Why do you keep losing out on multiple offers?

A crowd running to an open house - many of these losing out on multiple offers

Multiple Offers

Are you losing out on multiple offers? If it’s happened repeatedly, you may be hoping for a lucky break. But luck usually has nothing to do with success.

The real estate market in Silicon Valley is a hot seller’s market, and that means that often there are multiple offers, overbids, and sales with no contingencies. This is often the case with homes that sell in 2 weeks or less. Some buyers may get it on the first attempt, but many are bidding over and over – why do they keep losing out on multiple offers?

Over the course of my career, I have noticed that often there is a consistent “spread” of offers.  Most of the time, there’s a pack or band of offers at about the same level, sometimes 10% or more over list price, then a couple higher that that, and maybe one or two (once in awhile 3) at the top of the heap in terms of both price and terms which are attractive to the seller.

(There’s a video with my commentary on this below.)

Not everyone is losing out on multiple offers: what are the winners doing?

  1. The top offer frequently has the highest price and best terms. They aren’t losing out on multiple offers because no one else was willing or able to write such a high, strong contract.
    • It is 10-20% over list price or more, 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). Please see the video below for more on these items.
    • The winning offer’s buyers and agent followed directions. Normally that means that they 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 (all needed) which prove that the buyer can absorb any appraisal shortfall and is prepared to do so.  Sometimes the listing agent asks for a particular contract to be used or a particular summary sheet to be filled out. The best agents do all of that. The 2nd tier offers often are incomplete – the listing agents may or may not circle back and ask about missing items, so it’s important to remember that you only get one chance to make a first impression.
  2. 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. 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 and competence.
  3. 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 – they didn’t offer to put the deposit into the escrow account the next day, they didn’t check all the needed boxes in the offer, they have a contingency when all the competing bids have none..  If the offers are tied but one buyer has no contingencies and the other has any, that will be the tie-breaker.
  4. 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. The folks in the middle of the pack are usually the ones, together at the bottom, who keep losing out on multiple offers. (They will say things like “we are cautious…)
  5. 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  repeatedly find yourself losing out on multiple offers, 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?

 

 

What do multiple offers look like to the sellers when receiving an offer? Click to view our post on popehandy.com and take a look at a side by side offer comparison sample.

Why it is so hard

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When a parent, spouse or loved one dies – what do you need to know or do about the house?

Death and Real Estate - Dealing with a Property after A Loved One DiesWhen a parent, spouse or loved one dies and he or she owned a home, there’s a lot for the survivors to do in addition to the very real and painful process of mourning. I have been through this with my own parents (and their house in Saratoga), a great aunt in Willow Glen, and many clients in San Jose, Los Gatos, Palo Alto, and elsewhere in Silicon Valley.

Quick summary of what to do regarding the home first and soon when a loved one dies:

  1. Engage the help of of an attorney and tax professional within the first 30 days or so. Sometimes there are deadlines or goal dates that will help the beneficiaries, and if people take too long to connect with these professionals, some opportunities may close.
  2. Some attorneys are also tax professionals, but most likely these will be different people.
  3. A professional valuation of the home will be needed, usually done by a licensed appraiser, but sometimes a real estate professional can do a market analysis that is acceptable. The home does not have to be empty or cleaned out to have this done.
  4. If you need the names of good tax and legal professionals, feel free to reach out to your real estate agent (or to me, if you are local). Most of us have worked with trust situations and can provide names. Or ask friends and family who’ve recently gone through the same situation and were happy with the people that they hired.
  5. You will need several copies of the certified death certificate. Discuss how many with your tax and legal professional. If you sell or transfer the home, the title company will need it and it will be recorded with the county.

Death, dying, & real estate: where to begin when a loved one dies?

In terms of settling the estate, it is wise to first speak with an attorney and tax professional about the property to find out what is required and advisable.

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How do additions impact resale value and appraisal value?

Change for the betterMany times, homeowners look at the size of their home and assume that all living space is equally valuable on a price per square footage basis. That’s not always the case.

Expansions: Distinguishing Square Footage

In Silicon Valley, we frequently see tract neighborhoods of smaller houses, say 1,000 to 1,500 SF, in which additions have been made. Sometimes it’s an unattractive “pop-up” or “box on the top” which doesn’t match the home’s design or the look of the neighborhood. Other times it’s a tasteful expansion which blends seamlessly into the home. So how differently will these be priced?

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What happens at an appraisal?

What happens at an appraisal - image with camera, grid paper, measuring tape, housesWhen Silicon Valley home buyers purchase real estate using a mortgage or loan, the lender will require that an appraisal be done. (This is true even if you do not have an appraisal contingency.)  The main reason for the appraisal is to protect the bank from the risk of its making a bad investment.  The question being posed is a simple one: is the house, condo, land etc. worth the purchase price?

An appraisal isn’t just a visit to the property, but more of a process. But first, who is the person doing the appraisal?

Is an appraiser another real estate sales person?

