A Pocket Listings is a Real Estate Listing that is not listed for public sale on the open market. Pocket listings are not uploaded into the Multiple Listing Service (MLS).
Pocket listings can also be called: Private Sale, Off-Market listings, Quiet Listings, Hush Listings, Not in MLS, Sold Before Processing, or Whisper listings.
MLS is real estate industry lingo. The MLS is the public marketplace for real estate listings. It is controlled by a Local Board of Realtors and is an electronic database that member agents access to share listings.
Los Angeles County has several different “MLS-es” (made up that word). I am a member of the Combined Los Angeles Westside (CLAW) MLS. There is also the Southland Regional Association of Realtors (SRAR) for the Valley, and CRMLS for Orange County. It is common for surrounding regions to have reciprocity with one another- so if an agent in Los Angeles travels down to Orange County for business they can access Orange Counties MLS and vice versa.
From the MLS, listings are syndicated to the web. Those listings go to big consumer websites like Trulia, Zillow, Redfin, Movoto, Estately, realtor.com, and 1000’s of other sites- including local real estate agent’s own personal websites (like this one!).
The public has direct access to listings in the MLS, and can shop from home, whenever they want, without the help of an agent.
MLS Listings are worldwide. They reach anyone with an internet connection. According to Google, about 47% of the world uses the internet now. The ones that don’t have an internet connection, probably aren’t buying your property, unless they are on a meditation retreat in Tibet. People on the complete opposite side of the planet can see your listing once it’s in the MLS! I have received calls on my listings from all over the world- England, France, Dubai.
I’m a Seller- Do I have to list my property for sale in the MLS?
No- you do not have to list your property on the MLS. There is no law that requires a seller to sell their home publicly or even hire an agent.
The vast majority of homes are listed publicly, but for some owners, they prefer to pocket list. If you have a tenant with quite a bit of time on their lease left or a very expensive/unique property that only has a very small number of potential buyers, or you just don’t want that level of exposure from a public listing on your home you might want to consider pocket listing. Even if you add a “Do Not Disturb Occupant” rider to your For Sale Yard Sign, sure as day follows night, some nosy homebuyer will wander around your property or even knock on the door with no appointment!
How Common are Pocket Listings?
On Average, about 85% of the properties in Los Angeles sell on the open market, so the vast majority of home sales are public.
Most of the time, it is in the seller’s best interest to list their home on the open market, to get the most exposure, and the highest sales price, but there are exceptions.
Market conditions have the greatest impact on the number of pocket listing sales that occur each year. During Buyer Markets, where inventory is high and it is difficult to sell, the number of pocket listings decreases to 10% or less. During Seller’s Markets, where inventory is low and there is heavy competition among buyers, the number of pocket listings increases, as high as 30%.
I’m a Seller- Should I pocket list?
Privacy is the #1 advantage of Pocket Listing. If you don’t want your neighbors, family members, friends, tenants, boss, the media, or everyone else under the sun knowing your business and what you are up to then pocket listing might be right for you. If you are embarrassed about the condition of your home, or the situation that is causing you to sell, a pocket listing will help keep a lid on it. For celebrities, that live their lives in the limelight and headlines, sometimes pocket listing can help lower their profile.
Disadvantage- Less Exposure
Since you are exposing the listing to less potential buyers, this may translate into a lower sales price. It is difficult to get multiple offers with pocket listings which is one of the best ways to get prices over asking. On average, I find pocket listings sell for slightly less than listings in the MLS- about 5% less – sometimes as much as 10% less if rushed and in poor condition. But on the other hand, I have seen pocket listings sell for market or even more than market if the property was very desirable or unique. The fact is there is less exposure with a pocket listing- sometimes this affects the price and sometimes it doesn’t.
If you own some really expensive things, like a Rembrandt, Renoir, AND a Picasso painting, or have the hope diamond in your jewelry box- you might be nervous showing your home to John Q Public. Pocket Listings give you more control over who sees your house. You can choose to only show your home to prequalified buyers.
Not all buyers are equal. Sometimes you will encounter a highly motivated buyer that has no problem paying a big premium to get what they want. By limiting showings, you might miss this buyer. In addition, since it’s hard to get multiple offers, the sales price of pocket listings rarely goes above list.
When you pocket list, you might not get the best price from your buyer, or the highest price for your property. For properties that are unique and very hard to value- you might accidentally sell below the market value. This can happen in rapidly changing markets during the transition between down markets and real estate booms. A real estate friend of mine says, “you can never list a property too low”. I have found this to be true for public listings. Buyers will step in and bid below market listings up to the market value and beyond. But, you don’t have this same protection with a pocket listing. You as a seller must rely heavily on your real estate agent’s accurate assessment of the property’s true value.
Advantage – Less Preparation
If you want to sell your property quick, or don’t have the budget to prepare it for sale- pocket listing might be a good solution. Some sellers take months getting their home ready for sale- painting, staging, landscaping, decluttering and packing, making repairs. All of these things can add up to a large expense. If you can sell the property as it is, without having to do anything, you can save precious time and money. Pocket listings don’t have as a high of an expectation on appearances.
A lot of pocket listings are listed early before a seller is actually ready to sell. If the property sells quickly, like in a few days with a cash offer- the owner might not have a plan in place for where they are going to move next. Hopefully, you can get extra time with a leaseback if you need it. I have heard of pocket listing sellers having to rent a hotel because they sold so fast, which is a good problem to have I suppose but it can be stressful if you don’t know where to go.
Advantage- No Days on Market/ No Listing History
This is a big advantage of pocket listing. When you are listed publicly, the clock is your enemy, and it’s always ticking. Every day that goes by without an offer means you will probably sell for less money. Buyers get very suspicious of listings that have lingered on the market for several months. With a pocket listing, you don’t have to deal with questions like- have you gotten any offers yet? why hasn’t the property sold yet? Implying there is something wrong with your property. You are free to move at your own speed.
Disadvantage- Longer Sale Time
Fewer showings and less exposure, mean longer sale times. Although the number of days it takes you to sell won’t count against you, it will probably take longer. Want to jumpstart the sale process? Lower the price a little to spark some interest.
Everybody wants what they can’t have. It’s human nature. The clubby feeling surrounding pocket listings makes buyers drunk with power, and agents aren’t immune either. Who doesn’t love to feel smarter than the average bear? And why shouldn’t you? You know about a house for sale that other buyers don’t. Luxury brands have been using this tactic for years.
Disadvantage- Less Excitement if Later Listed
The top agents in the neighborhood will know about your pocket listing. When you do come on the market, there might be less of a pop- because many of the buyers in the market who are working with these agents were already exposed to your listing as a pocket.
Advantage- Lower Commission
Owners can save money on real estate commissions by pocket listing. If you list publicly, you usually have to pay 5% or 6% sales commission total. Half of that is a buyers agent commission of 2.5% or 3%. If the listing agent represents both buyer and seller, I know a lot of agents who are happy to give a commission discount- usually 4% but sometimes less. If the seller is a lawyer or part-time real estate agent or has an agent friend who will work for a minimal flat fee or drastically reduced commission- they can get away with offering a buyer’s agent a normal commission and save on the seller side fee. Any way you slice it, the seller usually saves 1% or 2% on commissions when pocket listing, which gets them a little money back that they might be giving up by not listing publicly.
Disadvantage- Dual Agency
The two most common causes for real estate lawsuits in California are disclosure and agency. If you are a dual agent, special care has to be taken that both sides are treated fairly. California allows Dual Agency, so it is legal. Real estate boards aren’t overly fond of pocket listings because they work against the spirit of cooperation that the MLS is based on. If there is a dispute later, the fact that the sale was a pocket listing may color an action in a pale light.
