Sellers who are lucky and receive more than one offer should carefully consider all aspects before accepting the one with the highest price. Even if you receive only one offer and it’s lower than your asking price, you might want to consider bending some on your price in exchange for a transaction that is likely to close.
Ideally, you want a committed buyer who has a good credit score, financial resources and who has been preapproved for a mortgage, as lenders have tightened their qualifying criteria considerably.
HOUSE HUNTING TIP: Your real estate agent should ask the buyer’s agent for permission to contact the buyer’s mortgage person directly to find out if there is any reason the buyer wouldn’t receive credit approval. An offer from a gold-plated buyer at a lower price may be a better deal than a higher-priced offer from a marginally qualified or low-cash-down buyer.
Another issue to consider if you receive more than one offer is the likelihood of the property appraising for the higher price. Appraisals have become a problem recently, particularly in declining markets. Appraisers make downward adjustments for properties that are deemed to be in declining markets.
Are there at least three comparable sales that closed within the last three months that can be used to justify the buyer’s offer price? If not, the appraiser might have difficulty appraising your property for the purchase price.
Buyers usually include an appraisal contingency in their offer. If so, the buyer usually has the option to withdraw from the contract if the property appraises for less than the contract price. Some buyers won’t buy a home that appraises for less than they’ve agreed to pay.
A buyer who is committed to making the deal work is more likely to be able to accept an appraisal that is lower than the purchase price. In this case, the buyers and sellers negotiate a mutually acceptable resolution. For example, the sellers could agree to accept a lower price if the buyers agree to increase their cash-down payment.
Many buyers don’t have additional cash. In this case, if the seller wants to keep the deal together and the buyers won’t or can’t complete the purchase at a price higher than the appraised value, the contract price will need to be reduced or no deal.
There are a lot of uncontrollable elements in a home-sale transaction. One is that the seller has no control over who represents the buyer. In some cases, it may be worthwhile to accept a lower-priced offer from a buyer who is represented by an agent with a good track record in the area — one who is experienced, trustworthy and diligent.
A clean offer is one that is not loaded up with contingencies. Typical contingencies are for inspections and loan and appraisal approval. An offer that’s contingent upon the sale of another property is riskier than one that’s not. A noncontingent offer, even at a lower price, might be the best offer because it has more certainty of closing.
An offer that is contingent upon the close of another escrow may be worth the risk, particularly if all contingencies have been removed from the buyer’s contract. Request confirmation from the buyers that contract contingencies have been removed and find out from the closing agent or escrow officer when the closing is likely to occur.
THE CLOSING: The uncertainties in the current market make it important to carefully consider the terms of an offer, not just the price, before accepting it.
Dian Hymer is a nationally syndicated real estate columnist and author of "House Hunting, The Take-Along Workbook for Home Buyers" and "Starting Out, The Complete Home Buyer’s Guide," Chronicle Books.