Homebuyers have had the advantage for six years, especially in hard-hit real estate markets. But now sellers are enjoying a resurgence.Some buyers don’t realize or can’t accept that the market has changed, real estate agents and analysts say.
“People come in, and they think the market is 2008 or 2009, when sellers
were desperate,” said Jennifer Sommers, an agent with Nestler Poletto
Sotheby’s International Realty in Boca Raton, Fla. “They’re not
desperate. Not at all.” As a result, some buyers aren’t getting the homes they want. Here are
common errors that agents and experts say buyers are making:
Sticking with lowball offers:
Ridiculously low offers were the norm during the housing bust, but buyers can’t get away with them anymore, agents say. Stephanie Chen is closing next month on her Weston, Fla., home after
previously rejecting an offer for $400,000 less than her $1.1 million
asking price. “The mistake some buyers make is going so low it’s not even reasonable,” said Chen, 32. “We just walked away from the table.”
Buyers and sellers have different definitions of a lowball offer, said
Randy Bianchi, co-owner of Paradise Properties of Florida in West Palm
Beach, Fla. Sellers think they’ve been lowballed on offers less than 90
percent of their asking prices, while some buyers say bids of 80 percent
to 85 percent of the list price are reasonable, Bianchi said.
Jackie Smith, an agent in Florida’s Broward and Palm Beach counties,
said a client recently went against her advice and offered $55,000 less
than the $194,000 asking price on a two-bedroom waterfront condominium.
The bid was rejected. “Right off the bat, buyers say, ‘I want a steal,’ and I tell them they
have to wipe that word out of their vocabulary,” Smith said.
Taking too long to “sleep on it”:
Agents who tell buyers not to dilly-dally often are accused of being
self-serving. But with so few houses available for sale, agents say
buyers don’t understand how the market has changed. According to the National Association of Realtors, the number of homes
listed for sale has fallen by more than one-third since the peak in July
Inventories will swell as more bank-owned homes hit the market in the
months ahead, experts say. For now, though, new listings are coveted by
house hunters frustrated by the lack of choices.
Not all homes sell quickly because some sellers are asking for higher
than market value. But properties priced appropriately in desirable
neighborhoods tend to go under contract within days or weeks - or
A home in Jupiter, Fla., that was listed at 7:30 a.m. had eight requests
for showings by 10:30 and a contract by noon, agent Susan Bennett said.
Her client, Eric Wagnon, missed out on that property but found a
three-bedroom home nearby. Not wanting to be outbid, he offered the full
asking price: $330,000.
“For the right home that’s priced right, you don’t want to mess around
or you’ll end up without the house you want,” said Wagnon, 42, a
Littering the contract with contingencies:
The standard real estate contract includes stipulations, such as the buyer qualifying for a mortgage.
But some buyers also insist on unnecessarily long inspection periods -
30 days instead of 10, for instance. Or they want the sale to be
contingent on a family member touring the property.
“That’s ridiculous,” said Mike Pappas, president of the Keyes Co. “You have to have a clean contract.”
Failing to make a personal impression on the seller:
With some homes getting two or more bids, it’s not enough to offer a
competitive price. Owners will look at other factors to decide which
offer to take. “It’s not just about the money,” said Jim Heidisch, a broker in Pompano Beach, Fla. For example, a seller looking at two $600,000 offers on a Parkland
Isles, Fla., home took the one in which the buyer agreed to pay cash and
allowed the seller to take the washer and dryer, said Michael Citron,
the listing agent.
Take the time to meet the seller’s agent. Strike up a conversation.
Ultimately, it’s the seller’s call on which offer to select, but the
listing agent will have input and it doesn’t hurt if the agent likes the
Also, consider submitting a personal letter with the contract,
describing features you like about the home and why buying it is
important to you.
“It warms the seller up,” Citron said. “It shows you’re not just a number.”