These days houses are attracting so many competing offers and selling so fast that many buyers become frustrated and fear they’ll never win a home that fits their needs. On top of that, sellers are making tough demands, refusing to accept buyer contingencies such as selling an existing house. Is there any hope for getting the property you want?
Avoid the buying frenzy
You can sidestep the buying frenzy by shopping for a home that is not for sale. In the real estate industry, this is known as “going under the market.” It means approaching homeowners who do not have their homes listed for sale in hopes they will entertain an offer. Nothing prevents you and your agent from looking in desirable neighborhoods for homes attractive to you. This is your chance to target the area you most desire and take a gamble on getting that house you like but that isn’t for sale.
If you’re interested in going under the market, you’ll need to do some homework. Research the house or houses that interest you. Start with the county tax appraisal, which is public information online and will show the owner’s name and possibly an email address. (If the address to which the tax notices are sent differs from the property address, the house may be an investment rental property for the owner.) Next, have your agent research comparable prices on similar houses in the neighborhood. She can determine what the current owners paid for the home, its sales history, and whether the current owners have listed the property for sale recently. If they did, and withdrew the house or let its listing expire, they may welcome a prospective buyer.
Have your numbers together
To show the owners you are serious, get preapproved for a mortgage in writing before approaching them. Avoid the more cursory, verbal “prequalified” route. Decide how much are you willing to pay for the house, how much money will you put down, how large a monthly house payment can you manage, and how much renovation you can afford. You should have all the numbers crunched and ready before you contact the owners.
Make your approach
Have your agent contact the owners by email, letter or simply stopping by and explaining your interest. You could add to the appeal with a letter of your own, telling why you are interested in the home.
Request a time to come by with your agent and tour the property. While there, ask about the home’s history and determine what renovations and repairs the owner has undertaken.
If you like what you see and hear, be prepared to make an offer immediately, while the owners are in a receptive mood. Avoid giving them time to shop the house to others, as that will bring in the competition you hoped to avoid.
Be flexible when buying
Since the owners were not planning to sell, you should be as flexible as possible about a closing date. Be willing to let them stay in the home and rent from you for a few months, if needed, while they find a new place of their own.