I’m an Agent- how do I market a pocket listing?
Pocket listings take away an agents #1 marketing tool- the MLS, so they require more work and are more difficult to sell than normal listings. What marketing you can do depends on what your seller wants and is OK with. Marketing a pocket listing is pretty similar to marketing a normal listing except no MLS more or less.
1- Ask the owner for permission to take pictures. Pictures will help you sell the thing! Consider getting a floorplan also.
2- Market the pocket listing to your Sphere of Influence. I always start by trying to sell my pocket listings to my existing clients first. Send out an email blast to your client database, and posting the pocket listing on your website/social media is where I’d start. If you write a monthly newsletter, you could also include it in there.
3- Didn’t sell it yet? Reach out to other brokers in your office, and in the community that you are friendly with. I would print out a flier of the pocket listing and stick it in every agent’s mailbox in my office. You could also go to a few other offices if your company has multiple locations. If your company has a weekly office meeting- pitch it there. If you have an email list of agents you are friendly with, email blast them. Or if you want to add the personal touch, pick up the phone and make a few phone calls.
4- There are places online you can post a listing that are not the MLS- if the seller allows you. Zillow.com is the first place I would put it online under coming soon– although you need to be a premier agent to unlock this function. Many Savvy buyers use Zillow to search for off-market coming soon listings, so you will get some internet exposure there. Craigslist is OK but has really dropped off in recent years. I have experimented with Forsalebyowner.com but found that the only people on there are hungry real estate agents looking for listings. I have posted several pockets on the site and never once got a buyer call, the only calls I received were from prospecting agents so I would avoid that one as a total waste of time.
5- Private listing groups. There are several different private listing groups for real estate agents to share pocket listings with one another. Top Agent Network (They charge a membership fee), The Pocket Listing Service, and this very popular local Pocket Listing Facebook Group, are a few examples.
6- If the seller gives you permission, install a yard sign.
7- If the seller gives you permission, hold a Pocket Listing Open House. Place your directional open house signs out on Sunday.
8- You can try to advertise the pocket listing with a print ad or Facebook ad to generate some traffic- or buy buyer leads Zillow, Trulia, Realtor.com, Yelp, or some other place.
I’m a Buyer or Buyer’s Agent- how do I find pocket listings?
Finding pocket listings can be a little tough because you have to do a little digging to turn them up.
You might find the article I wrote “7 different types of pocket listings” helpful background information for understanding the various reasons sellers decide to pocket list.
1- Ask Local Real Estate Agents. Here is your new favorite question- “Do you have any pocket listings?”. Real estate agents are spending big money on their marketing, and have past client’s that they have relationships with, as well as potential sellers they are working on to list. By asking them if they have any pocket listings you will find out what they have in the cooker. It is not uncommon for a neighbor to keep close tabs over a nearby listing to see what it sells for, they usually hire the agent who was the most recent to sell a home nearby if they did a good job. I see agents get pockets in the same building for condos or on the same street for houses pretty frequently.
Keep in mind when you are committed to working with a buyer’s agent, that you can get yourself into an awkward situation by asking other agents for pocket listings because some agents will only show you their pocket if you agree to work with them.
2- Ask Brandon Miller. Brandon is one of the hardest working title officers in Los Angeles and he is always posting pockets on his facebook. Title officers are on the front lines of listings because they are usually one of the first people an agent calls when they have a new listing (also true with photographers, stagers, and transaction coordinators).
3- Drive around the neighborhood. Sometimes you can catch a listing being staged, a suspicious moving truck, or a seller fixing their place up to get ready to sell. If you are feeling bold, knock on the door or walk up to the seller and ask them if they are planning on selling. Keep an eye out for a fresh for sale yard sign.
4- If you can afford new construction- it’s no secret when a property is being built and is close to being finished. Poking around at the job site, you can usually get to the agent or owner after asking a few questions from the workers. You can also try to look up in the public records the agent that sold the property last because the builder is their client.
5- Check Real Estate agent’s personal websites for their pocket listings. Here are some links to agents/Agencies that keep their website updated with their pocket listings:
Rex Real Estate is a discount brokerage- they do not offer any commission to selling agents, so real estate agents usually don’t like showing their listings. They get a decent number of listings so this is an OK place to search and none of their listings are on the MLS.
6- Send out a Buyer Need Email Blast
7- Search on Zillow Coming Soon
If you have a pocket listing or if you are looking to find one, let’s chat!
If you are reading this, chances are your credit needs a little work (or maybe a lot!). Real life has a way of not working out like the bedtime stories we were told as kids. The economy is cyclical, and if you have too many financial commitments during a recession, you can get into a bad situation.
Credit Damage doesn’t have to be a downturn in the economy either. A financial hardship such as a divorce, student loans, health issue, job loss, foreclosure, lawsuits, or bankruptcy can flip your life upside down.
Maybe in the past you were irresponsible with money, and borrowed more than you could pay back and now you have to pay for it.
Regardless of what the reason is, when your credit is damaged- it makes it hard to rent a place to live, buy a home, buy a car, you have to pay higher interest rates, and frankly, it’s embarrassing.
The first thing you need to do before your credit can improve is to get yourself in a situation where your income consistently covers your living expenses and allows you to save. Sometimes, this means the very humbling experience of moving in with a family member until you get back on your feet again.
Once you are in a good place financially- it is a good time to start repairing your credit.
Understanding Credit Basics
One of client’s with credit issues told me that they wish their teachers in school taught them about credit. It’s true, they don’t teach students about credit in school. You basically have to learn about it from your parents, friends, or from your personal experience. Credit is very important and is something every adult needs to know. If you already know the basics of credit skip down to the credit repair section. If you are somewhat clueless about how credit works, then these basics will catch you up to speed.
There are three credit Bureaus in the United States that track financial data:
Major creditors (think mortgage companies, credit card companies, hospitals, insurance companies, the government) report to these credit bureaus. Creditors report the status of your credit accounts with them. Their report will say whether your credit is in good standing or late, delinquent, in collections, charged off, or settled. Each Bureau uses this information to give you a credit score. Keep in mind that if you do not use credit, you will not have a credit score because there is no information. This can happen for people who pay for everything in cash or with a debit card and don’t use credit. Even if you don’t believe in credit, it’s a good idea to get an emergency credit card, and to use enough credit to get a score, because this is the system we live in.
When you pull your credit score from each Bureau you will find that their scores vary. This is not uncommon, because some creditors only report to one or two of the bureaus while other creditors report to all three, so each bureau has slightly different information. Typically the scores between Bureaus doesn’t vary by more than 10 to 20 points. In some cases it can be as high as 40 points but that is rare.
What does the credit score mean?
Credit scores are an estimate of the likelihood that a person will pay back the money they borrowed.
Credit scores can range from a perfect 850 to the lowest score of 400’s. If you are trying to qualify for a mortgage on a home, lenders want a credit score of at least 620-650, but I’d shoot for 660-680 range because the loan terms will be better. If you are trying to rent an apartment most landlords will be looking for at least 600 credit score on $2,500 month leases or less, and can want 700 scores for leases in the $3,500-$4,000 or higher price range. Any credit score below 600 is generally considered bad credit.
Credit scores of 700+ indicate that the borrower pays their bills, pays their bills on time, and are currently is in a strong financial position.
Credit scores between 600-700, show that the borrower pays most of their bills, may pay some of their bills late, and is currently in an OK financial position.
Credit Scores between 500-600 show that the borrow doesn’t pay all their bills, regularly pays bills late, and is in a shaky financial position.