A real estate appraiser is a professional with a license specifically targeted for performing this work. It’s not the same as a real estate salesperson’s license. In California, they are regulated by the Bureau of Real Estate Appraisers.

The appraiser must evaluate the target property and arrive at worth based on comparable sales.  (There are other ways of arriving at value.  In the case of income property, for example, it might be important to look at the rent, expenses, cash flow and ratios of several factors to calculate value. Another angle may be replacement cost or cost for rebuilding.)  In most cases, though, comparable sales will be analyzed and this approach will be given the most weight.  We often refer to these as “comps”.

In many cases, the appraiser will do some research before visiting the property (and we real estate agents may email comps or other information ahead of the visit).

Once at the site, he or she will

  • measure to calculate the square footage of the house and garage (living space plus other space)
  • will take photos of the inside and outside of the house or condo plus the street view
  • plot out the basic floor plan of the home
  • verify that there are smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, and water heater strapping as required for health & safety

Please note that no people can be in the images!

Sometimes the appraiser may ask the real estate agent who is present some questions about either the property or the sale.

Often the buyer’s agent will be the access person for the appraiser, but just as frequently it’s the listing agent.  Why should the listing agent take the time when it’s something for the buyer?

As I see it, a low appraisal will hurt my seller clients because it could cause the buyers to bail out or try to renegotiate the price.  For that reason, when I represent the sellers, I like to meet the appraiser and bring comps (or email them ahead of time) to help defend the price.  As the buyer’s agent, I also see risk that my clients may have to come up with more cash if the appraisal falls short, or have some other unhappy remedy such as cancel the same – that’s expensive, as in most cases not only does the appraisal cost a few hundred dollars, but inspections aren’t free either!  For me, I like to go no matter which side of the transaction I’m working.

How long does the appraisal appointment take? When is the report done?

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Appraisal value does not equal market value

Appraisal value does not equal market valueAn appraisal value is an opinion of real estate value  by a licensed appraiser, employed when a house or condo is under contract or sale pending with a mortgage, so that the lender does not over-invest. In other words, when an appraisal is used in escrow, it is to protect the bank which is lending money on the property. Appraisals may be used at other times, too.

Market value is what home buyers and sellers will agree on as the sale price of a property.  When Realtors work up a comparative market analysis or competitive market analysis, they try to figure out where the home will sell in the future, or what the market value will be.  They will also strive to bring that sale price to the top of the possible range of likely values – or go beyond it.

Put another way, appraisals attempt to determine the most precise value for what a home should be worth, if buyers and sellers are both unpressured. Home buyers may or may not agree with an appraisal’s results, though.  The appraisal value does not equal market value.   The market may find the property to be worth more or less than what an official appraisal states as the worth of the real estate.

With an appraisal, there is a subjective element to the opinion of value.  For instance, if a brand new kitchen sink is tangerine in color but in great condition, will the appraiser ding it for being unpopular, or value it higher for being new?  I can tell you that most Realtors would take off projected value for that poor color choice – but I doubt that an appraiser would.  How about a flag lot? Is that worth more or less than a standard lot on the street? Most buyers would prefer a home on the street, and that may impact the sale price, but will an appraiser devalue a flag lot? Maybe. (more…)

The Silicon Valley real estate market bubble – it’s back! Or is it?

Another Silicon Valley real estate market bubble?Hearing the real estate market “war stories” about dozens of offers on Silicon Valley properties and overbids ranging from 20 – 55% had convinced me that we were in a Silicon Valley real estate market bubble back in early 2013. At least, this is what a bubble looks like, sounds like, feels like, and acts like.   At the time I thought, “how much longer could this continue?”  Four years and counting – that is the answer.

I tell my family and friends that we are in “crazyland” as buyers purchase homes with no contingencies of any kind, houses sell in 10 days or less (if everything is right, which seems to be the case 75% of the time), and those same properties are selling at well over list price and with much more than 20% down.

The absorption rate, or months of inventory: it is a Silicon Valley real estate market bubble?

What do the numbers say?  I just logged into MLSListings.com and see that right now, in all of Santa Clara County there are 817 single family homes (houses + duet or attached single family homes).  The pending and contingent homes measure 1074, far more! That ratio alone suggests that the market is in overdrive.  In the last 30 days, 950 single family  homes have sold & closed escrow.  So the months of inventory is 817 divided by 950 = .86 of a month of inventory, so about 3.5 weeks of inventory. (When I originally blogged about the potential bubble, it was 1.8 months of inventory.)

In other words, things are flying off the shelves. And they have been, with only a few minor blips here and there, since early 2012. Does that sound like a Silicon Valley real estate market bubble to you – a crazy strong seller’s market lasting 4.5 years?  I could be wrong, but I think of bubbles as being something fairly swift, not a multi year trend.

Homes are selling faster than new ones are coming onto the market!

It’s one thing to say that one city, town, or school district has a very low months of inventory (or high absorption rate).  It is another altogether to say an entire county is that low.  This is a major trend, not a tiny blip in the statistics.

