When you are deciding on a place to live, when you are in the process of bidding on a place you need to be prepared mentally and emotionally. Once you have chosen a home or condominium it’s time to gather your information before actually putting in a bid. If you are working with a realtor you can pick their brain but keep in mind they aren’t totally on your side. They want to make a sale and they want to make a sale quickly. Yes, they want you to buy and it doesn’t matter to them if you pay a little more or a little less. Their commission doesn’t respond to a few thousand dollars in or out of your pocket. The difference in percentage for them is negligible.
A realator will sweet talk you if you see flaws, pressure you as to the time you have to think it over, lean on you about the possibility that you will “lose” the sale, down play any negatives and in general do whatever is best for them. I am not being testy, this is just from my experience. Somewhere along the line, after selling and buying four homes in the last two years this is what I’ve found to be the situation. I was the seller in three situations. Two sales were due to deaths in the family, a third was my own home and I am in the process of looking for a place to buy. My realtor has been very old, long term friend. Not the best idea when you need to choose a realtor. Somehow we have remained friends but over and over I have felt “whose side is she one?” and I do not let her cow me.
Now let’s get to the part where you have found yourself looking for a new home. First of all, get very familiar with the area. For me, I am looking in my own, immediate area so this was not a big issue but I did have to consider how far I was willing to go outside of that area. Not very far. So some places we looked at were at the perimeter of my comfort zone. My focus was more on the exact area I wanted. I was looking for a 2 bedroom , 2 bathroom condominium and I wanted a patio since I have 2 dogs and didn’t want to be walking them at night. I also had my price range in my mind , less than half of what I sold my house for. In this market I took a hit on my house but would be getting my next place at a low price reflecting the real estate market. Now it’s time to do the ground work.
Just as I had done when I went to put my house on the market I went to several open houses that were comparable to my house to see what was available at the price range I had in mind and what my competition would be. I made it my business to look at open houses/condos both above and below my price range in different condominium developments. I also kept my eyes on the real estate section and put the word out to friends. I narrowed my choices down to two developments. I then made up little signs to put in public areas in the developments I wanted to live in, stating I was looking for a 2/2.
I did sign up with my realtor and had her take me around to see places. She tended to take me to places that did not meet my specifications I think because it gave her an opportunity to check them out but I felt it was a waste of my time. In some cases realtors also do this knowing people may say they want one thing but actually end up going for something else entirely so I can’t fault her for that.
Luckily , I found a place, without her input in response to one of my signs so I began the bidding process on my own. In real estate , even though I am signed with a realtor if I find a place being sold without a realtor and my realtor hasn’t shown it to me I can buy it without paying her a commission.
Now, as to the bidding. Because I had done my homewowrk I knew what comparable places were selling for. I knew the price range, the dates listed and how long it took for them to sell. I could check on the MLS ( a multiple listing service that is available on line) and see what they were put on the market for and when, what the taxes were and any association fees. The MLS shows you pictures inside each condominum (or home). Because I had this information once I began to crunch numbers with the seller I was able to point out what his place was really worth.
As I did a walk around to see the place husband and I took note of any defects, problem areas, etc. This particular unit had peeling paint on the ceiling and some water damage under the kitchen sink but it had all new carpeting, tile kitchen, new appliances, tile bathrooms and of course, the patio I wanted. It was a very small patio but faced grass and woods. So now we knew the plusses and minuses so we had some more bargaining points as well as some good reasons to be fair in our negotiation and ask for a lower price. When walking around we were careful not to oo and ahh over the plusses but we were mannerly and made mention of them but we also mentioned the negatives. Keep your emotions in check when seeing someones home. If they know you’ve fallen in love that puts the power in their hands.
We had spoken with other residents of this condominium development and you should make a point of doing that or talk to neighbors if it’s a home you’re looking at. See if you can find out anything that would help or hinder your price determination. See how often taxes are raised, what services the town or city offers, check schools if you have children, check recreation and parking availability or parking fees if it’s a condominium.
We then began discussing price and showed our sellers all the print outs and pictures that we had copied off the internet so they could see we weren’t being unreasonable. Because we had spoken with neighbors we know about a $2,000 assessment that had been applied to this developments residents recently. More leverage for us. Thats why it’s important to talk to people who live there. We also heard of possible puddling by the patio so we asked about that. Not an issue it turned out. We found out termite treatment is done at the developments cost. We will be getting an inspection done as anyone buynig must do.
Bringing up some negative points helps you lower the price. We were always polite about all this. FInd out how old appliances are, find out how long it’s been since the place has been painted, check window treatments, are they high end or just something thrown up to cover the window, is the carpeting new, are there wood floors, a plus, make sure heat and air conditioning are up to par. See if you can get a one year warranty from the seller on all appliances. If there is a patio are they leaving the BBQ or lawn furniture.
When we finally came down to a final aggreable price we were still able to lower it $2,000 by mentioning that assesment fee. It is a very minor amount but it is money we are happier to have them shave off the price rather than coming out of our pocket. Closing fees are always negotiable. Always try to find several areas you can neogtiate on, whether it’s the inspection fee, the closing fee, an assessment, possible furniture staying or going, a little bargaining is very acceptable.Because neither of us used a realtor that made them more flexible and all in all we were able to come to a suitable price that all parties were happy with.
So remember to do a lot of homework, talk to people living in the area or development, know your areas, know your comparbles and go to open houses.Keep in mind if working with a realtor they are getting a good commission whether more money comes out of your pocket or not. Bargain but be polite. Good luck.