Credit Scores below 500 are very bad and suggest that the borrower doesn’t pay many if any of their bills, and is in a very bad financial position.
Keep in mind that if your financial situation has improved but you have not repaired your credit, your credit score will not accurately reflect you. That’s why it is important to work with a credit repair company when your situation improves.
How do the Credit Bureaus come up with my Credit Score?
The formula for how the Bureaus determine your credit score is as closely guarded as the secret recipe for Kentucky Fried Chicken. However, the credit Bureaus do tell you the different factors that are used to determine the credit score and how they are weighted
Payment History (35%)
To have good credit you need to pay your bills on time. Payment history has the greatest impact on your credit score. Paying bills on time raises your score. Late payments lower your score. Late payments can be 30, 60, 90, 120 days late. After that time, late payments can go into default and are sent to collections. Having a collection, charge off, or settlement on your credit report dramatically lowers your score. If you have any delinquent accounts on your credit report, settling them and deleting them will improve your score. Credit Repair companies can help you do this.
All these Late payments and collections lowered this person’s credit score under 500
Debt/Credit Use (30%)
Debt is how much of your available credit you are using. For Example, if you had a credit card with a $5,000 limit, and you had a $4,800 balance on the card, you would only have $200 left of available credit. With credit cards- the more money you borrow the higher your minimum monthly payment. Keeping high balances on your credit lines is bad for your credit score. You want to keep the amount of credit you use between 50% – 30% of the limit, the lower the balance the better. So for the Example of the $5,000 limit credit card, keeping a balance of no more than $1,500 to $2,500 on that card is good- if you can pay off the credit card completely each month that is ideal. If you have very high balances on your credit cards paying them down will improve your credit.
Length of Credit History (15%)
The longer your credit accounts have been open and in good standing the better. If you don’t have much of a credit history, it may be a good idea to sign up for a few credit cards – even if you don’t need them or use them they will help establish your credit history. Newly opened accounts lower your score initially, (see new credit), they will improve your score once they’ve seasoned in a year or so.
Type of credit (10%)
A good mixture of different kinds of credit can strengthen your score. If you have an auto loan, credit cards, and mortgages this shows the credit bureaus that you have good relationships with different types of creditors.
New credit (10%)
Opening new credit can temporarily hurt your score until those accounts have seasoned. Credit Inquiries can also lower your score, especially if you have made multiple inquiries in a short time. Inquiries from mortgage companies and automobile loans are treated as only one inquiry if they are made within a 45 day period. The credit bureaus know that consumers may decide to shop around a bit before deciding on a big purchase.
How Long do Derogatories Stay on my Credit Report?
A derogatory is a late payment, charge off, settlement, collection. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) says that credit bureaus may only keep records for seven years back. So if you do nothing in seven years any bad credit items will be removed. However, seven years is a very long time, and if you work with a credit repair person, they can remove a derogatory in 1 or two years instead of having to wait 7.
There are some exceptions to the 7 year period:
Bankruptcy (10 years)
How do I check my credit?
You can ask Lenders, real estate agents, credit repair company, to check your credit score. Or you can check it yourself with online services such as creditkarma.com, freecreditreport.com, etc. With the online service be sure to read the fine print, they usually will let you check your credit for free, but also sign you up for an automatic monthly subscription service.
Credit Repair FAQs
As I said in the beginning of this article, if you are still in financial distress it is not a good time to start working on your credit, because even if the credit repair company helps you open new lines of credit, and remove derogatories, it won’t do any good if you are still getting late payments, and collections. When your financial situation has improved, but your credit score doesn’t reflect that- that is a good time to start working with a credit repair company.
What do Credit Repair Companies do?
Credit Repair companies advise you on which credit accounts to open, close, and pay down or pay off. They also challenge collections and charge offs on your report and settle and delete them. They help you raise your credit score.
I have no credit, can a credit repair company help me?
Absolutely! I see this a lot with foreign nationals, who have just moved to the United States from another country. The first thing you want to do is sign up for a secured credit card so you can start building your credit right away. Credit Repair companies will help you get a high score quickly.
How much can a credit repair company improve my credit score?
Anybody can have good credit, if you make good decisions, and get help from a credit repair specialist there is no reason you can’t get to a perfect score of 850.
How long does it take to repair credit?
It depends on your current score. 3-6 month’s if you are in the 600 range. 6 months – 1 year if you are in the 500 range. And 2 years if your current score is below 500.
How much do credit Repair Company Cost?
It depends on your current score. For people with 600 scores it won’t cost as much to repair their credit as someone with a 500 score. In general they charge between $1,000 to $2,500 range to repair credit. This is money well spent because you will save this money on interest, and will make your life easier.
Should I hire more than one credit repair company?
No, you should only hire and work with one credit repair company at a time. You might think by hiring two or three credit companies that your score go up faster. This is not true. The information that your credit repair company is the credit bureaus and creditors needs to be consistent. If you have two or three different people talking on your behalf and they are all saying different things, this could actually hurt you and not help you.
Do you have referrals for Credit Repair Companies?
Shamrock Credit Repair
Owning your own home is a smart investment. Prices go up. Over the long term, your home will increase in value. Meanwhile, you have to live somewhere, and why pay your landlord’s mortgage when you can pay your own? If you rent for 30 years, at the end of the 30 years you will have nothing. If you own a home for 30 years, at the end of the 30 years you will own the home free and clear and it will have doubled or tripled in value. That’s a retirement plan.
Owing a home is a big responsibility. When you are renting you can pick up and move at the drop of a hat. As a homeowner, your living situation is not as flexible. It’s a big hassle to sell and the transaction fees are costly. Before you purchase I recommend to be certain you are going to be staying in the area for at least 3 years. You will also be responsible for property maintenance.
Make sure your finances are in order. If you are carrying a lot of credit card debt or student loans, it may be better to pay off your debt before buying a house. Check your credit score, if its below 680 you will need to work with a credit repair company to raise your credit score in order qualify for a loan. How much money do you have in the bank? For most first time home buyers saving up the down payment is the biggest hurdle. Thankfully there are a lot of low down payment loan programs that make buying your first home easier. Some good loans to be aware of are 10% down, 5% down, and FHA 3.5% down loans– keep in mind that if you are putting less than the traditional 20% down you will have the extra cost for PMI.
In Los Angeles, real estate prices are higher than other parts of the country. For the price you can buy a 1 bedroom condo in Los Angeles, you could buy a new construction two story house in the Midwest. Because prices are high, it is not uncommon for parents to give downpayment help to first time home buyers here. One trend I am seeing with Millennials, is Parents are giving their kids the inheritance early- so they can use it to buy a home. This makes a lot of financial sense, because you can put that money to good use working for you instead of laying dormant in a checking account for ten plus years. I always recommend for first time buyers to talk with their family and ask for help.
Tips for First Time Home Buyers:
If you are like me you want everything right now and hate waiting. The last thing you want to hear when you are trying to buy your first house is that you need to be patient. From my experience, it takes on average three to five years to buy your first house in Los Angeles, from initial planning stages to final purchase. Los Angeles is a big city and has big city prices that are higher than the US national average. Higher prices make home purchase more difficult. Zillow says the average age of first time homebuyer is 31, but in LA I think it’s a little higher because the prices are higher. Another factor, is that in a big city prices fluctuate wildly. Depending on where the market is in the real estate cycle, prices can go up or down as much as 15%-20% in a year. Saving a down payment takes time.
Don’t be Afraid to ask questions
When it’s your first time everything is new. You will have a bazillion questions rolling around in your head. Don’t be afraid to ask, ask, ask. That’s the best way to learn. Don’t just ask your real estate agent or lender either. Ask your friends and family. Watch HGTV. This is an important decision. It’s a good idea to rally the wagons and confer with your trusted circle of advisers.
