While all contracts must have certain required elements, mutual assent, consideration, capacity and legality, there are some things that increase its chance of being accepted.
The seller generally wants the highest possible price with the fewest inconveniences in the shortest period of time. In the same way, the buyer generally wants the lowest possible price with the fewest inconveniences in the shortest period of time.
The perspective of the principal can change depending on how these different parts of an agreement are structured.
- Offer Price – While the price of the home seems to be the major point of contention in a home negotiation, the seller’s net proceeds and the buyer’s mortgage payment may actually be more critical.
- Financing – 86% of buyers financed their recent home purchase as opposed to the 14% who paid cash. Some financing has higher fees than other types of financing and in some instances, sellers must pay the additional charges on behalf of the buyer.
- Seller-paid closing costs – paying all or part of a buyer’s closing cost requires less cash outlay for the purchaser and makes it easier or more appealing for them to buy the home.
- Seller-paid buydown – prepaying interest to the lender on behalf of the buyer gives them lower payments for the first one, two or three years even though they must qualify at the note rate of the fixed-rate mortgage.
- Personal property – seller may agree to include existing or new personal property like washer, dryer or refrigerator.
- Improvements – seller may agree to make modifications to the existing condition of the home like floor covering, countertops, appliances, painting or other things.
- Earnest Money – more money gives the seller a sense that the transaction is more likely to close while putting the least amount at risk is generally, more appealing to the buyer.
- Timing – depending on which party is more flexible, sometimes an earlier or later closing or a position on occupancy can be an offsetting consideration that can balance the differing terms.
- Contingencies or lack thereof – requirements that must be satisfied before the contract can be closed.
The training and experience of a skilled negotiator can benefit both buyers and sellers to save time, avoid difficulties and bring all parties to an agreement. Your real estate professional should be able to help you structure a good offer and negotiate a win-win situation.
Asking the right questions will lead to the answers that help you determine which agent to use for one of the largest investments that most people make…the purchase or sale of their home.
Rudyard Kipling wrote the verse “I keep six serving men, they taught me all I knew; their names were what and why and when and how and where and who.” Prefacing your questions with one of these words can help you get the information you need to make a good decision about the REALTOR® you use.
- How long have you been selling homes and is this your full-time job?
- What designations or other credentials do you have?
- How many homes did you and your company sell last year?
- What is your average market time compared to MLS and your top competitors?
- What is your sales price to list price ratio?
- When will you report to me on the progress of my transaction?
- Who can you recommend for service providers like mortgage, inspections, repairs and maintenance?
- Why do you want to work with me?
- Where are the biggest opportunities to expose my home to the largest market?
Finding the right person to represent you is a little like the person who ordered a lobster dinner at a restaurant. When the waiter brought out the meal, the lobster only had one claw. The customer asked why it only had one claw and the waiter said: “I don’t know; I guess it was in a fight.” The customer looked at him and said: “then, bring me the lobster who won.”
In the last few years, some people who were unable to sell their homes, rented them instead. The market has improved in most places and the home may easily sell now and possibly, for a higher price.
Even though the opportunity to sell in the near future might not change, there could be another opportunity that could quickly disappear for some homeowners.
Most homeowners are aware that there is a capital gain exclusion on the profits of a principal residence of up to $250,000 for single taxpayers and $500,000 for married taxpayers filing jointly. The rule requires that you must own and use the home as your principal residence for two out of the last five years.
A homeowner can rent their home for up to three years and still be eligible for the exclusion. As an example, if they had owned and lived in it for two years and then rented it for two and a half years, they would need to sell and close the transaction before the remaining six months expired.
If there was a $200,000 profit in the home that didn’t qualify for the exclusion, a 15% long-term capital gain tax of $30,000 could become due depending on the tax bracket of the owner. With some careful planning, the tax could be avoided. Awareness of the time frames and the right team of tax and real estate professionals could save a considerable amount of the homeowner’s equity.
For the person who has good credit and income but not enough money for the down payment on a home, their qualified retirement program could offer them some help. The rules are different depending on whether it is a 401(k), a Roth IRA or a traditional IRA.
Up to half of the balance of a 401(k) or $50,000, whichever is less, can be borrowed by the owner at any age for any reason without tax or penalty assuming the employer permits it. There can be specific rules for loans from 401ks that would determine the repayment; interest is usually charged but goes back into the owner’s account. You can consult with your HR department to find out the specifics.
A risk in borrowing against a 401(k) comes if your employment ends before the loan has been repaid. The loan may have to be repaid with as soon as 60 days to keep the loan from being considered a withdrawal and subject to tax and penalty. Even if you continue with the same employer, failure to repay the loan could be considered a withdrawal also.
