Once you’ve found a home you’re dying to buy, you want things to move forward. And that means that sellers need to accept your offer already! But in order for that to happen—particularly in blazing-hot markets where sellers have their pick among offers—you have to convince the sellers that you’re worthy. And you can’t do anything to scare them off.
You? Scary? Believe it or not, home buyers can indeed be a rather terrifying bunch, since odds are the sellers don’t know you personally, and there’s a whole lot of money on the line. So, in case you want to make sure you aren’t doing anything that might send up red flags, here are some things buyers do that scare off sellers.
1. You aren’t pre-approved for a mortgage
Don’t even think about house hunting without mortgage pre-approval, which is essentially proof that a lender is willing to loan you the cash.
“Pre-qualification doesn’t cut it,” says Artur Muller, founder and CEO of Miami-based AmLuxe Realty. Simply put, sellers aren’t going to commit until they know you’ve got the money to pay up.
2. Too many contingencies
Contingencies can be the equivalent of skeletons in the closet. The scariest contingency is a buyer who makes the purchase contingent upon the sale of his current home. Most sellers want to close the deal as fast as they can, and do not want to wait around for a buyer to finish his own home sale, says Muller.
Another ploy that will up the contingency fear factor is when buyers include all the contingencies and inspections available, intending to decide later whether or not they want to act on them, says Marie Phelan Gordon with Berkshire Hathaway Fox & Roach Realtors in Wayne, PA.
Instead, Phelan Gordon says buyers should ask themselves whether they would walk away from a property that had a certain contingency such as lead paint. A better option might be to have the paint tested for lead and, if it exists, negotiate its removal. In this case, you are requesting the inspection but not making the sale contingent on it, which makes your offer stronger.
3. A long list of home repair requests
Odds are, you saw things in the home you’d prefer get fixed before you move in—and this list might grow once a home inspector has swept through and pointed out more problems. But guess what? Unless you’re buying a brand-new home, it’s unrealistic to expect sellers to fix everything.
“The seller may choose to avoid the hassle of making repairs and pursue a contract with another prospective buyer,” warns Realtor® Jake Tasharski with Center Coast Realty in Chicago.
A better tactic? “Keep your wish list to a minimum, secure the house, and then make it your own.”
4. A shady lender
Sellers want the sale to close ASAP, so using a lender without a strong track record of getting buyers approved could spook them, warns Jeff Peterson, a Realtor with Excel Real Estate Consultants in Trophy Club, TX.
For instance, a new, fly-by-night online lender might give some sellers the heebie-jeebies. So make sure to ask your agent (and also the seller’s agent) whether there’s a certain lender they trust.
Another no-no? Changing lenders in the middle of the transaction. You might be doing this to get a better deal, but to sellers, it suggests you were declined by your first lender.
“You want to get the best rate, but do your shopping before you are in contract, never during,” suggests Jennifer Beeston of Guaranteed Rate Mortgage in Healdsburg, CA.
5. Red flags about your financial status
This goes (almost) without saying: Making an extremely lowball offer is going to scare a seller off faster than a ghost flies. But so do other moves that suggest you’re tight on cash, like offering a low down payment, making a low earnest money deposit, or asking the seller to pay closing cost credits.
“They may read this as an indication that the buyer is not qualified to purchase the home, making them a higher risk,” says Tasharski.
6. Requests for personal items from the house
Sure, you might love that painting in the foyer, or an antique armoire that fits the living room just right. But if you want to play it safe, don’t ask for odd personal items from the house—at the very least, wait until your offer is accepted and a ways along before you ask.
The reason: It can be disconcerting for sellers when buyers request furniture or personal items, says Sean Keene of Keller Williams Capital City in Salem, OR.
Among the strangest things he’s had a buyer ask for is the seller’s dog. “It was a cool dog, but come on!”
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