Flexibility required to close home sale in current market

Negotiation is back in style, and is likely to remain a necessary part of buying or selling a home in today’s beleaguered residential housing market. Other key elements to a satisfactory closing are flexibility, perseverance, creativity and diligence.

Needless to say, you need to work with the best real estate professionals you can find in your area. In most cases, it takes a team effort to put a home-sale transaction together and see it through to fruition.

HOUSE HUNTING TIP: Successful negotiations usually require give and take by both parties. It has been said that the sign of a successful negotiation is one where both parties walk away feeling they have won. It has also been said that the key to a mutually acceptable agreement is that both sides feel a little wounded.

A must in this market is a commitment to exhaust all possible ways to put and keep a deal together before calling it quits. Recently, it looked like a purchase contract was about to fall apart. The buyers had originally offered a price that seemed insultingly low to the seller.

The seller set his personal feelings about the price aside and countered the buyers’ offer at a price he felt was reasonable. The buyers accepted. As it turned out, the price was one that was halfway between the seller’s list price and the price the buyers offered. Splitting the difference is often a winning strategy.

The house in question had been well inspected before the buyers entered into contract to buy it. However, when it came time for the buyers to remove their inspection contingency, they requested a large monetary credit from the seller. Not only did the buyers discover a few health and safety issues that weren’t covered in the previous reports, they also developed a serious case of cold feet.

These buyers were able to find jumbo financing at a good interest rate. However, to obtain this financing, they had to make a larger cash down payment than anticipated. This left them feeling cash-strapped.

The seller refused to credit the buyers the amount of money they requested. However, he was willing to credit some money. Or, he would carry a second mortgage for the buyers so that they didn’t have to put so much cash down.

Flexibility gives the parties to a negotiation a way to explore options for making a deal or for keeping one moving forward. In order for the buyers in this case to feel comfortable closing the sale, they needed a concession from the seller in order to ease their financial strain. By offering to carry a second mortgage against the property, the seller found a way to free up more cash for the buyer.

As it turned out, the buyers elected not to take the seller-financing offer and accepted a monetary credit at closing.

Credits at closing require approval by the buyers’ lender. Most lenders have limits on how much money a seller can credit a buyer at closing. It is often equal to 3 percent of the purchase price, but cannot exceed the actual amount of the buyers’ nonrecurring closing costs. These are costs paid for the buyers on a one-time-only basis at closing, such as title insurance or a transfer tax.

A seller carry-back would also need lender approval. The lender in first position would want to ensure that the terms of the second mortgage were reasonable and would not be likely to put the buyers in financial jeopardy.

THE CLOSING: Sellers should carefully consider whether it makes good financial sense to carry financing for a buyer who is making a relatively small cash down payment.

Dian Hymer is author of “House Hunting, The Take-Along Workbook for Home Buyers” and “Starting Out, The Complete Home Buyer’s Guide,” Chronicle Books.

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