News & Market Trends on Pocono Real Estate

You’ll find our blog to be a wealth of information, covering everything from local market statistics and home values to community happenings. That’s because we care about the community and want to help you find your place in it. Please reach out if you have any questions at all. We’d love to talk with you!

Sept. 22, 2020

How to Win in a Highest and Best Offer Situation [2020]

 

You may have recently been told to submit your “highest and best offer” on a home. These warnings are often communicated via the MLS in the following manner:

“HIGHEST AND BEST DUE NO LATER THAN APRIL 19, 2019 AT 12PM”

Sounds a little bit demanding, doesn’t it? Well, situations like this can be common when there is heavy competition amongst buyers and low inventory.

When homebuyers are told to submit their “highest and best offer” the listing agent is indicating that there are multiple offers on the property and that all interested buyers should submit their best possible offer. It’s basically warning potential buyers that the property is going to go under contract very soon and that they might miss out if they don’t submit the best possible offer.

Once all of the offers are collected, the listing agent and seller will review all of the offers and accept the best one. Sometimes, the seller is a bank who makes the decision without input from the listing agent. 

Below you will find a comprehensive list of tips and strategies you can use when you’re in a highest and best offer situation.

1: Be smart

The listing agent may be lying about the existence of multiple offers. Regardless of what you might think about this, the listing agent has a fiduciary duty to the seller: it’s the listing agent’s job to obtain the absolute best offer for their client. Therefore, some agents may mislead potential buyers about the existence of other offers in order to manufacture a sense of urgency. Put simply, the agent is not acting in your interest and may ask for your highest and best offer when there are no other offers.

However, you can usually determine if the agent is being truthful by taking the market conditions into account. If a home has been on the market for a long amount of time there are slim odds that other buyers suddenly pop up out of nowhere once you start taking an interest. Conversely, if the property is new on the market and inventory is low there may be a good reason to believe that multiple offers exist.

If the property is owned by a bank (also called a REO property) there’s a lower chance of any funny business. Sometimes, a bank may deliberately list a property well below market value and then immediately call for highest and best offers so that a speedy sale takes place.

2: Terms are key

In a highest and best offer situation, the best offer chosen may not be the highest offer. The terms of the sale are key, as a seller may accept a lower price with great terms. 

Consider the following two offers:

  • $490,000 with a financing and inspection contingency, 45 day close.
  • $500,000 with no financing or inspection contingency, 15 day close.

Most sellers are willing to accept a 2% price cut if it means they’re getting an all-cash offer that accepts the property as-is without any contingencies. They don’t have to worry about the deal falling through and may be able to avoid another mortgage payment. 

Also, you may want to consider an escalation clause. An escalation clause ensures that you’re always the highest bidder up until a certain ceiling is met. This means you won’t end up paying significantly more than what someone else offers and a maximum price is set that will not be exceeded. 

Placed in casual terms, the escalation clause would read something like this: “My current offer is $200,000 and I will pay $1000 more than any other offer up until $225,000” You may want to consult a real estate attorney rather than your real estate agent if you’re considering the addition of this clause.

Your goal should be to try to keep your offer as clean as possible, meaning you eliminate as many terms as you reasonably can. Buyers who tack on a lot of extra terms are perceived as flaky and noncommittal. You want your offer to appear strong by showing that you aren’t worried about inconsequential matters.

In some cases, you may be forced to keep particular contingencies. If you’re getting a mortgage, you may be required to attach the financing and appraisal contingency. There’s no way around this, but you can try to keep the loan and financing contingency period as short as possible. Ultimately, you may lose out when bidding against an all-cash buyer.

Here are some additional strategies you can use to make your offer more attractive:

  • Place a large earnest money deposit
  • Offer to pay closing costs
  • Sooner closing date
  • Shorten due diligence period
  • Forego an appraisal (if you can)
  • Forego a survey
  • Consider allowing them to keep your offer as a back-up in the event the accepted offer ends up backing out

3. Don’t fall in love 

You may have a temptation to sweeten your offer beyond a point that is reasonable. Don’t do this. It’s common for buyers to get caught up in the heat of the moment and become willing to give unreasonable concessions.

