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Sellers Market

Our Atlanta real estate market is currently a strong “seller’s market”. We define a seller’s (vs. buyer’s) market in terms of available inventory.  If there is six months or less of housing inventory on the market, it’s a seller’s market – more than six months of inventory is a buyer’s market.

When we say “six months” worth of inventory, that means that if nothing new were to come on the market (hypothetically, of course), it would take six months to sell everything that it currently listed.  This is calculated this way

  • We compute the total number of active listings on the market last month in the area under consideration;
  •  Then compute the total number of sold homes for the that month;
  •  Then divide the number of current active listings by the number of total sales for the month, which gives you the months of inventory which remain.

Using this formula, the Atlanta Metro area has less than five months of active listings (in some areas, less than three).  So listings are often going under contract within the first day or two they are available, with multiple offers.  A seller who gets multiple offers may pick the best one and respond to it OR may decide to contact all bidders and request their “highest and best” bid and go with the bid the seller finds most advantageous to them.

If you are a buyer trying to “win” in a multiple offer situation, it goes without saying that you should place your HIGHEST offer – the most amount of money that you are willing to pay for the property.  The seller will usually go with the highest bid, but not always.  There are other factors important to the seller: how likely a buyer is to get to the closing table, for instance (so a buyer with cash is “king” – because loans can fall through, of course).  This is why the seller asks not only for your “highest” offer, but for your “highest and BEST” offer.  Let’s look as some of the factors that will help your offer be the “best” offer.

First, if you can avoid asking the seller to pay closing costs, I would recommend that.  A seller will perceive a buyer who is asking for closing costs as not as strong a buyer.  A strong buyer has enough cash on hand to pay their own closing costs and can avoid rolling those closing costs into the loan by asking the seller to pay for them.  (What the seller cares about is the seller’s “net” – contract price minus closing costs paid.  By asking the seller to pay closing costs you are offering them “less” than the contract price and perhaps indicating that you are not as strong  a buyer).

Another seller consideration is how difficult the seller perceives that the buyer is going to be during the contract to close process.  A buyer who asks for too much in the opening bid may be perceived as a scared buyer who is more likely to terminate the contract during the due diligence period.  Or one who is likely to ask for excessive seller concessions during due diligence.

Here are some other pointers if you are the buyer placing a bid against other offers:

  • Make your offer a CLEAN AS POSSIBLE; meaning avoid stipulations.  Keep those stipulations you do include as simple as possible.
  • For instance, we will sometimes insert a stipulation asking for a professional cleaning of the property from the seller prior to transfer of possession.  If there are multiple bids, LEAVE THAT OUT.  That stipulation is sometimes taken the wrong way by sellers who think that they are indicating that the property is less than clean, and that may be the thing that prevents you from getting the property.  You can pay for your own move in cleaning if the seller doesn’t (and many, if not most, sellers will have the property professionally cleaned without you asking for it)– but don’t risk losing the property by asking for this when there are other offers.
  • The same thing goes for other items you might otherwise ask for: a survey, condo documents, etc.  You can pay  for a survey yourself and still *ask* for the condo documents (or have your agent get them) during the due diligence period. Asking for them in the initial offer may, all other things being equal, cause a seller to choose another offer that is simpler for the seller.
  • You may be competing against other offers that DO NOT HAVE a financing or appraisal contingency.  If you need financing, you must have those contingencies (unless you have enough cash to cover if the property ends up not appraising for full contract price and are willing to take that chance). But keep this in mind – know that some buyers will pay cash without a loan OR appraisal contingency for a hot property.  So you may be beat out not on price but by a buyer in that position.
  • So if you must have a loan and appraisal contingency, make them as clean and enticing as possible.  Here are some guidelines: indicate in the contingency how much money you are putting down – more is better to the seller, of course.  If you are putting fifty percent down,  you are a stronger buyer than someone putting twenty percent down, for instance.  Keep the loan and financing contingencies as tight as possible – 21 to 25 days is the norm, but go shorter if you can in order to present your offer in the best light.
  • HAVE A PREAPPROVAL LETTER (or proof of funds if you are paying cash).  Most sellers won’t even consider an offer with a prequal or proof of funds.  It is best if that preapproval letter is from a recognized lender who regularly does mortgage loans so that the seller is reasonably certain that the lender will not botch the deal.
  • You may also be competing against an “AS IS” offer; that is, one in which the buyer says that they will purchase the property without asking for any repairs.  (In an “as is” contract, the buyer still has a right to inspections, but has agreed not to ask the seller for any repairs). Therefore, if you do want a due diligence period, keep that period as short a possible (typical is 7 to 10 days – in multiple offer situations, I definitely recommend not going over 10 days).

Finally, it sometimes helps to use a “personal touch”.  Tell the seller something about yourself.  We call this a “buyer’s letter” and I will often write them for clients in situations where I think it would be helpful.  Tell them what you like about the home and give them information so that they know you’ll be a good neighbor.  Not all, but many sellers care very much about what type of person is purchasing their home and what type of neighbor that person will be for the friends that they are leaving behind.

Put your best foot forward when there are multiple offers – remember that you are competing not only on price; and good luck!  If your bid is NOT the winning bid, consider asking the seller to hold on to it as a “back up offer” in case the winning offer falls through.