It is no secret that even as the local housing market is doing much better these days, it is tough out there for the typical homebuyer – and even tougher for first-time homebuyers.
Because interest rates are still low and inventory is tight, homebuyers are continually losing out to all-cash buyers and investors.
“We are seeing our inventory rise, but not enough to accommodate the demand for homes,” said Carolyn Miller, president of the Silicon Valley Association of Realtors. “Mortgage interest rates are edging upward, and many homebuyers feel they are being squeezed out at a time when they still see a window of opportunity.”
Miller, who has practiced real estate for more than 30 years, has seen more than her share of challenges in the market for all types of buyers and sellers. She said first-time buyers typically face more financial challenges and are less familiar with the complexity of a transaction compared to repeat buyers.
“These homebuyers get so frustrated that they either drop out of the market or make a wrong decision,” she said. “As realtors, it is our job to manage their expectations, help them understand the complexities and financial aspects of a home purchase and prepare them to move quickly in a market where there is a severe shortage of inventory.”
Miller noted that the following strategies may help homebuyers compete in this market.
• Get preapproved. Secure a preapproval letter from a mortgage lender. It is not enough to get prequalified. Getting preapproved is more in-depth than getting prequalified. The process includes an analysis of your credit report and an extensive financial background check. Your lender will be able to tell you the specific mortgage amount for which you are approved and the interest rate you would be charged. You might even be able to lock in a specific rate. Preapproved buyers have an edge with a seller over those who are not preapproved because they have a commitment in writing from their lender. This lets the seller know that they are serious and can afford to purchase the home.
• Check the disclosure documents. When you find a property you like, review and understand the disclosures the listing agent prepares and provides. If you don’t understand something, ask questions and have your agent find the answers. Some realtors schedule inspections when they obtain the listing and use those reports as working documents to prepare the house. There may be differences between what the house is now and what it was then.
• Prepare a clean offer with the help of your realtor. Rather than worrying about the little things, be concerned about the big ones. Be genuine and honest when you make the offer. Remember that obtaining a loan is normal. After all, it’s all cash to the seller at close of escrow, and cash offers don’t always close quickly.
• Write a letter. Write a letter to the sellers telling them why you like the home, why you can see yourselves living there, etc. Owners usually love their homes and want you to feel the same way. Express your heartfelt feelings. Cash buyers may not always want the home for their residence, and that can make a difference to a seller.
• Have your agent present your offer personally. If at all possible, have your agent present your offer in person to the listing agent and seller. Real estate is a very intimate business, and an agent personally presenting a client’s offer can make all the difference.
“Remember that it’s not always all about cash. If you have all your ducks in a row, your offer will be fine,” Miller said.