Q: I have been house-hunting for several months now. I have gotten outbid on several properties where the listing agent said there were 15, 20 or 30 other offers. A few weeks later, the places came back on the market! What happened? Was there something wrong with me or my offer? Why did they not just come back to me or the next-highest offer, rather than putting it back on the market? Mine would have been a guaranteed deal!
A: Reading your question was like reading my daily e-mails from my own clients! I’ve seen this happen a number of times, mostly with my FHA-financed buyers trying to buy bank-owned properties. I don’t know enough about your offer to be able to say with certainty whether anything in particular was wrong with it, but I’ve been doing this long enough to know that chances are either the price wasn’t right or you were bested by a seemingly more "closable" offer: a cash offer; one with more money down than yours; or one with a conventional loan (if yours is FHA-financed).
That doesn’t necessarily mean, though, that you should have or could have done anything differently. In a multiple-offer situation, the rule is that you make the very best offer you can, considering how much you can and are willing to pay for that particular property, and the best downpayment, loan type and other terms you’re able to offer. Don’t hold back because, as you’ve seen, it might be the only opportunity you have to make an offer. If your very best wasn’t good enough, then that just wasn’t your house.
Now to the question of what happened to the offer that was in place. Probably the single most common reason, in my experience, that homes fall out of contract these days is that something happened and the buyers’ loan did not receive final approval: either their credit, income or assets turned out not to be up to snuff on final inspection.
In that same vein, the property might not have appraised for the purchase price, or might have been found to have condition problems the lender refused to accept, which the seller refused to correct — especially on FHA-financed homes. Buyers do lose their jobs during escrow, on occasion, too — that tends to make them want to back out of the deal.
Lately, I’ve seen condos and townhomes fall out of escrow because the homeowners association had too many delinquent dues-payers, was involved in litigation, or otherwise couldn’t pass muster with the buyer’s lender. Also, in the heat of these multiple-offer situations — especially on bank-owned and other properties where there is a long time delay between offer and acceptance — buyers often make offers on other properties and might have simply gotten into contract on another home by the time their offer was accepted. …CONTINUED
Whether there was a backup offer in place largely depends on whether the property was bank-owned or not. Most individually owned listings receiving 30 offers would certainly have put one or two offers in backup position. The asset managers in charge of bank-owned properties, however, often don’t take backup offers.
They would rather re-expose the property to the market to make sure they are getting the highest possible offer at the time, including making sure the listing gets exposed to the new buyers who have started house-hunting in the time the home was off the market and in contract.
That’s the primary reason listings that received lots of offers end up back on the market. Other times, even when one offer was placed into backup position, the backup buyer(s) might have found another home and lost interest during the time the original buyer was in contract.
With all that said, I want to address your sense that this whole scenario is unjust, because your offer would be a guaranteed-to-close deal. You’ll have a better experience of homebuying this time — and selling and buying during every transaction for the rest of your life — if you try to look at everything from the vantage point of those sitting across the virtual bargaining table from you.
From their perspective, there is no such thing as a guaranteed deal. That is the reality of real estate. Chances are the buyer whose offer they originally selected also felt their offer was bulletproof, until the unthinkable happened.
The seller — individual or bank — doesn’t know you, your steadfast intentions, or passion for the property, and even if you expressed all these things to them, you’d simply be one of 15, 20 or 30 offerors all saying the same thing.
What buyers can do to make their offer seem like more of a sure deal to the seller is make a well-qualified offer, document that they have sufficient assets and income to close the deal, and make an offer that requires as little bank financing as possible.
Also, buyers such as yourself can make sure they’re working with an agent that writes a professional-looking offer, and has a good reputation with local listing agents for closing deals — this you can do by ensuring that you choose your agent by referral from a buyer he or she recently helped successfully "win" a home in your area.
Keep that in mind as you move forward making offers, and work with your broker or agent to make absolutely sure that your offers reflect the most likely to close price, terms and other indicia of professionalism. Then make your offer and have no regrets. If you get outbid, ask your agent to keep an eye out for the listing to come back on the market, and try, try again!
Tara-Nicholle Nelson is author of "The Savvy Woman’s Homebuying Handbook" and "Trillion Dollar Women: Use Your Power to Make Buying and Remodeling Decisions." Ask her a real estate question online or visit her Web site, www.rethinkrealestate.com.
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