You should consult with the comps and your buyer’s agent to determine the best offer you can make - within reason. Determine what you’re willing to pay and the terms you’re comfortable with. Always be prepared to walk away and don’t become too emotionally invested in the outcome or else you might get a bad deal. As the old adage goes: never fall in love with real estate!

4. Get your paperwork ready

This should almost go without saying, but when highest and best offers are called you should have your paperwork ready. There will be a deadline attached as to when you can submit your offer and you don’t want to miss out because you didn’t have the necessary documents ready. This means you should have a pre-approval (or proof of funds) letter prepared from a recognized lender that you can attach to your offer.

Timing is everything in real estate. Having your ducks in a row also allows you to act quickly when the listing agent calls for all highest and best offers. Submitting your offer quickly shows that you’re serious and your offer may become the standard for which all subsequent offers are judged.

5. Write a buyer letter

Writing a buyer letter can be an effective way to demonstrate your interest and cultivate a relationship with the listing agent and seller. A buyer letter is merely an attached letter to your offer which details who you are why you’re interested in the property. Presenting yourself as relatable never hurts in a real estate transaction when emotions can run high.

Check out this offer letter I wrote on behalf of a buyer:

a screenshot of a social media post

(Note: some details of this letter have been altered for privacy)

I wrote this on behalf of my client so we could put forward the most compelling offer. While we weren’t in a multiple offer situation, we did want to put our best foot forward. All of what I wrote was true and came from the heart; I wanted the seller to know that we appreciated their home and were serious in our interest. The letter also reveals some of the logic behind our offer. Notice how we began the negotiation in a friendly and cooperative manner and avoided any negativity.

Allowing the seller to see you as a human being is always a plus. The listing agent may end up advocating for your offer because they’re familiar with you and know you’re serious. Who knows, the seller may be willing to accept your offer over the highest and best offer because they believe their home will be in the hands of someone who truly appreciates it.

This strategy won’t be as effective when you’re dealing with bank-owned properties or with large developers. They sell in bulk and are more concerned about their bottom line rather than who will be occupying their homes. 

6. Start a Dialogue

Starting a dialogue with the listing agent or seller can be very productive. Sometimes, the seller has a specific situation that makes certain offers more compelling than others. For example, maybe the seller is moving out of state very soon and offers that can close quickly are placed in higher regard.

The dialogue should continue even after your offer is submitted. Things can change rapidly when there are multiple offers and you absolutely need to stay abreast of the situation. Find out from the listing agent how your offer is stacking up to others and what the seller thought about it. You may be able to see if you can have your offer stand as a backup offer.

Even if you end up losing out on the property it’s still worthwhile to find out why you lost out. You’ll be able to objectively compare your offer to the competition and hopefully learn some information that will keep you better informed going forward. 

7. Be prepared to stand firm

The listing agent may counter the “highest and best” offer you submit. Many buyers find this deeply frustrating and insulting since they’re essentially being asked to put forth a better offer than their best offer.

If this happens, there’s a good chance your offer was the best offer and now the listing agent is trying to get you to bid against yourself in a final attempt to squeeze out a better offer for their client. Standing firm may be the best thing to do in this case, as you make it clear that you’re not going to be playing games.

Conclusion

I’ll conclude with perhaps the most valuable tip: stay positive. In hot markets, it’s easy to become discouraged when you craft your absolute best offer and still lose out. Understand that you’ll be the best offer on another home that you like just as much. Remember to stay calm and try to divorce yourself from any negative emotion throughout the homebuying process. 

Hopefully, the above strategies put you in a better place when you’re in a competitive, multiple offer situation. I wish you the best of luck in your home search!

 

Posted in Buyers
June 26, 2019

Before You Look For Your Dream Home: Know What You Want Vs. What You Need!

In this day and age of being able to shop for anything anywhere, it is really important to know what you’re looking for when you start your home search.

If you’ve been thinking about buying a home of your own for some time now, you’ve probably come up with a list of things that you’d LOVE to have in your new home. Many new homebuyers fantasize about the amenities that they see on television or Pinterest, and start looking at the countless homes listed for sale through rose-colored glasses.

Do you really need that farmhouse sink in the kitchen to be happy with your home choice? Would a two-car garage be a convenience or a necessity? Could the “man cave” of your dreams be a future renovation project instead of a make-or-break right now?

The first step in your home buying process should be getting pre-approved for your mortgage. This allows you to know your budget before you fall in love with a home that is way outside of it.

