If you’ve decided to sell your home, it can be shocking when you receive the first offer.
Offers are complex.
Every piece of the homebuying process is linked together, and when one link is weak, the deal can fall apart. Every offer contains subtle hints of buyer credibility, decisions to make on contingencies, and negotiations surrounding the offer amount.
So, how do you wade through the offers and find the right buyer?
Let’s take a look at three critical factors to consider when you get an offer from a buyer:
1. Buyer Credibility
When you receive an offer, it’s easy to assume the buyer has the intent and liquidity to purchase your home. However, deals can fall through due to buyer inexperience, insufficient funds, and faulty credit.
Preapproval letters don’t buy homes.
And while buyers may have the best intentions, common pitfalls in the homebuying process include overestimating creditworthiness, insufficient financing, and experiencing remorse. Luckily, experienced real estate agents will vet buyers before things get serious. They’ll follow up with their financing, ensure they’ve read the seller disclosures, and speak with the buyer’s agents to make sure they’re ready to purchase your home.
First-time Vs. Seasoned Homebuyers
Besides conducting due diligence on financing and intent, knowing who is buying your house can give you insight into how the transaction will play out.
First-time homebuyers are often:
- More Accepting (especially with price)
- Less picky
Seasoned homebuyers are often:
- Great at negotiating
- Financially stable
- Comfortable with the process
Neither is better than the other, but if you’re someone concerned about pushing a sale through quickly, you could lean on a seasoned homebuyer. Conversely, if you don’t want to negotiate with someone trying to squeeze pennies out of you, a first-time buyer might be a better choice. Real estate agents are there to diffuse some of these differences between buyers, but a buyer will ultimately decide whether to move forward with the deal or not.
2. Contingent Outcomes
An offer will rarely be a straightforward transaction without special conditions set by the buyer. Most offers will include contingencies to help the buyer ensure the home is a safe investment.
The most common contingency you’ll encounter is a home inspection clause. This gives buyers an out if a home inspector determines the home isn’t in good condition. If problems crop up, sellers might back out of the deal, conduct necessary repairs, seek expert help, or credit the buyers.
Based on the inspection report, buyers will determine if they want to move forward with the transaction. If they decide to bow out, a home inspection contingency will likely refund their earnest money.
When included in an offer, the home sale clause provides the buyer with a layer of financial protection. It allows buyers to back out of a deal without losing their earnest money if they cannot sell their current home.
If you’re looking at an offer with a home sale contingency, you might factor in the deal falling through. There are many reasons why a buyer might not be able to sell his or her home, and you should consult with your real estate agent for an expert’s opinion.
Buyers want to receive financing on their terms, and since most people don’t have the liquidity for an all-cash offer, this contingency is common. Buyers include financing contingencies to protect their assets while shopping for loans. Buyers with less-than-stellar credit may even ask you to assist with their mortgage, which can give you more control over the interest rate and loan length. In general, seller financing enables a quicker closing process. While it’s not favorable for a seller to deal with a buyer who employs financing contingencies, it never hurts to know your buyer is qualified and financially sound.
Another contingency is the opinion of value or appraisal clause. This protects buyers who are concerned about the value of your home. It allows them to back out of a deal if a professional appraiser’s opinion of value is less than the home’s sale price. While not having your home appraised is a financial risk and a disappointment, you can ask your buyer to make up the difference in cash. If it makes sense, you can lower your listing price so that your buyer will still want to cut a deal with you.
3. The Price
Home prices fluctuate based on several macro and microeconomic factors. If someone were to ask, “What is the fair market value of your home?” you probably couldn’t come up with a solid number.
When you put your house on the market, there’s strategy involved, a strategy that’s likely determined by your real estate agent. However, the listing price isn’t the same as the fair market value. Using your agent’s comparative market analysis (CMA), you can identify your home’s fair market value range. This is the general pricing range you’re willing to accept.
So, what if a buyer’s offer is insultingly low?
Stick to your fair market value range.
Buyers will throw you lowball offers as bait—hoping for a fish to bite. The best tool you can take into negotiations is knowing your worth. This way, emotion isn’t part of the equation, and you can focus on competitive offers from buyers who have done their research. When entering negotiations, always consult with a real estate agent and remember to value your time and effort—not just the price—when deciding on an offer.
The Bottom Line
When you’re receiving offers, it’s easy to get excited about the prospects of closing a deal—especially after you’ve put in all of the work! Take your time vetting the buyer, studying the contingencies outlined in the offer, and deciding your home’s fair market value range. Only then will you be able to make an educated decision on what to do with an offer.