Buying a house can be SCARY! It is a big commitment and the biggest purchase you’ve ever made in your life. At least one meltdown when buying a home is not unheard of. Even when you feel overwhelmed and stressed out, stick with it, you won’t regret it. I hear way more often from people regret of not buying when they could, then working a little harder, or saving a little more.
Your first home is not your dream home, it’s a stepping stone. Your third or fourth home will be your dream home. Be ready to make some compromises with your first home in order to keep it within your budget. Maybe choose a condo instead of a single family house to keep cost down- if you do decided on a condo you can usually get a better location and security than comparably priced homes but lose privacy and yard. Or: pick a neighborhood that is in transition and up and coming, instead of a neighborhood that is well established. You will get more bang for your buck in a transition neighborhood. Remember you aren’t going to live in your first home forever. Most buyers are very excited to finally buy their first home they forget about all this stuff and just can’t wait to move in.
Stretch Armstrong Toy 1976
Owning a home is always more expensive then renting. So your monthly living expenses will be going up if you are coming from a rental. Buying your first home can be a stretch sometimes. But trust me, it’s a good stretch! When you are young you can afford take more risks, and as you get established in your career you will make more money. It’s ok to be ‘mortgage poor’ when you are young because you are willing to rough it. You may feel like you are in college again, surviving on Ramen noodles and Peanut butter (ok maybe that’s stretching too tight!). LA is expensive, I usually recommend for first time buyers to ask a family member(s) for help with down payment when it comes time to buy. Saving up the down payment is usually first time buyer’s biggest challenge. Most of the time, but not always, family members are happy to help their children and nephews buy their first property if they have been responsible. Their Parents probably helped them when they were buying their first house! Another thing to keep in mind when you are stretching, if you feel like you are stretching too tight, you can always rent a room to a friend for some extra income. Many of my clients have done that.
First Time Home Buyer? Hire a Great Realtor
Final piece of advice: hire a great realtor. When you are buying your first home, you don’t necessarily need the biggest most successful realtor in your neighborhood either. As a first time buyer, you need a lot of time and attention, and very busy realtors may not have the time to devote to you. Look for someone who is hardworking, and does real estate full time, who you get along with.
First Time Home Buyer FAQs
Do I have to pay a realtor commission?
No, as the buyer in Los Angeles you do not pay any real estate commissions. The seller pays the real estate commissions. Check out this article you’d like to see a breakdown of your buyer closing costs.
Do I need a home inspection?
Emphatically YES. Always get a home inspection. The last thing you need as a first time home buyer when you are stretching is to have some large unexpected expense.
As a first time home buyer, should I get preapproved?
Yes, I recommend talking to a lender and getting preapproved right away. They will be able to talk with you about different loan programs as I mentioned earlier, and give you an idea of your monthly cost so you know how high you are comfortable looking.
What is the best way to get started?
Best way to get started is to just go out and look at some houses. Sunday open houses are great- you might meet a great realtor while you are out looking if your friends/family don’t have a referral.
As a first time home buyer, you can have a lot of questions. I am here to help. Just click the button below to get started!
So What Exactly Does it Mean to Buy a Property As Is?
Garage Sales are as is
“As is” is a real estate term that pop-ups frequently in the Los Angeles Market. Selling a property “as is” means that the seller makes no warranties about the condition of the property and will not fix anything or make repairs, nor will they lower the price or give credits because of the existence of problems or defects. In other words, what you see is what you get.
“As is” sales are common for foreclosures, short sales, trustee sale, probates, major fixers/teardowns, New construction (although they allow punchlists), and in strong seller’s markets- even some standard sales! Seasoned Real Estate investors are accustomed to AS IS Sales because they can understand the risks better working directly in the construction industry. For first time home buyers, you need to be extra careful!
Be extra careful with foreclosures or trustee sales, where the owner has never lived in the property. Since they have never occupied the property they are not required to make the standard seller disclosures.
Many sellers think that an “As Is” sale means that the buyer agrees to hold the seller harmless for all claims related to the sale of the property. Remember that old saying “Buyer Beware”?
This is not the case in California. State law (Cal. Civil Code 1102) mandates certain disclosures must be made with residential transactions, and that buyer and seller can’t waive these requirements.
An “As Is” clause should be considered putting the buyer on notice that no repairs or credits will be given.
“AS IS” still means that the seller must disclose all known material facts to the buyer.
What is a Material Fact?
Here is the test to determine if a fact is material or not is:
(A) Does the fact impact the desirability or market value of the property?
(B) If the buyer had known the fact, would they not have entered into the contract?
(C) Will the fact affect a buyer’s use and enjoyment of the property?
If yes to any of these questions, it is probably a material fact. In California, you do not need to disclose if someone died on the property or how they died, but it is usually a good practice to do so because the nosey neighbor will always tell the new owner about it so you might as well tell them first.
If a seller hides a material fact that is not visible or observable to the buyer, that is known to the seller, and that is discovered later, then the seller may be liable for negligent misrepresentation and failure to disclose and fraud in court. The statue of limitations is 2 years for these types of claims.
As is clause is not a way to avoid disclosure, but instead a way to shift responsibility for the condition of the property to the buyer.
When selling your property as is, it is highly recommended to either conduct presale inspections yourself to be provided to potential buyers, or allow buyers access to the property to inspect it themselves.
By providing buyers a presale inspection, or allowing them the right to inspect, you can dramatically lower your liability.
For buyers, If the seller demands no inspection contingency in offers, then as a buyer you have to bite the bullet and pay for inspection upfront before you are in escrow. It might really stink if you pay for the inspection and the seller chooses another offer, but its much better than the alternative, which is the seller accepts your offer and you find out there are huge problems and you might lose your earnest money deposit.
In strong seller’s markets, where prices are going up rapidly, and there are few houses for sale, Multiple offers are plentiful. It can be discouraging as a buyer when every new house that hits the market gets 3 or 4 offers right away, and then the listing agent drags the sale out ten to fourteen days while they hold Brokers Open Houses and Saturday and Sunday open houses collecting more and more offers. If you aren’t lucky enough to snag a home quickly, you will start to feel the impact of the rising home prices- that same $800,000 house from two or three months ago, might be an extra $20,000 or $30,000 now. Ouch!
The more offers, the more competition.
With tough competition you need to go the extra mile to make your offer strong and to give yourself the best chance to win. When buying houses, there is no prize for second place (although- ask for formal backup position #1), so make your offer count!
Here are a few things you can do improve your offer’s chances of winning in a multiple offers situation:
1.) Offer the highest price.
Duhhh! In multiple offers the #1 most important factor for sellers is price. It doesn’t matter if you have everything else in your favor- you will lose if your price is too low. Ask yourself: at what price would I not be disappointed if I didn’t get the property? Then, if you do lose, you won’t feel bad about it and kicking yourself afterwards thinking you should have offered more.
Let’s reverse the tables and assume you are the seller and you have received these six ‘best and final’ offers on your house that is listed for $749,000:
Offer 1- $751,000 20% down
Offer 2- $650,000- all cash 15 day close
Offer 3- $735,000 10% down
Offer 4-$785,000 30% down
Offer 5- $766,500 5% down
Which of these offers would you choose?
2.) Introduce yourself! And don’t be a grump.
