How to Compete in Marin County
As we said last week, this is a tough place to buy a home, and while “spend more” might seem like the simple answer to get the home you want, it is isn’t always that simple.
There are several tactics buyers can use at the offer stage that can push the scales in their favor when offers are close in terms of price and terms, but the focus on this entry is on the basics.
1. Get pre-approved for a loan from a recognized Marin lender. This is not a pre-qualification, it is full approval on the loan. While this still involves a loan contingency when writing an offer it removes almost all uncertainty from the approval, as it requires review of all pertinent tax documents, income verification, and credit history. Some lenders are even now promising this will constitute full approval on the loan, allowing buyers to go in without a loan contingency.
2. Get educated. Look at homes, a lot of them. Figure out what is really important to you, and what isn’t. Everyone starts out with a long wish list, but everyone needs to prioritize that list, and that only happens by getting out there and kicking tires. This is critical because when the time comes to pull the trigger and write an offer, you’ll need to jump in with both feet. You may need to spend a little more than you wanted to, or have to shorten contingency time lines, or even accept the seller’s inspections instead of doing your own. Confidence in your choice makes that decision process easier.
3. Get agressive representation. Find a good local agent to help, and one who isn’t just trying to sell you a house. A local agent can help immeasurably by providing information about the pecularities of Marin – school districts, commute times and modes (car? bus? ferry? bike?), climates, and communities, just for starters. They can also size up a house quickly, and help you understand the pluses and minuses of the home- is it in the flats? On a hillside? What’s a flood zone? Honest information and opinion from a seasoned professional will help immensely.
Here’s a good test: do they tell you what’s wrong with a house? Ever? Or is it just a chorus of “yes!”. Good agents are interested in building relationships and know their credibility depends on guiding clients to a decision they will be happy with.
4. Tighten the offer to give it every edge it can. Work with your lender to shorten all time frames as much as you can, from close date to contingency removal. Line up inspectors and find out how fast they can do the work, and tighten the inspection contingency accordingly. If they are reputable, do walk throughs with the Seller’s inspectors, they’ll often do it very quickly for you. Write a letter to the seller, explaining why your offer is so important to you. Visit the open house, introduce yourself to the listing agent, and let them know how much you like the house- they will be influential in helping the Seller decide who to work with.
That, as I said, are the basics. There are additional tactics we use with our clients as we get close to making an offer and as we go through the process to increase our success rate, but we can discuss those if we ever work together!