12 Ways to Edge Out the Competition in East Bay Real Estate
If you are a hopeful homebuyer, recent headlines about East Bay real estate are intense. We’re talking about the kind of news that makes palms sweat, hearts race and mouths go dry:
Bay Area Leads Nation in ‘Over-Asking’ Sales
Oakland is Nation’s 2nd Most Competitive Housing Market
Region has Tightest Housing Supply in State
Of course, it’s all great news if you are a home seller in Alameda or Contra Costa County. But if you are a buyer in this dizzying market where homes attract multiple offers (a recent Abio Properties listing got 23 bids!), you need creative tactics to edge out the competition.
Sometimes the bottom line isn’t about the highest offer, but the smartest one. Consider these tips from Abio’s expert East Bay real estate agents:
1. Pick the right Realtor. Abio co-founder Linnette Edwards says you not only need a knowledgeable local agent who you trust, but also someone who other agents like and trust. When considering how much to offer on a home, for example, a good agent can use his or her real estate relationships to find out how many disclosure packages went out and how many offers are coming in. Sellers’ agents are more likely to deal with buyers’ agents who are known for reliability, honesty and ability to close. Also, pick a Realtor who you will really listen to. After all, you hired them for their experience and counsel!
2. Be ready. East Bay real estate moves fast. Have all your financial documents in a row and your financing lined up before you start house hunting. Get pre-qualified by a reputable lender. Have your paperwork ready and tidy.
3. No (or fewer) strings attached. Abio co-founder Cameron Platt says that when crafting your offer, remember that each contingency is a potential roadblock in the seller’s eyes. Consider removing certain contingencies, but don’t consider it lightly or without consulting your Realtor about the advantages and risks. For example, you might offer to waive the standard 17-day inspection contingency and conduct a quick pre-offer inspection instead — an attractive time-saver for the seller. “I use this analogy with buyers: Every seller wants a shopping bag full of cash for their property,” Cameron says. “Every contingency in your offer — loan, appraisal, inspection, sale of an existing home, required repairs, closing cost credits — push that shopping bag further and further away from the seller, which can make them lose sight of the contents of that bag. Get the sellers as close to that bag as you can without putting yourself at risk.”
4. As is. Let the sellers know up front that you will take the property in the current condition, without asking for upgrades or repairs. (This doesn’t mean the seller can withhold known conditions, or you can’t back out if you find significant defects during the inspection period.)
5. Cash is king. Sellers know that a cash offer is more likely to close, and close quickly. There is no appraisal contingency. There is no loan funding contingency. The larger the downpayment, the more secure the offer.
6. Overbid intelligently. How much over the asking price should you bid? Any agent worth their salt will begin by consulting the neighborhood comparables (“comps”) – how much similar homes are selling for. But you can’t rely on comps alone. Making the right offer requires additional sleuthing, a great relationship with the seller’s representative, and even a little tealeaf reading. Your agent should find out how many disclosure packages were requested, which helps indicate how many offers might be made and how much money you should pledge.
7. Think big. Get a seller’s attention with a large down payment of 20 percent or more. It shows you have enough cash to guarantee you can secure a loan. Extra points: Include proof of funds.
8. Write a great love letter. More than 90 percent of hopeful homebuyers in Alameda County and 40 percent in Contra Costa County include personal letters, photographs and videos (yes, videos!) with their offer packets. You might not have the most money, but you could have the best letter. Linnette once helped sell the home of an elderly artist after his death, and it sold to a buyer offering $30,000 below the highest offer — all because of a letter. The buyer wrote a heartfelt essay about also being an artist. “That connection meant much more to the family,” Linnette says.
9. Quick close. An average escrow here lasts 21-30 days, but some sellers want out as soon as possible. Quick closes, whittled down to 10 days or even less, are trending in the Bay Area. Choose a local reputable lender with a proven track record of closing in 21 days or less.
10. Rent back. Be flexible and give the seller extra time to move out.
11. Be open. Abio agent Raquel Louie says she once represented a buyer who won their Oakland Hills house by offering to adopt the seller’s Labrador Retriever, which the sellers couldn’t take on their overseas move. This client offered $35,000 less than the highest offer on the house, but money didn’t matter as much as the dog’s happiness. (By the way, Raquel has been busy representing a little cottage in the Montclair hills of Oakland that just received a whopping 23 offers, which she is sorting through to see which lucky buyer will stand out. Wonder if they read our tips…)
12. Get the last word in. Don’t rush to make the first offer. You won’t earn extra credit. Take the time to learn how many offers are coming in and then determine your price based on that number.
We can’t guarantee our tips will win you the house of your dreams, but these tactics might keep you in the game.
Related: Abio’s Tips on Writing the Best Love Letter to the Seller.
Things move fast in East Bay real estate, and Abio Properties agents are nimble. Talk to us about buying or selling a home in this hot market. Contact Abio at 888-400-ABIO (2246) or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.