Roth IRA owners can withdraw their contributions tax-free and penalty-free at any age for any reason because the contributions were made with post-tax income. After age 59 ½, earnings may be withdrawn as long as the Roth IRA have been in existence for at least five years.
Traditional IRAs have a provision for first-time buyers which include anyone who hasn’t owned a home in the previous two years. A person and their spouse, if married, can each withdraw up to $10,000 from their traditional IRA for a first-time home purchase without incurring the 10% early-withdrawal penalty. However, they will have to recognize the withdrawal as income in that tax year. For more information, go to IRS.gov.
Another interesting fact about this provision is that the taxpayer making the withdrawal can help a relative includes children, grandchildren, parents and grandparents.
If you want more information to clearly understand the issues involved relative to your specific situation, talk to your tax professional or consult www.IRS.gov.
During campaign season, it is not unusual to hear a candidate criticized because they make a lot of money but pay little in income tax. While it might not seem fair, taxpayers are allowed to arrange their affairs so that they minimize the amount of tax paid.
Salary, wages and commissions, along with interest and dividends are taxed at ordinary income rates which can range from 10% to 39.6%. However, capital gains rates, for property held more than 12 months, are much lower ranging from 0% to 20%. Taxpayers in the 25-35% brackets pay LTCG rates of 15%.
The profit on rental property enjoys the lower long-term capital gains rates as compared to the profit on “flipped” property which is taxed at ordinary income rates.
Investments in rental homes generate income, provide depreciation for tax shelter, have equity build-up due to the amortizing loan, leveraged growth due to the borrowed funds and appreciation. The profits could be considerably higher than alternative investments and the profits taxed at lower rates.
The advantage is available to people who understand the tax laws and choose to arrange their activities so they pay a minimal amount of tax. The advantage is available to all taxpayers, not just the rich. In fact, implementing these types of strategies could lead to an increase in wealth.
Consider having this discussion with your tax professional.
The seller has three tools available to affect the marketability of their home: price, condition and terms. Price is the easiest to adjust for the competing properties, amount of inventory or market conditions. However, lowering the price is not necessarily the best decision when trying to maximize the proceeds of sale.
If a home is in poor or outdated condition, updating can be done to make it show favorably with other homes that are currently on the market. Sometimes, sellers rationalize not doing the work by saying they believe the buyers would rather make their own choices. The truth is that most buyers are using all their resources to get into the home and will have to live in its present condition until they can save enough to make the changes they want.
Another reason to go ahead and invest the money and effort into improving the condition is that it is difficult for buyers to imagine the home any other way than its current condition. When comparing one home to another, buyers will sometimes refer to a home as the “stinky house” or the “old kitchen” which may put it at a disadvantage.
While price and condition are the main things that control the marketability, terms can be equally effective. Terms relate to financial considerations made by the seller to induce a buyer to make a decision to purchase their home.
Seller-paid points or closing costs, interest rate buy downs and owner-financing are examples of terms that may increase the marketability of a home because of the additional benefits they offer to buyers.
An example could be that a seller will carry a 10% second lien so that the buyer can get an 80% loan and avoid the expense of mortgage insurance. The seller gets most of their equity plus a fair interest rate on the loan that doesn’t have to be tied up for 30 years like the first mortgage.
Increasing the marketability of your home is a great conversation to have with your real estate professional especially to help you get the highest price in the shortest time with the fewest problems. Just be aware that not all agents may be as creative as some.
If competition is a buyer’s biggest concern, for goodness’ sake, get in the game. In a new survey of close to a thousand home buyers conducted by Redfin, affordability is still the number one concern but due to low inventories, competition from other buyers is moving its way up the poll.
26% identified affordability while 19% mentioned competition and 15% mentioned low inventory as their respective top concerns.
To win, athletes study the competition to come up with a plan and buying a home is not different.
- Ask what terms are important to the seller before you write the offer.
- Once you decide to make an offer, do it as fast as you can, hopefully, to be the only one the seller is considering.
- Make a good (or possibly, your best) offer in the beginning; you may never get a chance at improving it. In highly competitive situations, offer above the list price.
- Attach your pre-approval letter from a respected lender. This means you’ll need to get pre-approved before you even think about writing an offer.
- Have your lender call the listing agent to reassure them of your ability to qualify.
- Include a higher than normal amount of earnest money to show you are serious.
- Eliminate unnecessary contingencies.
- Write a personal, hand-written letter telling the seller what you like about their home and why you want it. Consider including pictures of your family.
- Minimize seller expenses paid for the benefit of the buyer.
- Shorten inspection times.
- Don’t ask for personal property.
- Be flexible on closing dates to accommodate the seller’s move.
Once you find your dream home, don’t take a chance on losing it. Write a winning offer that will be good for both the sellers and the buyers.