Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Backup offers give sellers a Plan B

Every seller's dream is to receive offers from more than one buyer. Although multiple offers were scarce last year, in some markets and price ranges listings that are priced right are receiving multiple offers, particularly in the low-end foreclosure markets. 

Most sellers are inclined to accept the highest-priced offer, but this isn't always the best offer. For example, a seller of a hot property in the hills above Oakland, Calif., received six offers. The two highest offers were close in price, but the seller decided to accept the higher of the two. Fortunately, the seller's agent suggested countering the next best offer for backup position. 

The buyer in primary position had 10 percent cash for a downpayment. Some issues came up during inspections that were going to be costly to repair. The buyer didn't have more cash to pay for the repairs, so he asked the seller to lower the price. The seller said no and the backup offer became the primary offer. 

The backup buyer made a large cash downpayment; he wasn't cash-strapped like the first buyer. He had enough cash to pay for the repairs. In this case, the backup offer, which wasn't originally the highest offer, turned out to be the best offer both in terms of price and financing. 

Before making a decision about which offer to accept, it's important to review all of the terms and conditions of the contracts, not just the price. In another case, a seller received two offers. One was quite a bit higher than the other. After reviewing the highest-priced offer, it turned out that the price wasn't as high as it seemed. 

The agent representing the buyers was from out of the area and didn't know how fees associated with a home sale were customarily shared between the buyer and seller. In terms of net proceeds to the seller, the offer price was $10,000 less than it would have been if the offer included an allocation of fees that was according to local custom. 

HOUSE HUNTINTG TIP: Sellers who receive multiple offers often are tempted to counter for a higher price, even when the offer prices are for more than the list price. This is risky. In one case, a seller received two offers. The highest-priced offer was for more than the list price. The seller countered this offer at an even higher price. The buyer thought the seller was unreasonable and withdrew his offer. The seller ended up selling for much less. Don't let greed rule your decision-making. 

The financing proposed in the offers should be scrutinized carefully. In general, the more cash a buyer puts down, the better. Recently a seller reviewed two offers on her house. One of the buyers offered to make a 40 percent cash downpayment. The other was putting five percent down. It's far easier for a buyer to get loan approval in the current market place if the downpayment is 20 percent or more of the purchase price.

Close of escrow can be an important factor for some sellers. It can be beneficial for a seller to accept a lower price if the buyer can close quickly. This is particularly so, if the sellers have already purchased and closed on another home. 

An offer made contingent on the buyers' home selling is riskier than an offer from a buyer who doesn't need to sell in order to buy. Depending on the seller's situation, it might be wise to consider a lower-priced offer that is not contingent on a sale.

THE CLOSING: It's a good idea to counter the next-best offer for backup position in case the first deal falls apart. 


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