With huge buyer demand and a shrinking inventory, this market means you'll need to be strategic, creative, and prepared in order to buy your dream house.
Submit a pre-approval letter.
Don't confuse this step with pre-qualification—a pre-qualification can help you create a budget and a savings plan for your future home purchase, done with just a phone call to your lender, or an online application where you provide information about your income, assets, and liabilities, such as other loans or debt.
But prequalification doesn't carry enough weight in a hot sellers' market with low inventory—you need to show sellers that you have financing in place and are ready to go. That's where a pre-approval comes in.
Getting pre-approved for a loan is a critical step in the buying process and involves working with a lender to present your financial picture for them to determine how much of a home loan you can afford.
Many lenders offer easy online access to get you started with the application process. You will typically need to provide proof of income, information about your overall debt load, and your lender will help you secure a credit report. Once this information is gathered, your lender will quickly be able to tell you the amount of money you are approved to borrow and provide a letter confirming this, which you can include with your offer to reassure the seller that your offer is solid and attractive.
Agree to waive the inspection contingency.
This one is risky, but in truly fierce markets, it's happening more and more often—buyers are agreeing to waive the inspection on a home and assume any future repairs from unseen issues.
Waiving the inspection contingency means that you cannot use the results of a home inspection to further negotiate the price or have the seller address any repairs; you agree to buy the home "as is" and deal with any issues yourself.
This can be a good strategy for a buyer who has some savings to work with and can afford to make necessary repairs. But if funds are tight, this strategy can be too much of a gamble.
Waiving the inspection contingency doesn't mean you can't have the home inspected—you can, and you can still walk away from a home with major issues, but you might have to forfeit your earnest money deposit.
Increase your earnest money.
Let the sellers know you're serious about their home by upping your earnest money deposit. Earnest money is usually one to three percent of the purchase price and going toward the higher end of that spectrum shows how intent you are on that particular house. It's a low-risk strategy because if you really want the house you have a better chance of getting it; if your offer isn't chosen, you get that money returned to you.
The more leeway you can give a seller, the better—if they need to be out in a hurry, shorten your inspection window or speed up your closing date if you can. If they are trying to relocate and are house-hunting themselves, consider allowing them to stay an additional month and rent back from you as they get things settled on the other end.
Make it personal.
If you've fallen in love with a particular home, let the seller know it—that the porch reminds you of your summers at Grandma's; that you can imagine your baby sleeping in the corner room upstairs; that you can almost taste the tomatoes in the garden they've created. It doesn't hurt to put pen to paper and let the buyer know that you think their home is as special as they do. After all, selling a house is an emotional process, and homes can represent enormous investments of time and money as well as a treasure trove of memories for sellers, and knowing their home is going to be in good and appreciative hands can help sway a seller in their decision process.
A hot market with low inventory certainly presents a challenge to buyers, but with a little flexibility and creativity, you can craft an offer that appeals to the seller and lets you walk away with your dream home. Make sure to start with a pre-approval letter from a lender that you feel comfortable with. To chat with a mortgage professional who can help get you started, visit us at lennarmortgage.com.