The next step is to list all the features of a home that you would like, and to qualify them as follows:

  • “Must-Haves” – if this property does not have these items, then it shouldn’t even be considered (ex: distance from work or family, number of bedrooms/bathrooms).
  • “Should-Haves” – if the property hits all of the ‘must-haves’ and some of the ‘should-haves,’ it stays in contention but does not need to have all of these features.
  • “Absolute-Wish List” – if we find a property in our budget that has all of the ‘must-haves,’ most of the ‘should-haves,’ and ANY of these, it’s the winner!

Bottom Line

Having this list fleshed out before starting your search will save you time and frustration. It also lets your agent know what features are most important to you before they start showing you houses in your desired area.

Posted in Buyers
June 22, 2019

Interest Rates Hit New 12 Month Low!

 

 

 According to Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey, interest rates for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage are currently at their lowest for 2019. Rates like these haven’t been seen since February 2018!

Last week’s survey results reported an interest rate of 4.35%. This is a welcome change from the near 5% rates seen in mid-November. At 4.32%, the second week of February 2018 was the last time rates were this low. This can be seen in the chart below.

Interest Rates Hit New 12 Month Low! | Keeping Current Matters

Freddie Mac’s Chief Economist, Sam Khater, had this to say:

“Mortgage rates fell for the third consecutive week, continuing the general downward trend that began late last year.

Wages are growing on par with home prices for the first time in years, and with more inventory available, spring home sales should help the market begin to recover from the malaise of the last few months.”

Bottom Line

If you plan on buying a home this spring, meet with a local real estate professional who can help prepare you for today’s market before rates increase!

Posted in Market Updates
June 21, 2019

Time For Your Dream Home, Gen X!

 

 

 

 

During the housing market crash, Gen X homeowners lost more wealth than other generations. However, things are changing now! A strong economy, increasing home prices, and the recovery of the housing market are helping this generation to regain their lost wealth.

According to Pew Research Center,

Their fortunes have rebounded more than those of other generations during the post-recession economic expansion and as home and stock prices have risen. Since 2010, the median net worth of Gen X households has risen 115%. In fact, in 2016, the most recent year with available data, the net worth of a typical Gen X household had surpassed what it was in 2007 ($84,200 vs. $63,400)”.

The same report also mentioned,

15% of Gen X’s homeowners were ‘underwater’ on their homes in 2010 (meaning they owed more than they owned). By 2016 only 3% were underwater.

As a result of homes regaining market value and their increasing net worth, many Gen Xers are presented with the opportunity of selling their current home in order to move up to the house they always dreamed of!

According to the 2019 Home Buyers and Sellers Generational Trends Report by the National Associations of Realtors, in 2018 Gen Xers made up the second largest share of home buyers by generation at 24%.

The report also provided some highlights about their purchase:

  • Greatest share that purchased a multi-generational home (16%).
  • Largest share that purchased a detached single-family home (88%).
  • Highest median household income ($111,100).
  • Bought the most expensive homes of all the generations.
  • Job-related relocation was identified as the primary reason to buy.

But this generation is not only buying- they are selling too!

  • Largest share of home sellers (25%).
  • Highest median household income among sellers ($123,6000).
  • Tenure in the previous home was a median of 9 years.
  • House too small was indicated as the primary reason to sell.
  • 91% sold the home using a real estate professional.

Bottom Line

If you are a Gen Xer who would like to know exactly how much your house is worth today so that you can move up to the home of your dreams, contact a local real estate professional who can help you analyze your current circumstances.

Posted in Market Updates
June 21, 2019

Why Is So Much Paperwork Required To Get A Mortgage?

 

When buying a home today, why is there so much paperwork mandated by the lenders for a mortgage loan application? It seems like they need to know everything about you. Furthermore, it requires three separate sources to validate each and every entry on the application form. Many buyers are being told by friends and family that the process was a hundred times easier when they bought their home ten to twenty years ago.

There are two very good reasons that the loan process is much more onerous on today’s buyer than perhaps any other time in history.

1. The government has set new guidelines that now demand that the bank proves beyond any doubt that you are indeed capable of paying the mortgage.

During the run-up to the housing crisis, many people ‘qualified’ for mortgages that they could never pay back. This led to millions of families losing their home. The government wants to make sure this can’t happen again.