Make sure you introduce yourself to the listing agent of the houses you plan to write offers on. It only takes a few minutes at an open house or showing- and if you are friendly and genuinely interested in the property, the agent will remember. Negotiations began long before an offer is ever written. Even before you walked through the door. It starts the moment you meet someone, and before. I have had buyers lose properties because they complained during showings, which lead the listing agent to believe they didn’t really want the property. I have also camped out with one of my buyers for an entire open house (yes three hours- it was boring as hell) just to show the listing agent he wanted the place (he got it, and it was a great deal). Anything you can do that is memorable, and makes you more familiar will help the listing agent feel confident about presenting your offer in a positive light.
3.) Put your best “offer” foot forward
When you are writing your initial offer, I advise clients to make it pretty close to your best and final. Lets suppose there is a listing for $1,450,000 and you think it is going to sell for $1,600,000. And your willing to go to $1,580,000. I see buyers make this mistake that they write a low offer and plan to “go up a lot” and that that will get the sellers attention. They might write $1,475,000 in the scenario above, and are planning, when they get a counter to go to $1,580,000. However, there is one problem. You might not get even get a counter! Or your agent might have to beg the agent to send you one. The damage is already done. The seller will see the low offer and not take you seriously. It is far better to get the sellers attention right away with your first offer, and keep it. In this situation, write $1,550,000. When you get the counter, go up another $30,000 to your maximium- $1,580,000- this looks far better to the seller.
Many buyers don’t bother to do this! If you want the property badly, make yourself standout and take the time to write a thoughtful coverletter to seller and tell them why they should sell their home to you.
5.) Put as much money down as you can.
Sellers want to pick the strongest buyer they can. The larger the downpayment the more likely the deal will close. Buyers with more money in the bank are stronger. In rapidly appreciating markets appraisals commonly fall short of the contract price, as the market could take several must to readjust to new price levels. Sellers want to get the price that they were offered. If the appraisal does come short, the fact that you have extra cash to cover the difference, helps them rest at ease.
Incomplete offers won’t be considered, they are thrown in the trash. If you don’t have all your ducks in a row yet, do it right away, because when the market is moving fast it doesn’t wait for you to talk with a lender and get preapproved or obtain a copy of your most recent bank statement.
7.) Find out if the seller wants any special terms and include them on your offer
Being flexible with any terms the sellers want (or dictates…) can push the bar in your favor. A lot of sellers in an rising market, will be moving- and they will be facing the same challenge of finding a new property as you do. Giving a seller a leaseback provides them time to purchase a replacement property. Usual seller leasebacks are 30-60 days, and terms are a small security deposit and monthly lease payments equal to your holding cost (mortgage, taxes, and insurance). Maybe the seller already bought a property and wants a quick close. Go to your lender and have them start working on your loan so you can close faster. Seller wants to keep the fridge? Take it!
8.) Choose an ODD number to write for you best and final offer
Veteran agents who deal with multiple offer situations frequently know that you never write round numbers. Think of it like the game show, the price is right. There is nothing more frustrating than losing a property because another buyer with more experience in multiple offers chose to write an odd number offer price ever so slightly above yours! (I once had a client who lost multiples a few years back with a $1,700,000 offer to a $1,710,000 offer…neither of us were happy campers). Let’s say your best and final is $450,000- I’d recommend making it $453,632. Or maybe $451,105. What’s your lucky number? I hear 8’s are lucky- $452,888. What is the property address? 305 Mohawk Ln? 450,305. Whatever you do, just don’t make it the same number everyone else is going to pick. Make it an odd number that is slightly more and give yourself the best chance of being the highest.
9.) When the counter offers are sent out, wait until near the end of deadline to respond
When you ask the listing agent what the property is going to sell for- they don’t know, because it depends on what the buyers are going to do. When you wait for some of the responses to come in before submitting yours, you give yourself a chance to try and glean some information from the listing agent where you need to be at. I might tell the listing agent what offer we are going to make verbally and ask them if this is going to get the property, and gauge their reaction. If you have a relationship with the listing agent, they may give you some hints.
10.) Have your agent Present your offer in person
This goes a long way with real estate agents that come from the old school. Twenty to thirty years ago, before emails, cell phones, and fax machines, driving to the listing agents office and presenting your offer in person was the way everyone did it. When you go the extra mile, the listing agent will notice and know you are serious and want to close.
11.) Shorten your Inspection Contingency
The purchase agreement has a 17 day inspection contingency by default. In fast markets listing agents are usually countering buyers inspection contingencies down to 7-10 inspection periods. This can put a lot of pressure on your buyer’s agent to get all the inspections done. 7 Days is the minimum time required to do inspections, and 10 is a lot better. You can voluntarily cut down your inspection time from 17 days to strengthen your offer. Maybe to 14 or 12 days, or 10 if you want to be aggressive. 17 days is more time than you need so shaving a few days off won’t hurt you if you stay on your toes.
12.) Waive Contingency
There are three main contingencies in the purchase agreement- the loan, appraisal, and inspection. Waiving a contingency, or three, will significantly strengthen your offer.
If you are a cash buyer, you have no problem waiving the loan contingency. For everybody else who is financing, this is not an option.
The most common contingency to be waived by buyers in multiple offers is the Appraisal contingency. In strong seller’s markets, properties sell for more than their asking price, and sell for higher prices than the most recent comps. This can create problems with getting an appraisal at value. Sellers don’t want to accept an offer that is ‘only as good as the paper it is printed on’. By waiving the appraisal contingency, the buyer eliminates any doubt about the final sales price and cannot renegotiating the sales price if the appraisal falls short. But, if you do this, be ready to pick up the tab!
In fast markets, sometimes the Listing Agent will provide buyers with a pre-sale inspection report paid for by the seller. The reason sellers do a presale inspection is to find any serious problems with their property before they list it. The seller then has the opportunity to fix those problems or disclose them, instead of dealing with them in escrow. The purpose of a presale inspection is to do an “as is” sale. The seller will demand a very short inspection contingency 10-7 days.
If you know me, like a broken drum, I always recommend to get an inspection. I would strongly advise buyer’s against waiving the inspection contingency. The only time I would consider it, is with an off market property that you have no choice, or with a property you intend to complete rehab or tear down. The seller is trying to avoid granting any repair credits to the buyers. For liability purposes most listing agents and sellers do not want to force buyers to waive their inspection contingency- so you really don’t need to give this up. So hold on to it!
Keep in mind that having less or no contingencies as a buyer can be risky, because if you don’t close, you will lose your earnest money deposit– so be careful you understand what you are doing before you start waiving these contingencies right and left.
13. Set up to the plate
When you receive the sellers best and final counter offer- go up and pick a number that you think will actually win. I have had client’s who dig in, and refuse to raise their offer. That’s fine if you don’t care whether you lose the property or not, but if you do want the property, make the winning bid. Sometimes the seller doesn’t always choose the highest price, but they are not foolish- there is a range that the best offers orbit, and you need to be in that ring.
13.) Write an Escalator Clause
This is a trendy new tactic buyers are using to win multiple offers in Los Angeles. In states like Michigan and Oregon, escalator clauses are common practice, but in California escalator clauses are not widely used. If you plan to use an escalator clause make sure the listing agent is open to it and understands it, because many listing agents will not have heard of it.
Unlike a normal best and final response offering a specific price, with an escalator clause buyers offer some amount higher than the next highest offer so they cannot be overbid. The language for the counter offer response may be something like “buyer offers $5,000 above next highest offer”. This would be an example of $5,000 plus escalator clause. The amount you bid over the next offer depends on the price range, for $500,000 $5,000 over the next highest offer is probably appropriate, and for $1M $10,000 and so on. Don’t want to bid above a specific price? You can add a cap to the escalator as well- such as “price not to exceed $950,000” for example. I would also request the listing agent to produce a copy of the next highest offer so you have some proof.
