Any offer to purchase a home will contain an element of risk. Even an all-cash offer can be problematic. For example, buyers who haven’t converted their equities to cash could come up short if the stock market drops between contract acceptance and closing.
With an all-cash offer, it’s a good idea to ask for verification of liquid funds needed to close within a certain number of days of contract acceptance so that you don’t receive bad news at the last minute.
Most offers include contingencies for loan approval, property appraisal and inspections. Contingencies usually allow the buyers to withdraw penalty-free if a contingency can’t be satisfied.
Offers contingent on the sale of the buyers’ home carry a higher level of uncertainty than offers that aren’t dependent on the sale of another property. That’s why sellers tend to shy away from them. Some sellers won’t consider them at all.
A contingent-sale offer protects the buyers in case their home doesn’t sell within the time frame agreed to in the contract. If the buyers’ house doesn’t sell, they can cancel the contract and usually have their deposit refunded. The seller, unfortunately, is stuck without a sale after wasting time in a contract with a buyer who couldn’t perform.
HOUSE HUNTING: For sellers to accept a contingent sale offer, they need to be convinced that there’s a high likelihood the deal will go through. The best way to do this is to put your home on the market first and line up a buyer. Sellers will be much more receptive to an offer from buyers whose home is already under contract, particularly if all contingencies have been removed.
Many buyers find it difficult to put their home on the market if they don’t know where they’re going. One Oakland, Calif., couple listed their home for sale last year at a competitive price and received multiple offers for over the asking price. They couldn’t bring themselves to sell the house last year with a baby on the way, so they took the house off the market.
This year, they decided on a different strategy. They leased a home to live in until their home sold and they could find another one to buy. The downside to this is that the couple had to move twice.
But, the financial risk is minimal. However, if you could afford to buy first and did, you might end up owning two homes for more time than anticipated if the market slows. If prices decline, you could end up netting far less than you expected from the sale.
For many repeat homebuyers, selling first is not just an issue of not knowing where they’ll be living. It’s much more difficult to qualify to buy a home before selling the current one than it was before 2007. Today, most repeat homebuyers have only two options: sell the current home before buying the new one, or find sellers who will accept a contingent-sale offer.
The sellers who are most receptive to contingent-sale offers are those whose homes have been on the market for months and could be overpriced for the market. Ideally, you should pay no more than fair market value. But, it may be worth offering a modest premium to entice the sellers into accepting your offer.
To maximize your chance of being successful, get your house ready to sell before you make an offer. Agree to price it competitively. If your house is in a price range or location that is in higher demand than the house you’re attempting to buy, the sellers might accept your offer.
THE CLOSING: Your agent can help by showing the sellers comparable sales information for your home, including the days it took to sell these listings.