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Homes valued between $200,000 to $350,000 are averaging only 15 days on market, and houses that are well maintained in prime locations are selling before the agent’s sign has settled into the ground. While it’s a great market for sellers, buyers are feeling the struggle so any competitive advantage can help close the deal.
If you’re working with an agent, ask him or her to check the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) for “Coming Soon” listings. Though “temporarily off market” before they go live, this strategy generates interest before the property is available for showings. Some listing agents may sneak you in for a preview before offers start to flood in—it doesn’t hurt to ask!
Many listings are activated on the MLS on a Thursday or Friday to allow potential buyers to visit open houses on the weekend so that the seller can review offers within days. If priced right, you’ll need to submit an offer immediately to be a contender. Try to get as much information from the listing agent when the home first becomes active. Even if the open house is busy, spend time evaluating the home to feel confident that it’s the best purchase for you prior to submitting an offer.
For Sale by Owner properties are also a great way to find homes no one else will be looking for. Be wary that the seller may be less willing to negotiate price and repairs and may have high expectations for non-refundable application fees. If you’re in an agency agreement, you may be on the hook for paying your agent’s commission too. You can find these listings on numerous For Sale By Owner sites, as well as Craiglist or community Facebook groups.
Knowing what’s more important for the seller can get your offer the potential edge above other interested buyers. Even if there’s a bidding war, stay comfortably in your budget, and don’t offer significantly more than a potential appraisal if you can’t afford to pay the difference.
If you do find yourself in a bidding war, you might need to seal the deal in a more personalized way. For many people selling their homes, getting top price isn’t the only deciding factor; there are sentimental reasons that can play into the decision.
One way to get an edge over the competition is to write a personal letter and, if you’re comfortable, sharing a photo or recording a video letter to up the ante. Discussing your family, your love for the house and the neighborhood and your future plans for the space can help boost your offer in the eyes of the seller. Just note: some listing agents or sellers may not want to share letters and photos in case they are wary of potentially violating the Fair Housing Act!
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