Some agents feel like escalator clause is an unfair practice and have negative response to it. That is why I say to check with the listing agent before writing one in to your counter offer. I can understand where those agents are coming from- if every buyer responded to a multiple offer counter offer with an escalator clause it wouldn’t work, and for buyers who lose out to an escalator clause, they may feel that the bidding was unfair.
I think in certain situations it can be an excellent strategy but not right in every situation so check with the listing agent first.
14.) Ask for the “Take it Off the Market Price”
In multiple offer markets, listing agents are really drawing things out, holding the house open for one or two weeks, and setting an offer deadline at the end, and collecting offers that come in, but not presenting them until the deadline, at which point they counter offer. Some buyers get really frustrated having to wait two weeks, then get countered, and have to wait another week, just to lose the property they want. This strategy wont get you the best price, however, in some situations I have seen it successfully take a property off the market before the offer deadline. You need an agent on the listing side who is receptive to it, some agents will refuse to present offers (even though they are suppose to) until the deadline no matter what price they are. However, as an agent myself, I can’t resist showing a seller a really good offer when I get it. Like in the Godfather movies, you have to “make an offer they can’t refuse”. If you are successful you can head the property off at the pass, and take it off the market before weeks go by.
Buyers often ask me how much are their closing costs. Typical buyer side closing costs range from 2%-3% of the purchase price as a rough rule of thumb. The biggest buyer side closing costs is the loan, so if the purchase is all cash your closing costs may be as little as 1%.
Buyers ask if they need to pay for the buyer’s agent real estate commission. The answer is no you don’t, all real estate commissions are paid for by the seller. This is great for you as a buyer because it lowers the amount of cash you need to buy a property, but keep in mind you will have to pay both commissions when you sell. I say that it averages out to half a commission each transaction, but it is loaded on the backend.
With some deals, if you are running short on cash, and it’s a slow market, you may be able to work out a deal with the seller to help pay for your closing costs.
At closing, Escrow prepares a HUD-1 closing statement, which is all the actual closing costs. It is a good idea to review the HUD-1 to make sure everything is correct.
Here is the breakdown of the different buyer side closing costs:
You’ve completed your final walk through and signed the loan documents and wired cash for the remaining balance of the purchase price. The loan has funded, and the deed has been recorded.
Congratulations, you have just closed!!
Once the deed has been recorded, You are officially the new owner of the property.
Here are some things to do now as the new owner:
Pick up the Keys
The listing agent will hand you or your agent the keys (gate keys, house keys, mailbox keys), garage door openers, remotes, and anything else that passes along with the property. Sometimes organized sellers have the manuals for their appliances and equipment and will leave these too.
Bert from ALL LA Key Service 818-558-5083
Every Realtor recommends rekeying your property after you close because there is no telling who has a copy of the old keys- a neighbor, a friend or relative of the previous owner, a contractor that has done work on the property, who knows. Also, if the property was on a lockbox while it was for sale, anybody with the lockbox combination had access to the keys while the property was on the market and could have made a copy. Perhaps the property was rented at some point by the previous owner before they sold it and some ex-tenant out there somewhere has a key. The only way to be sure that your property is secure after you close is to change or rekey the locks. Expect to pay about $400-$500 for this service
For a smooth move in, try to avoid closing on Fridays or near the end of the month. Public utility companies work business days M-F, not on the weekends or holidays. The typical time to start new service is 2-3 business days. If you close on a Friday, the earliest you can start new service is Tuesday or Wednesday. Not fun to live with no hot water, no heat, no light, no stove, and no power for 4-5 days.
Most people move the 1st of the month. If you are trying to start service during this time, expect to add 2-3 days in delays because it is busy. Avoid closing at the end of the month, there will be less wait time to start new service.
There are two major providers of electricity in Los Angeles- The Department of Water and Power (DWP) and Edison. The DWP services the city of Los Angeles, and Edison services the county and some of the incorporated cities.
Gas is harder to turn on than electricity because the gas company is liable for gas leaks. It is not just a simple matter of flipping a switch and reading a meter. When the Gas Company turns on the gas, they must test every gas appliance for leaks. It takes about 30 minutes to check everything.
This picture shows a gas meter with a lock. When the gas is shut off, the gas company places a lock on the gas valve so that it cannot be turned back on. If you see this lock, then service is disconnected and you will need the gas company to come out. As a side note, if the gas company comes to a property to read a meter, and the property appears to be vacant, they are required to shut off the gas.
The Peak season for gas companies is Nov 1st – April 30th, you will have longer wait times to set up service during the winter months, instead of 2-3 business days, expect 4-5 business days. The worst week to set up service is around January 1st because they get a very big backlog from all the holidays around that time so plan for extra time in Late December, early January.
If you need a gardener or pool man, I like to start by asking the seller who they are using and if they are good. Many times it is easier to just continue using the same gardener and pool man. Make sure to ask how much they are paying each month- I know from experience that pool and gardener prices sometimes go up when there is a new owner so it is a good idea to check how much the seller is currently paying as a reference. If you don’t want to use the seller’s people- then ask your real estate agent, friends, or new neighbors for a referral.
What is my Trash Pickup Day?
You can look up your trash collection day on the Los Angeles Sanitation Department’s homepage:
You can update your mailing address with the US Post office by going to a post office and getting a change of address form, or change your mailing address online at the United States Postal Service website:
Now that the property is all yours you will want the for sale sign taken down. Most listing agents remember to take their sign down, but sometimes they can forget. Send the listing agent a reminder if they forget to Remove their Yard Sign after the close.
Special Closing Items for Condos
If you purchased a Condo, register yourself as the new owner with the property management company managing the building or the HOA. You will usually get a new owner information form along with your HOA disclosures. If the building has an intercom entry system you will want to change the number on the intercom to your phone number, and if your mailbox doesn’t have your name or unit number on it- you can add a label on it with your name.
Some High Rise condo buildings have special move-in/move-out procedures. The HOA documents should give you the specifics on those procedures before you close. Sometimes these can include a moving fee.
Before you move in all your things, it is usually a really great time for interior paint if you want to change the colors of the walls or personalize a room with an accent wall.
Hang your art
.. and finally, the Last thing to do is plan your housewarming party!!!
A Cover Letters is a 1 page letter (write a letter, not a book!) that shows the seller that you have a strong motivation to buy their property. Cover letters are optional not required. Buyers can choose to include a cover letter to strengthen their offer.
Should I write a Cover Letter?
If you are in a multiple offer situation, writing a coverletter can improve the chances that your offer will be accepted. I strongly recommend cover letters in multiple offer situations. Sellers deepest fear is that they accept an offer that cancels and they fall out of escrow. Properties that come back on the market usually sell for less money because buyers are suspicious and some of the bidders may have moved on to other properties, lessening demand.
By demonstrating to the seller that you are strongly motivate to buy their property (Kids start school in a month and you need to be settled, You need to be within Walking distance to your hospital, etc) you reduce the risk in the sellers mind that you will fall out of escrow.
However, if you don’t feel strongly about the house then skipping the cover letter is best. I have read cover letters from buyers who were under pressure to buy a property quickly and it wasn’t their first, second or even third choice, and you can tell that they don’t really care if they get the property or not. Writing a cover letter when you feel like this can actually hurt you, so just skip it if you don’t have strong feelings and save your writing for only the very special house that speaks to you.
I would not recommend writing a cover letter if you want to negotiate price. Cover letters may weaken your negotiating position because it informs the seller that you are strongly motivated to buy, and they can use this information to negotiate a higher sale price.
Does a cover letter improve my chances?