2. The banks don’t want to be in the real estate business.

Over the last several years, banks were forced to take on the responsibility of liquidating millions of foreclosures and negotiating an additional million plus short sales. Just like the government, they don’t want more foreclosures. For that reason, they have to double (maybe even triple) check everything on the application.

However, there is some good news in this situation.

The housing crash that mandated that banks be extremely strict on paperwork requirements also allowed you to get a low mortgage interest rate.

The friends and family who bought homes ten or twenty years ago experienced a simpler mortgage application process, but also paid a higher interest rate (the average 30-year fixed rate mortgage was 8.12% in the 1990s and 6.29% in the 2000s).

If you went to the bank and offered to pay 7% instead of around 4%, they would probably bend over backward to make the process much easier.

Bottom Line

Instead of concentrating on the additional paperwork required, let’s be thankful that we are able to buy a home at historically low rates.

Posted in Market Updates
April 28, 2019

TAKE 5: WHAT TO NEGOTIATE WHEN BUYING A HOUSE

Whether you are a first-time homebuyer or a seasoned veteran, the negotiation part of the transaction can be a little daunting and stressful. However, it is necessary to ensure you are getting the best possible deal for your money. So, what should you negotiate when buying a home?

  1. Closing costs. Your closing costs are determined by a variety of factors, but you can expect it to be between 2% to 5% of the purchase price. Ask the seller to cover some or all of the closing costs upfront or request a closing credit that can be used to make specific updates and fixes to the home.
  2. Furnishings. Love how the seller has furnished and decorated the home? Buyers often negotiate keeping couches, fixtures, landscaping items, patio furniture, appliances, and more. And many sellers agree, wanting to make the home more appealing.
  3. Inspection and closing timing. Buyer offers that include a quick inspection and close timeline are often more attractive to sellers who have been going through the process for far too long. Just ensure you allow yourself ample time to get your financing in place and complete proper, thorough inspections.
  4. Home warranty. Sellers will often agree to pay the premium on the home warranty at closing and then hand it off to the new homeowner, who is responsible for the deductible on any future claims.
  5. Repairs. Your inspection may uncover small or large repairs needed to bring the home up to standard. You can negotiate to have these items fixed before closing or ask for a price reduction to cover the costs.


Posted in Market Updates
April 28, 2019

EASY LANDSCAPING DIY PROJECTS

Ever get the itch to do a DIY project? Whenever we do, our favorites involve getting outdoors and mixing up our landscaping features.

Whether it's as simple as installing some lighting or a little more time-consuming like re-plotting plants, a fresh look for the lawn always gives your home a fresh look as well. Here are our top five easy landscaping projects!

Create a pathway.

To guide you and visitors throughout your yard and link different areas together, install a pathway. You can use materials from a variety of materials, including reclaimed pallet wood, flagstones, gravel, and more to add texture and color.

Add a wall or border.

Installing a flagstone, rock, or brick wall around flower beds or trees adds a sleek, clean look to your landscaping and helps separate different sections of your yard.

Install a water feature.

Nothing says zen quite like the sound of trickling water as you relax in your backyard. You can start simple with by purchasing and installing a small feature powered by a solar panel or create a larger focal point in your yard by installing a waterfall wall or small pond.

Light your way.

An easy way to transform your yard is to strategically use lighting. Place cool-colored lights high in trees to recreate a moonlight feel, use pathway lights to naturally guide the eye, or highlight objects or plants.

Plant upwards.

Expand your yard space by drawing the eye to the sky with a trellis fence or screen made of wood or metal. Once you install your trellis, select your climbing plants and vines and get to planting!




 

Posted in Market Updates
July 31, 2017

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Curious about local real estate? So are we! Every month we review trends in our real estate market and consider the number of homes on the market in each price tier, the amount of time particular homes have been listed for sale, specific neighborhood trends, the median price and square footage of each home sold and so much more. We’d love to invite you to do the same!

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We can definitely fill you in on details that are not listed on the report and help you determine the best home for you. If you are wondering if now is the time to sell, please try out our INSTANT home value tool. You’ll get an estimate on the value of your property in today’s market. Either way, we hope to hear from you soon as you get to know our neighborhoods and local real estate market better.

Posted in Market Updates