How to make an offer on a house | 3 tips for success

Making an offer

How does the magic happen with home buying? The way they show it on HGTV it looks so easy! These 3 steps at the beginning of your search will set you up for success. You may even create your own home buying show!

As you know, today’s market is challenging, and moving rapidly. With inventory at historic lows and competition fierce, a little advance work goes a long way towards a smooth home buying process, and successful negotiations.

Top 3 tips to prepare for an offer

Whether just dreaming of possibilities or if you have a deadline to be in your new home, the following 3 steps will prepare you for success;

1) Create your team – NOW is the time to interview and hire an agent. Being represented, and securing that in writing will protect your confidentiality and strength of negotiations while you explore all options, including off-market properties. 

If you plan to finance, now is also the time to get your pre-approval ready to go. If buying with cash, your agent will need your proof of cash on file along with your buyer agency documents for your offer.

2)  Market Data – Study market trends closely. I provde market analysis for my clients to be able to track local trends, as well as detailed comparable sales analysis (‘Comps’) well in advance of making an offer.

3) Negotiation Strategies – it’s important to discuss openly with your Realtor what your negotiation style is, explore pros and cons of options, and strategize together ahead of time so that you not only will be in a position to win, but also know your “walk away” limit.

Home buying negotiation

In today’s low inventory seller’s market, it’s especially important to analyze the big picture of your win, risks you’re willing to take (or not) and your “walk away” limit before getting caught in the midst of the emotional roller coaster of a competing offer deadline.

How do I hire a Realtor?

There are 2 basic documents to hire a Realtor to represent you;

1) Consumer Notice – this is an explanation of agency, not a contract. PA law requires us to provide this disclosure to every consumer we meet.

2) Buyer Agency Agreement – once signed, this secures the privacy of your negotiations. It clarifies for everyone who you choose to represent you and protects you from agency confusion that can arise by attending open houses. 

Who represents you should be your choice, not accidental! In my agreements, I always put “on written notice” for ending the agreement. My commitment is to exceed expectations. 

If something’s not working for you, I hope you’ll give me the opportunity to correct the issue. However, please be assured our working agreement can be terminated in writing, as simply as by sending an email stating your wishes. Your confidentiality will remain protected.

Wait, do I need an attorney?

In Pennsylvania, you do not need an attorney for the home purchase process. I order title, ensure complete city certs and condo or HOA documents are delivered on time, facilitate and coordinate a smooth settlement.

You are welcome to use an attorney! It’s just not a requirement like in parts of New Jersey and New York. If you’d like referrals to several excellent local real estate attorneys, please let me know.

Many times buyers I speak to feel they might be “wasting my time” since they are early in the process. That’s so sweet! But my business model is VIP, concierge service throughout the process – from dream stage to moving in. I’m here to help!

Let’s talk! Please click on my calendar and book a no-obligation consultation at your convenience.

Should I get a radon test?

Should I get a radon test

You found the perfect home.  We schedule your home inspection and discuss the option of a radon test.  Why is this important?

Unfortunately, many buyers and even some realtors view radon testing as optional and perhaps an unnecessary addition to closing costs.

However, it’s a crucial step in your home buying journey to protect your health and safety.

Let’s go over some commonly asked questions about your home inspection and why it’s important to include a test for radon.

Home Inspection Report

Is radon that much of a risk?

Radon-related lung cancer kills an alarming 21,000 people each year, according to the EPA.  To put the risk in perspective, about 10,000 people die per year from crashes as a result of a drunk driver.

Awareness of the risks of drunk driving is much greater than radon, although radon causes more than double the deaths per year. 

Protecting your home from radon risks is an important step in the home buying process for your health and safety.

Which homes need testing?

According to the EPA, radon is found in every state.  It’s a naturally occurring radioactive gas produced by the breakdown of uranium in soil, rock, and water. 

Because the air pressure inside your home is typically lower than the pressure in the soil around the foundation, radon is drawn into the home through cracks in the foundation. 

High radon levels occur in older homes, new construction, homes with basements and homes on a slab or crawlspace. 

Some areas typically are lower than others, however, don’t rely on rumor or neighborhood myths about low risks of radon in a desire to save costs.

What if the radon test indicates a high concentration?

