price, 25-30% down at least, and has no contingencies for inspection, loan, and most of all, appraisal (the percentage over has to do with whether the home was priced spot on the value or strategically under). These offers come with all disclosures signed, and the buyer’s agent has even done her or his Agent Visual Inspection Disclosure. They include the proof of funds and usually also write a nice letter to the sellers about why they want to purchase that home.
- The best offer is also someone who’s been SURE that he or she or they wanted the home from the very beginning and looks ROCK SOLID. NO WAVERING, not a “last minute” offer. Any hesitation on your side will cause the seller to not feel good about your odds of closing the sale. Be consistently interested if you want the sale. A shaky looking buyer may not include their proof of funds. Perhaps they would not sign the disclosures yet or otherwise submit an incomplete package. They don’t come across as certain about buying this property and need a few days to see the property again, or show it to their parents, or otherwise confirm the decision to buy. Their agent is not so thorough. If the TDS is not fully signed off, is the buyers’ agent trying to sneak a 3 day right of cancellation into the contract? The best buyer’s offer doesn’t look shaky – it looks dead set on buying the home and has done everything possible to convince the seller of their conviction.
- The second best or next runner up is usually strong on terms (at least 25% down, few or no contingencies) but perhaps made an offer price a little under the top value. Sometimes the next runner up has a good price and mostly good terms, but something is not quite as solid. If the offers are tied but one buyer has no contingencies and the other has any, that will be the tie-breaker.
- Middle of the pack is usually a combination of a price where the home should appraise, a solid down payment, and few or no contingencies. It may be a price that seems “reasonable”. Buyers may feel that it is “a fair offer” or a win-win. Often the fair offers aren’t good enough to take the prize in multiple offers. If you can project what most buyers think a home will be worth, maybe you might want to consider getting ahead of that pack and seeing where the pricing trajectory will take you.
- Bottom offers are under, at, or barely over list price, and include an appraisal contingency as well as others (one for loan or one for property condition). If there’s a rent back, they want their PITI covered.
If you’ve been writing offers and not succeeding, try to see your own pattern in this spread. Is there one thing, or perhaps are there two or more things, you’re just not ready to do?
Why it is so hard
Home sellers want to know when they agree to your purchase contract that you won’t back out and that you won’t try to renegotiate the terms later. If they have paid for all the pre-sale inspections, they aren’t going to want you to have 7+ days to decide if the condition is to your liking. They want to know you have read everything and are cool with it. Likewise with the appraisal. In overheated markets like this one, many times there’s an appraisal shortfall. Sellers want to sell to buyers who can absorb any deficit, so you need more than 20% down to do that.
We Realtors generally don’t like the kind of market in which buyers get stuck writing offers with no contingencies in order to win the house, but the truth is, that someone in every pack will do it. And you need to know that if you’re trying to buy a home. We cannot advise our buyers to write offers without contingencies, but we know if you write 4 or 5 offers with them, and fail, eventually you will see that having contingencies often will not get you the sale.
A few years ago, I did a series of articles on multiple offers – everything from financing tips to the value of presenting an offer in person, and much more. If you’ve been unsuccessful in buying a home and bid more than 2-3 times, please have a read. It may help you a lot:
By the way, in even the hottest market, there are homes that don’t sell. (Some sellers fall for popular home selling myths that everything sells at every price, but it’s not true.) If you have feelings of aversion to these bidding wars, do yourself a favor and ONLY look at homes that have been on the market 3 weeks or more. Often the main thing wrong is an inflated price. Some sellers won’t do an official price reduction, but may take a lower offer than you may think. Some homes have just been hit with the Ugly Stick. Ugly you can fix. Often the Ugly Home will sell for a lot less because yes, it is not that heart warming and it is a lot of time, money, and effort to fix it up. But guess what – it can be a great price and you won’t have to deal with competing bids in many cases.
Happy home hunting!