Bidding War Tips: Do’s and Don’ts for Homebuyers

Home shoppers need to up their game if they are going to buy a house in today’s housing market, where shoppers vastly outnumber homes for sale.

Not only do you need to marshal as much cash as you can, but you also need to be among the first to respond to a new listing, showing up with your mortgage approval and bank statements in hand.

You need to be flexible on timing and terms, but you also shouldn’t make any promises you can’t keep. So think long and hard before waiving your appraisal, mortgage or inspection contingencies.

Here are some home shopping tips …

Do’s

  • Get your financing preapproved: Sellers don’t just want to pick the bidder offering the most money. They want some assurance they’re picking a buyer with the financial ability to close. Give sellers as much confidence as possible in your financial ability by showing up with a pre-approved loan. That means having approval up to a certain amount, with a credit report and pay stubs in hand.
  • Become tech-savvy. With homes flying off the market, the early bird gets the house. That means learning how to use real estate apps, getting notifications for new listings and acting quickly.
  • Get an experienced agent who has creative strategies for winning bidding wars. Experience matters.
  • Put down as much as you can: 41% of Zillow Premier agents surveyed said an all-cash offer is the most effective way to win a bidding war.
  • If you don’t have enough in the bank to buy without a mortgage, some agents say, you need to shorten your escrow or waive some contingencies — but with appropriate caution.
  • Broaden your horizons. Consider homes that need some refurbishing. Expand your search to include more neighborhoods. With the possibility of working from home, consider a longer commute.

Don’ts

  • Skip the “love letter.” Realtor groups discourage the tactic because of its potential to encourage housing discrimination. Plus agents say they’re one of the least effective ways to influence a seller.
  • Do not waive an inspection contingency. Doing so means you’re required to buy the home or forfeit your deposit even though you find something horribly wrong, like a cracked foundation or costly safety or mechanical defects. If you feel you have to waive this contingency, invest in a pre-inspection before you make your offer so your bid reflects the cost of repairs.
  • Do not waive your financial contingency. Doing so could mean forfeiting your deposit if your mortgage doesn’t get approved. If you’re not in a financial position to waive that delta, you could lose some money.

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