The good news is that even if a home has high radon levels- anything above 4 pCi/L, radon mitigation is relatively simple. Qualified radon mitigation contractors can install a radon mitigation system that provides a permanent solution.

The system is comprised of one or more PVC pipes that run from the radon-emitting soil beneath a home up through the roof.  A fan draws air through the system so it does not encroach the living spaces.  Once installed, a follow-up radon test is completed

How to negotiate a solution

If the radon test reveals actionable radon levels, we can be ask the seller for a price reduction that covers the estimated cost of remediation or require a remediation be installed prior to closing. 

Home inspection negotiations
Negotiations to protect you from radon are part of our buyer representation service

Typical radon mitigation systems can cost between $1.000-$2,000 depending on your home’s structure and the contractor selected to perform the work.

High levels of radon are a life-safety issue, so it’s difficult for the seller to dispute as it will impact their ability to sell their home to future buyers. 

This is one of many steps in the transaction that as trusted real estate advisors, we guide and protect you through the process.

To start your home buying process, check out my Home Buyers Guide and let’s talk! Book your 15 minute consult here. We’ll review your dreams and goals, then create a customized plan for your success!

Home buying tip: How to hire a buyers agent

How to hire a buyers agent

Are you out looking at properties, but haven’t had a business conversation yet with your buyers agent? If so, please check out my first time home buying mistakes because that’s exactly what I did!

It’s time to change directions, interview and hire a realtor who will represent you throughout your home buying journey.

What HGTV and a Google search won’t tell you

Easy access to real estate information online can make it seem like your realtor’s job is mostly to open doors.

Home search online

However, who opens the door becomes your agent during negotiations unless you have a signed Buyer Agency Agreement.

Crafting an offer, negotiating and navigating through the settlement process is where your agent’s knowledge and experience can make or break your success.

Agency and representation during the home buying process is not covered on HGTV or in most online articles. Yet who represents you is a key factor in your home buying success.

What does it cost?

In Pennsylvania and New Jersey, typically the buyers agent commission is paid through a cooperation with the seller’s brokerage. In essence, other than a small administrative fee at closing, it doesn’t cost you anything out of pocket to hire an agent.

It can cost you thousands, however, in lost opportunities or poor negotiations to not select your own representative. For example, learn from my first time home buying mistake below.

Have a laugh on me

In this video, learn from my first time home buying mistakes in the 90’s and why I’m passionate about helping others understand agency:

Before we open doors, I meet with my clients (on Zoom, FaceTime or in person) to go over home buying goals both for lifestyle and finances.

Let’s put a plan together for your success!

How you prefer communication, your time frame, and style of negotiations are critical elements of our successful working relationship.

In essence, we interview each other and then make a decision to work together proactively to accomplish your home buying goals.

Did you know?

Unless you have a signed Buyer Agency Agreement, the realtor you book a showing with is not bound to your confidentiality. Your privacy for negotiations is only protected by hiring a buyer agent with a Buyer Agency Agreement.

Also when you visit an open house, if you aren’t protected by a Buyer Agency Agreement, the agent can claim to represent you even if you don’t choose to work with them.

When we meet, I’ll go over this in more detail and explain how it can significantly impact your bottom line.

To get started, click on my Home Buyers Guide with tips on how to interview your agent and prepare for a successful home search.

Check out what my clients have to say about working with me – AskMeAboutSusanna.com then let’s talk!

Open House signs antique? like typewriters?

After returning to an “open” business environment after three months, the future of Open Houses seems to be bordering extinct. Or more accurately obsolete, like the typewriter.

Can you write with a typewriter? Yes, but why would you? Can you have an Open House? Yes, but with all the restrictions necessary and appointments required, why would you want to go?

Open House Pivot

Pivot is a word often used to express the dramatic and rapid changes impacting the real estate market due to COVID19. Some changes were underway but became accelerated, like virtual selling.

Others, like Open Houses, have completely “pivoted” to something other than what they were.

The non-committal and casual nature of Open Houses was a way to explore local real estate without an agent, or appointment.

Virtual Open Houses were a work around during our COVID19 shut down, using video previously taken or with the owner’s cooperation via Zoom video conference.

The new standard is to present a virtual Open House on Zoom with the agent guiding a tour of previously recorded video or navigating the Matterport 3D layout. Appointments are required, and if you “stop in” late you miss the video tour.

