Growing up, my mom had countless expressions to keep us grounded. She would be the first to point out that “life isn’t fair” when any of us kids complained about something not going our way. You would have thought she was a back up singer for the Rolling Stones based on how many times she would break out the lyrics of “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” As difficult as it is to hear (especially in a Mick Jagger impersonation) that “life isn’t fair” and that “you can’t always get what you want”, these are important lessons to learn. These themes are a constant in life and in real estate. Ironically, they couldn’t ring more true throughout my own sister’s home buying story.
Anyone who knows my younger sister will tell you that she’s charismatic, determined and high achieving. When Sarah sets her mind to something, she really goes for it. At 25, she decided it was time to buy her first home. Of course, she enlisted her big sis (yours truly) to represent her in the transaction. Sarah was a dream to work with, but due to high demand and low inventory her target markets proved to be any buyer’s worst nightmare.
Her condo wish list was minimal; all she needed was a pet-friendly building with parking and two bedrooms. Based on her budget and the desire to be halfway between downtown Boston and her office in Framingham, we decided to narrow down our search to Waltham.
It seemed like the perfect plan. The only problem was that every young professional under the sun seemed to share our same idea. Waltham is a happening place and home to several big names in tech and pharma. There are some trendy local spots as well as easy access to Boston. While the Boston area is a great area to live, the process involved in getting a place is easier said than done. (Spoiler alert, it’s not impossible!)
Sarah quickly fell in love with one of the first condos she looked at and we put together a strong offer. Not surprisingly, we weren’t the only ones and she lost a six way bidding war. I hate delivering bad news, especially to my sister. It doesn’t seem fair to want something badly and to be outbid by a cash investor. It’s a tough reminder that life isn’t fair and that you can’t always get what you want.
When the going gets tough, the tough get going. Sarah and I worked extremely hard for several months to nail down the most perfect condo. We wrote up countless offers, only to pull out when they escalated outside of her budget. She wound up opening her search to other areas and was able to negotiate winning bids in several towns, including Waltham. Ultimately, Sarah had her choice between a condo in Waltham and a beautiful home in West Roxbury. After going through the whole process, she discovered that when you try sometimes well you just might find that you get what you need.
Below are some of the techniques that helped Sarah win. They can help you too:
Be realistic about your competition
First, you want to size up your competition. Track recent inventory and look at trends in list price vs. sold price. Attend open houses and watch and listen to other buyers to gauge their interest levels.
Build rapport with the listing agent
Introduce yourself to the listing agent and leave them with a good impression. You always want to present yourself professionally.
See if the seller has any hot buttons
Does the home have sentimental value? Sometimes writing a cover letter to the sellers goes a long way. Are they looking to move quickly? Try to accommodate their timeline.
Figure out your absolute max budget
Assign a value to the home and do not go overboard when you start to get emotional. At some point, you have to draw a line in the sand. The hardest part for buyers is being able to let a place go if it’s outside their budget.
Fine-tune your terms
While you may be stuck on max price, are there other ways to strengthen your offer? Weigh the pros and cons of tightening up the language around the inspection and financing. There are ways to strengthen these terms without slashing them entirely.
Be the squeaky wheel
The squeaky wheel gets the oil is yet another one of my mom’s favorite expressions. Make sure that you’re reiterating your enthusiasm for the property. Often times, the “over communication” is what keeps your offer on the table.
Think outside the box
Sometimes you need to get creative. We found a great place in Waltham that had been sitting on the market because of some tight restrictions in the condo docs. For that reason, everyone else had skipped over it. By offering to pay an attorney to have the condo docs rewritten, we could have put a deal together.
Put irons in the fire
I always say, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.” Don’t be afraid to put in an offer. Any offer is better than no offer. There are times when the first in-line buyers fall through and the listing agent comes back to other bidders.
Need help buying in the Boston area? I’m taking on a limited number of clients and would love to know how I can help you make a purchase. Drop me a line today to discuss your real estate goals.