When the seller is reviewing a bunch of offers they received in multiple offers, your offer appears to the seller like just a name and a number- the purchase price. Most of the time the seller will have never met you in person because their agent showed you the property when they were not there. The cover letter is the only time you can communicate directly with the seller and share your story. Cover letters personalize your offer. You might be surprised but many buyers don’t bother to write a cover letter! Writing a coverletter can make your offer stand out– and believe me, the seller is going to read it.
In a multiple offer situation, the most important thing is price. If your offer price is much lower than the other offers don’t expect the cover letter to make up the difference. You still need to have a competitive offer price. Selling a house is an emotional decision and your cover letter might be the deciding factor for the seller if they are struggling to make a close decision.
Should I add my picture to my coverletter?
A picture is by no means mandatory, but sometimes it can be helpful put a “face” to a name and make your offer more memorable. Although, beware, including a picture can be a double edged sword. You never know where the seller is coming from, and sometimes including a photo can actually hurt you instead of help you if the seller is prejudice. Most of the time I recommend to let the buyer’s words stand on their own merits and forego a picture. Sometimes, if you know the seller has pets, and you have pets too, including a picture with a furry family member can be good.
What should I write in my coverletter?
Many buyers ask me what to write in their cover letter. I have saved some samples of great cover letters over the years and usually send a few to get the ideas flowing and to pull inspiration from. The best advice for writing a cover letter is Write From the Heart. Your most powerful message comes from speaking the truth about how you feel about the house and what the house means to you. This is your chance to tell your story.
Good writing is rewriting. Be as specific as you can. Try to focus on yourself and the property and avoid the seller and their agent.
Here are a few questions to get some ideas flowing:
-Why do you want to buy this property?
-Why do you want to live in this area?
-What is your reason for buying a property right now?
-Where have you lived in the past and how does that compare?
-How does being at the property make you feel?
-How will you live in the property once you own it?
I wrote a Cover Letter- now what?
I recommend to have someone review your cover letter before sending it. Having a second pair of eyes is always helpful when editing. Fresh eyes will be able to spot any grammar or spelling mistakes, confusing sentences, or places that could use elaboration or more specific detail. A family member or friend, or your real estate agent should be fine.
When I am editing a client’s cover letter, I try to edit minimally because I want my client’s voice to be heard. I send the edited draft back for their final review and if they are happy- they give me their OK and I package it with their offer and send it and cross our fingers!!!
Fixtures are items that are attached to the property. Their presence enhances the use and enjoyment of property and they transfer upon sale to the new owner. Fixtures are part of a broader category of property known in law as real property. Think of them as “belongs to the real estate”.
Some example of common fixtures are: Garage Doors, openers and remotes, Wine Coolers, Video Projectors + Screens, Dishwashers, built-in speakers and sound systems, Recessed Lighting, Baseboards and Molding, HVAC systems, Fireplace Screens and Fake Logs, Pool equipment, Chandeliers, Gates, Sheds and Fences, Security Systems and alarms, planted landscaping (but not potted plants), and Window Coverings such as blinds, Shutters and curtains (however be sure to specify curtains in writing!)
Fixtures are not personal property (which is not conveyed). Personal Property “belongs to the owner”. Personal property is anything that if you turned the house upside down and shook it would fall out. Some examples of personal property are Flat Screen TVs (what about the Flat screen TV wall mounts?), Safes, furniture, rugs, kitchen utensils, food, bicycles and cars, clothing, pictures and paintings etc.
As you can imagine, differentiating between fixtures and personal property can get confusing!
For agricultural properties like an orange grove- the Orange trees are considered fixtures, but the oranges are personal property.
A lamp is personal property, while a ceiling fan is a fixture.
Keep in mind that everything in real estate is negotiable. Personal Property, like furniture, or even a car, can be included in a sale, and fixtures can be excluded from a sale.
Sometimes sellers will want to exclude a fixture from the sale. I recommend to sellers who want to keep their curtains, or chandelier, or washer dryer, or whatever- to just removed them before they list if possible, and replace them with a comparable substitute. That way the buyer won’t see it and fall in love. So there is nothing to argue about. Communication is key. If you clearly communicate exclusions and inclusions that is the best way to avoid hurt feelings and disputes.
The biggest issue I see with fixtures is when buyers expect a fixture is included in the sale, to discover at their final walk through that the fixture has been removed without their approval. This can really sour a deal. Remember in Real Estate, disclose, disclose, disclose. If you are unclear about what is staying or going put it in writing.
Paragraph 8 of The Residential purchase contract specifies inclusions and exclusions. There are special boxes given for the big appliances since they are expensive, and movable, so it is good to indicate if the Fridge, Stove, and Washing Machines are part of the sale.
Not sure if something is a fixture?
M-A-R-I-A is an acronym for the legal test the State of California uses to determine whether an item is considered a fixture or personal property.
Method of attachment. Is the item permanently affixed to the wall, ceiling or flooring by using nails, glue, cement, pipes, or screws? Would removing the item damage the property? Even if the item is easy to remove, it may still be a fixture.
Adaptability. If the item becomes an integral part of the home, it cannot be removed. For example, a security system. One could argue that custom designed appliances such as a Miele wine refrigerator can be considered a fixture, although it can be unplugged, because it fits inside a specified space.
Relationship of the parties. Buyer to Seller, Landlord to Tenant.
Intention of party when the item was attached. When the installation took place, if the intent was to make the item a permanent attachment, for example, a built-in bookcase, the item is a fixture.
Agreement between the parties. Whatever is written in the Contract rules. If there is nothing in writing, it is not possible to prove the intention of the parties.
Special Notes for Tenants and Buyers- I never recommend to improve a property you do not own. Sometimes buyers will get excited in escrow and start ordering custom drapes, or hire a contractor to do some work. Tenants sometimes will work out “deals” with their landlord to reduce the rent in return for them to upgrade an appliance, or remodel. If the buyer doesn’t close, you are out of pocket for the money spent. For tenants, if they pay to install a fixture in a landlord’s property and get nothing in writing, they will probably have to leave it when they move. Be extra careful when purchasing tenant occupied property to ask the tenant what is their property and what is the owners. Finding out who owns what can save yourself a lot of headaches later on.
‘Multiple offers’ situation is when a listing has received more than one offer. Multiple offers are common during seller’s markets but can happen in any market. Multiples are more prevalent in big cities like Los Angeles where there is higher demand for real estate from large economies and global investment.
-I keep losing Multiple offers- how do I beat the Multi-offer Blues?
Why are there multiples?
Whether a listing gets multiple offers or no offers depends on: the property, market conditions, and listing strategy.
Every real estate location is unique. No two properties are the same (but they can be alike). There is no ‘perfect property’ that every buyer wants AND can afford to buy. To revamp an old saying- Beauty is in the eye of the buyer. Even if you have $10M to spend in Los Angeles, there are still going to be compromises. Properties meet peoples needs. Properties that appeal to the broadest base of buyers will be the easiest to sell and have the highest demand. Affordability can play a big part. For properties that are entry-level or middle of the market, they will receive more offers than luxury properties because there are more buyers plain and simple. Properties that have ‘issues’ or as I like to call them “quirkiness” – tend to be more difficult to sell and get fewer offers. For open-minded buyers who don’t fuss, these properties can be great opportunities. What they may lack in one department they may make up for in spades in another. A classic example is a busy street in a better neighborhood. For buyers who are not as sensitive to noise, they can trade noise for a more desirable location and stay in the same budget. Some other property turn-offs for potential buyers are: Power-lines in the view, crime, no parking, stairs up to the house, lack of natural light, small lot size, odd floorplan, the house looks ugly (not all houses are destined to win a design award- the ugly ones usually make up for it by being larger in size with low price per square foot). With a little creativity, any challenge can be overcome. One of my many real estate mantras is: Everything sells. Everything sells.
