Hunt for lower prices like a lone wolf

How to secure fair real estate prices in a sellers market

If you ever watched Saturday morning cartoons back in the day, you may recall Looney Tunes featuring Sam Sheepdog and Ralph Wolf. The two had competing jobs: protecting sheep and abducting them. Usually the sheepdog had the upper hand and the wolf suffered slapstick misfortunes while trying to catch the sheep.

Like Sam and Ralph, home sellers and home buyers have competing goals. Sellers want the highest selling price and buyers want to buy at the lowest price possible.

It’s been a seller’s market for a long time now due to low inventory, high demand and other factors. That means that like Sam Sheepdog, home sellers usually have the upper hand over buyers. Right now, even post lockdowns, many listings end up with multiple, competing cash offers at or above full list price.

According to the New Hampshire Association of Realtors, June marked the 12th consecutive month of 100 percent or higher average closing prices, with June showing a record high of 104.4 percent.

That’s why only 32 percent of buyers believe it’s a good time to buy a home, according to Fannie Mae’s Home Purchase Sentiment Index for June. That’s a record low.

But if your dream is to own a home you need to be like Ralph Wolf and never, ever give up. You can succeed, but only if you don’t give up the hunt. Ralph would always dust himself off and try a new tactic, and I encourage you to do the same because when you’re finally in your new home it will be so worth it. There’s no feeling like it.

If you’re feeling discouraged, you’re not alone. Two years ago, my wife and I felt the same way.

We searched compulsively online, drove by listings, attended open houses, scheduled showings and made multiple offers on homes. Time and again we ended the day feeling beat up, like Ralph Wolf. But time and again we’d dust ourselves off and try again until finally, one day, we bought the house we love. And I’m sitting in it now as I write this article to encourage buyers who’ve been beat up by the recent market.

Never. Give. Up. Dust yourself off and try again. Just because it’s difficult doesn’t mean it’s impossible. And trust me, when you’re grinning from ear to ear while entering your new home for the first time, you’ll never regret being persistent. In fact, it’ll probably make you love and appreciate your new home ten times more than if it came easy.

“Yeah, but what about these crazy home prices?” you may ask. “I don’t want to get in a bidding war and pay more than full price.”

Understood. So I’ve got a special delivery from ACME Corporation for you: a few tactics that may help you earn a better price.

Step 1: Pay close attention to homes that’ve been on the market for longer than, say, 18 days (that’s been the average ‘days on market’ in New Hampshire). That may be a sign Sam the seller overpriced the market.

Remember, home selling is emotional for sellers, too. By now, Sam’s seen other homes sell at or above full ask in a matter of days. And his didn’t. He may be feeling discouraged. Now’s your chance! Bestselling author Barbara Delinsky said, “Wolves go after a wounded deer, it is the nature of the beast.” Instead of swooping in with the rest of the pack, be a crafty lone wolf and target homes that haven’t been snapped up. Now you’ll have less competition and more negotiating power.

Step 2: Thoroughly review the property disclosure, the document that tells about the condition of the property. Then, when you tour that home, keep your eyes peeled. Quietly make detailed note of any defects or deferred maintenance above and beyond what was listed in the property disclosure. Keep them to yourself. For now.

Step 3: Make a reasonable but aggressive offer based on recent sales of comparable properties (your buyer agent will help you) and the actual condition of the home. That offer may be well below original list price. Chances are the seller will have to consider price reduction anyway if the home isn’t selling. They might accept, reject or counter your offer. You have nothing to lose by trying.

Step 4: When an offer is accepted, conduct a home inspection. This has been tough lately because appropriately priced homes have sold immediately, often without inspection contingencies. But home inspections are the norm, and your chances for one increase with the property’s days on market.

Step 5: When the inspector discovers and/or verifies issues with the property that are beyond what was disclosed, you have an opportunity to negotiate price a second time, based on those issues.

If your dream is to own a home you need to be like Ralph Wolf and never, ever give up. Try new tactics. You can succeed, but only if you stay in the hunt.

Brent Metzger is a Realtor with Roche Realty Group in Meredith. He can be reached at (603) 229-8322 or brent@rocherealty.com. Visit www.RocheRealty.com to learn more about the Lakes Region real estate market.

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