How soon we forget that after the outrageously deep seller’s market in 2000, we had a steep drop in 2001.  Or that all the crazy buying in the San Jose area (and other places) in 2005-06, combined with bad financial regulations, lead to the crash of 2007-2009. But perhaps that enormous “correction”, in which Santa Clara County lost about 50% of its value on average, had more room to recover than we initially realized. Jobs keep flowing in, and housing starts are not keeping up. Supply and demand – the age old equation. That would seem to refute the idea that this is a Silicon Valley real estate market bubble. Perhaps low inventory and strong demand are what we should be expecting going forward. (more…)

You say you are an “all cash home buyer”? Be prepared to perform like one!

In our overheated Silicon Valley real estate market with so many multiple offers, a lot of properties are selling to “all cash buyers”*.  Some of the contracts are written as all cash when in fact the buyers are actually trying to get a loan (for all kinds of reasons, perhaps including tax reasons). Listing agents and home sellers are wary of the promise of an all cash offer when the close of escrow is long.  Really buying all cash?  You can close in a few days, not a few weeks, if that’s the case.

Home buying all cash but not really

What’s the problem with getting a loan, anyhow?

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How many offers will that property get? How much over asking will it go?

Silicon Valley real estateThis month I’ve celebrated my 20th year in real estate.  When I began, in Feb 1993, it was a slow time, a buyer’s market.  Realtors used to say “keep it alive until ’95“, when they expected it to recover.  And recover it did – by the end of the decade, we saw another extremely limited inventory with intense buyer interest and once again (just like the late 80s), a price run up.  It was crazy.  Some homes were getting lots of offers – 5 or 6 at a time, sometimes even more!  In 2000 and 2002 it was crazy.  I remember getting 15 offers on one house in Cupertino.

Huge numbers of multiple offers in Silicon Valley real estate sales today

Last year, though, was another one of those wild markets but much  worse.  One of my listings in Santa Clara last year got 20 offers, and another one in Blossom Valley got 22 – and they were not under priced!

In the last week, I’ve heard of more than 70 disclosure packages going out on one Cambrian house (it got 32 offers), and another one in South San Jose / Santa Teresa selling 55% over list price.  Not to mention the fact that many offers are all cash and a whole lot of them, whether cash or financed, are without contingencies of any kind – no inspection, loan or appraisal contingencies included.

These numbers are mind boggling.  We used to have rules of thumb – 1% per offer or $10,000 per offer over list price.  But when you’re talking about dozens of offers, those old rules of thumb don’t work so well.  (They work better in single digits.)

In many cases, approximately half of the number of disclosures pulled will become offers.  That ratio is higher, perhaps 2/3, when the property is turn key, and it’s lower if it’s a fixer. A property that has scary repairs needed (foundation, drainage, big structural items) may get 25% or fewer offers per disclosures reviewed. If a house has 100 disclosure packages taken out, we might think of it as 50 offers – but it could be 25 or it could be 75 offers. No one knows until they are turned in. (Back in the days of small numbers of multiples, there were times when 4 agents said they were going to bring offers and I got zero, and others were 4 said they were writing and I got 8.)

Home prices are rising, so don’t rely only on the comps (more…)

Rapid Appreciation in Silicon Valley Homes for Sale Creates Appraisal Challenges

Although Zillow is predicting that the San Jose real estate market will experience a “double dip” (second price drop) in 2010, you wouldn’t know it was even an item for discussion in much of Silicon Valley.  Right now, in many strata and locations, the problem is that prices are rising fast.

Inventory is very low in many parts of Santa Clara County. In January 2010, there were 1801 houses for sale in the county; a year prior to that, the number was 4492.    The best homes (well priced, beautifully remodeled) are getting scooped up quickly and with multiple offers.  As a result,  frequently there are overbids and prices are rising beyond recent sales of similar homes.  (Sometimes the problem is compounded by appraisers who aren’t knowledgeable or experienced but are hired because lenders are no longer free to pick whom they want to have do the appraisal, so it’s luck of the draw there.)  When this happens, unless there is a very large downpayment, the bank may insist that the buyer put more cash (and less loan) into escrow to close the deal. Alternatively, the seller may be pressured to reduce the sales price to insure that the transaction closes.

For this reason, cash is king – now more than ever.  “Regular” buyers who have 20% down or less are frequently finding themselves at a strategic disadvantage against those putting down 40% or more cash.  It is almost impossible for FHA borrowers with just 3% down to be successful when it comes to multiple offers because they don’t have that cash buffer that may end up being necessary.

What to do if you really want to buy a home right now?  Understand that multiple offers will make it very challenging for those who have 20% down or less.  If you are an FHA buyer with a very small downpayment, you will probably want to avoid multiple offers altogether.  More success is likely if you target the homes which have been on the market 45 days or more.   And if you do have a lot of cash on hand, realize that if you “win” in multiple offers, you may have to use more of your cash to secure the deal.