The current market conditions affect the likelihood of multiple offers. In Los Angeles, the real estate market goes through a full cycle every 7 to 10 years. The market goes through three phases- Buyers Market, Balanced Market, Sellers Market. When the market is a buyers market, there are more listings than buyers, and inventory is high and days on market are long (typically 6 months to a year). Property values decline in buyer’s markets and multiple offers are rare. In a balanced market, inventory and buyers are fairly balanced, and the average number of months to sell is 3-6, and prices are fairly stable. In seller’s markets, things really speed up. Listings can sell in one or two weeks and garner 5 to 10 to 20 or more offers. The most offers I have ever heard of on a property is 100. I would not want to sort through that pile of offers. Prices are going up in Sellers Markets as buyers compete with each other for a limited supply of properties. Multiple offers are very common during seller’s markets.
Some areas of Los Angeles like the Eastside, or the Valley, and Fixer-upper Properties too, regularly price properties 5% to 10% below market to encourage multiple offers. New buyers to the market are sometimes confounded when they make a full asking price offer, to not even receive a counteroffer from the seller! Once you are looking in the market for a month or two, you will have a good idea of what prices listings are selling for versus listing for in your neighborhoods, and whether a property’s list price is high or low. Listings that are priced low appear like great deals and get buyers excited- but don’t be fooled! A lot of times with the pricing under market strategy, the listing price is just a teaser price. On the Westside, it is very common for listings to be listed for 5 – 10% over the market price. Sometimes even as high as 20%! When listings come on the market that are overpriced, they tend to sit around for a while until they have a price reduction or the market catches up to them if it is going up. It can get very weird with these high priced listing. They can sit for months with no offers, and then all of a sudden have multiple offers. One sophisticated Westside socialite once told me- “the Higher the Price- the Higher the Offer!”.
What does Multiples Offers mean for the buyer?
Multiple offers means paying higher prices. Buyers competing with each other raises prices. As a general rule, the more offers a property receives; the higher the final sale price. If a property is listed for $600,000 and has three offers, it might go for $625,000 or something like that. If that same $600,000 listing gets 10 offers, maybe it will sell for $650,000. If that same property has 20 offers, maybe it will sell for $750,000 or even as high as $800,000, there is no telling.
First showing on R3 Property in Hollywood with multiple offers
Will the Seller send me a Multiple Offer Counter Offer?
In my experience when a seller has two or more offers, they usually send a multiple offer counter offer. For buyers, their first offer is rarely their best offer. Sellers want the highest price, but they also want to treat everyone who submitted an offer on their property fairly. By giving everyone who wrote an offer an opportunity to make their best and final- everyone has an equal chance to put their best bid forward.
When the number of offers gets high, around 10 or more- there is a lot of work involved with preparing counteroffers. Usually, the seller will pick 3-5 of the best offers to counter and reject the rest. It is very important if you think it is likely to be a multiple offers situation to put a strong offer forward first. It may be scary to write an offer in the dark above list, but if you write too low, you may not be considered. Of course, if the price goes outside of your budget or what you are willing to pay for the property, then the point is moot.
What can I do to stop the listing agent from “Shopping my Offer”?
Listing agent’s love multiple offers. Nothing feels better for a listing agent than showing their sellers what a good job they are doing for them by meeting with them and presenting multiple offers. Some listing agents, when they receive their first offer, will try to create multiple offers by notifying every real estate agent and buyers who saw the property that they have received an offer.
Every real estate agent does things different. Some agent’s will appreciate a strong offer, and not shop it because they don’t like playing games. Others, will act like the town crier and march around town square with a bell in one hand and the offer in the other hand yelling at the top of their lungs “I HAVE AN OFFER!” for anyone drunk or sober to hear.
One way to combat shopping offer syndrome is to write a short expiration on your offers or ‘response due upon presentation’ clause. The default expiration time for an offer is 3 days, shortening the response to 1 day can create some urgency. Unfortunately, if it’s a very strong seller’s market and the listing agent knows it they usually won’t be swayed. Sellers don’t need you. They have plenty of buyers vying for an opportunity to buy their property, so in these markets, you don’t have as much leverage.
If you know the listing agent has loose lips and you don’t want them spilling the beans about the details of your offer, try to submit your response right at the deadline. That way, anyone calling before to fish for information on the other offers, won’t get an extra information about what you are up to.
Should I write a complete offer?
Absolutely yes. If your offer is not accompanied by documentation backing it up it will be thrown in the trash. If you are planning on financing the purchase make sure you include a preapproval letter, and have a bank statement or stock account to show proof of funds for down payment and closing costs. I also strongly recommend writing a cover letter.
What should I expect to see in the sellers Multiple Counter Offer?
Seller Counters always say something about price. Usually seller’s don’t specify a specific price but instead, ask for the buyers “best and final” offer. This can be frustrating for buyers because buyers just want to know how much it is to buy the property and don’t want to play a guessing game. But, the seller honestly doesn’t know. It is not up to them. It depends on the buyers, and which buyer is the highest bidder.
The counter-offer usually gives 2 or 3 days to respond, so there is some time to think it over before making your best and final bid. Most of the time the seller will not accept an offer before the counter offer deadline has passed. In rare occasions, a counteroffer will come back so strong that the seller is convinced there will not receive a better offer and they just accept it.
A less popular counter offer strategy for sellers with price, is to put the price of the highest offer the seller has received “or higher”. If I was the highest offer, I wouldn’t be happy. It feels a lot like the seller is using the highest offer to provoke other buyer to pull off an upset. Why make the strongest offer feel like they are being abused, when they are probably the most likely to tender the highest offer?
Sometimes the seller will just counter all the offers with the price they want if all the offers they have received are short. This can happen when a seller listed their property low to attract multiple offers but the offers didn’t get high enough for them to get the price they wanted, or they decided once they received a bunch of offers, that they want more money. As a buyer, I would doubt the sellers motivation to sell when I see this term appear in a counter offer, because the seller is trying to dictate to buyers how much to pay. It can work, if a buyer is willing to pay that price. It can also backfire and make buyers lose interest in the property if they feel the seller is unreasonable or unrealistic.
Sellers asking for “best and final” is the norm. I advise buyers faced with this difficult situation, to ask themselves “what price would you offer and if you didn’t get the property you would not be upset”. Then if you lose in multiples you don’t have to second guess yourself or feel regret that you should have big higher.
In multiple offer situations, the seller not only can go for a higher price but also can try to improve the sale terms as well.
Sellers usually try to reduce or eliminate buyer contingencies. There are three main contingencies in buyers offers: Inspection, Appraisal, and Loan.
The Inspection Contingency timeline, by default is 17 days. Multiple offer counters will reduce this to 10 days, or in some cases as little as 7 days. Some sellers will try to write in “sold as is” language into their counter to discourage buyers from making a request for repairs. If there are no presale inspection reports, this clause is pretty flimsy. However, if the seller provides a full bevy of different inspection reports, they are expecting you to factor any of the problems found in the reports into your offer price and not to ask for a credit or repair for them later.
Appraisals are another point of contention. What is the point for the seller of getting buyers prices up, when the buyer will ask for a lower price when the appraisal falls short. In strong sellers markets where prices are rising quickly, appraisals often do fall short. The seller wants to know that if the appraisal falls short the buyer will cover it. It is not uncommon to see sellers asking for the appraisal contingency to be removed. No Appraisal happens a lot during boom years when the market goes up 10% to 20% a year.