While it’s better than nothing, and a way to get a “peak” at the interior of the home, it’s not the casual easy way to explore real estate that we have enjoyed for so long.

Virtual Selling – the new standard of practice

In today’s market, virtual selling should be a standard of practice. I’ve sold homes virtually using video since 2008. It doesn’t make sense to book an appointment for a video tour that I already have access to, or should.

Every listing should provide a video tour. For my sellers I do a marketing video, think of it like a movie trailer;

Then I do the actual walk through video which takes you through the home as if you are there.

The home buying process has “pivoted.” Home buyers used to wait to interview and hire an agent until they were ready to buy. Now it’s best practice to do that at the beginning of your search.

Likewise, your pre-approval is needed early in the process as it’s required along with a COVID19 form to book showings.

Open House Standards Due to COVID19

Now that physical Open Houses are allowed, understandably there are awkward restrictions. As an example, here are highlights of a current brokerage’s Open House guideline for agents;

1. Sales associates and all open house visitors must wear a mask.
2. Social distancing rules should be maintained.
3. Disinfect all high-touch areas prior to and between each group of visitors; provide hand sanitizer if possible.
4. Sales associates should limit open house attendance to one group at a time to maintain appropriate distancing and accompany them through their tour to minimize unintended touching of surfaces. Additional groups can be asked to wait outside and to maintain social distancing while doing so.
5. Maintain a record of everyone entering the property, including name and E-mail address or cell phone number.

COVID19 is “here to stay” – we must adapt

The Economist recently published – COVID 19 is here to stay. People will have to adapt :

“The worst is to come. Based on research in 84 countries, a team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology reckons that…without a medical breakthrough, the total number of cases will climb to 200m-600m by spring 2021.”

We cannot just return to “business as usual” as the battle against this pandemic is far from over.

Protecting buyers and sellers from unnecessary public exposure and utilizing current technology to present a virtual buying experience is now a necessary standard of practice – not just an option.

While our local market is now pushed to pivot in this direction, it’s long overdue in terms of providing the highest level of service to our clients.

Home buying is a journey – not a transaction

I provide information, support, advise and guidance from early exploration of the market through negotiations and closing as my personal standard of practice. Sometimes the answer is to not buy, which is perfectly fine. It’s all about what’s best for you!

The rush to provide virtual Open Houses has been a push to generate “leads” or meet prospective buyers. Open Houses have always been more of a networking opportunity for the agent than a true selling tool for the home owner. Virtual Open Houses provide marketing exposure for the agent but present an awkward experience for buyers.

Virtual Home Buying Service

Using virtual selling expertise, I create video walk throughs of properties throughout the home buying process to narrow down selections and fine tune the home search for my clients. That way, the showings we book in person are in reality 2nd showings. This saves time, protects home buyers and sellers from unnecessary exposure and streamlines the home buying process.

Open House Signs – an antique?

When I sold luxury real estate on Kauai, my open house signs were often stolen and used for fighting rooster sheds, an illegal but popular local sport.

One way of repurposing them but not a big demand on the Main Line!

While I haven’t thrown my Open House signs away, they are in the back closet for now! My ‘go bag’ is full of video equipment instead.

Virtual Real Estate

Recent COVID-19 crisis “stay at home” orders have up-ended traditional real estate activity. However, sellers still want to sell and buyers need new homes.

Virtual showings now become a primary tool for both buyers and sellers to overcome the COVID-19 challenges and accomplish their goals.

For instance, the video below is a walk through preview I did for my clients last week during a brokers open house. There’s so much detail, sense of place and flow of the design one can get from a virtual walk through that you can’t get with profession videos or even the best photos.

Working remotely with both buyers and sellers was a foundation of my business while selling luxury 2nd homes in Hawaii as most of my clients were remote. Some buyers went under contract “sight unseen” based on video walk throughs I shared with them, and then flew in for the home inspection. Of course, that was based on our strong working relationship and clarity of their vision for their new home.

Now is the time when you need a realtor with cutting-edge technology skills as well as experience and expertise. Let’s have “coffee” via Zoom video conferencing and discuss what’s going on in your local market and various strategies to accomplish your goals.