The coronavirus pandemic changed a lot: More people are working from home, families want to optimize their down time and everyone is craving great outdoor living areas.
Need a bigger house to accomplish all that? It’s complicated right now, Laura Slyman, owner of Slyman Real Estate, told Knox News.
There is a shortage of available homes in Knoxville’s sizzling real estate market, and homes with amenities like pools and home offices are even more rare.
Because of the steep competition to buy a house, local and out-of-state buyers are purchasing properties almost immediately after they’re listed. And buyers are often paying well over the asking price to seal the deal.
So when you find a house you want, what will make your offer stand out to sellers? Slyman said it doesn’t just come down to money. Here’s her advice as a real estate agent with more than 20 years of expertise.
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Work with a well-connected agent
When buying in Knoxville’s hot real estate market, it’s all about who your real estate agent knows and what they can learn about the sellers.
“Real estate had always been about relationships, but it’s even more about relationships now,” Slyman said.
Working with someone who is familiar with other agents makes negotiations easier for everyone. When your agent is able to understand a seller’s background, motivations and timeline, they can help you make your offer more appealing.
A personal letter might even help.
“If you’re 80 years old and you’ve lived in your house for 50 years and raised your three kids there, when you read the letter from the family that has three children and wants to move into your home, that’s who you relate with and want to buy your home,” Slyman said.
Make an offer early
Houses are going fast, so it’s important to be the first, or at least one of the first, buyers to make an offer.
Some sellers might only offer 15-minute house tours for each prospective buyer, meaning decisions have to be made quickly and buyers have to be ready at all times.
Getting an offer in early also helps sellers avoid the exhaustion of around-the-clock showings.
“Sometimes, we have houses on the market on Monday, and an agent will say they’ll take offers all week until Friday at 6 p.m. Other times, sellers get worn out,” Slyman said. “They’re having 15 showings a day, and they’re ready to come home. They want it to be over.”
Skip the home sale contingency in your contract
Buyers must be committed to moving if they’re in the market to buy, and a home sale contingency could hurt your offer.
A home sale contingency is a clause commonly included in a real estate sales contract or an offer. With a home sale contingency in place, the transaction is contingent on the sale of the buyer’s home. If the buyer’s house sells by the specified date, the contract moves forward. But if it doesn’t, the contract is terminated.
“You can’t win an offer very likely right now with a home sale contingency, even if your house is under contract,” Slyman said. “The seller looks at it as risk. Even if it’s minimal risk, there’s still risk. And if they’re looking at five other offers without risk, they’re not going to take yours.”
Be prepared to pay over asking price
Most homes in Knoxville and similar cities across the country are selling for way over the asking price.
Slyman said that’s the result of low inventory, high demand and out-of-state buyers who can pay in cash and above the asking price.
“They’re just wanting to be here, and they will figure it out when they get here,” Slyman said of out-of-state buyers. “If it’s not the right house, they’ll sell and find another. They just want to secure something – that’s the competition for local buyers.”
Compromise and patience are key
You might have to settle on your wish list items in order to settle in Knoxville.
Slyman said, on average, her buyers bid on five homes. Some clients have made offers on many more.
“Buyers just don’t have a lot of choices right now,” Slyman said. “It’s a seller’s market, so they set the terms.”
According to the Knoxville Area Association of Realtors, there are approximately 1,700 homes on the market in Knox and surrounding counties. It’s impossible to know exactly how many buyers are searching for homes in the area, but Slyman and other professionals agree those buying outnumber those selling.
Buyers likely won’t get everything they want and might need to wait until moving day to add upgrades. Many sellers are staying in the home while they can find another place to live or until their next home is built.
“Remember, the seller is human, too,” Slyman said. “Everybody’s looking to have the least amount of risk and to secure housing.”
Other advice for buyers
Living in an up-and-coming city has its advantages, but it also can be a curse for local residents who want to buy a bigger home.
“I think for buyers, the question is, ‘How am I going to win?,’ and the answer is, we don’t really know,” Slyman said. “Sometimes it’s price or who the family is or the fact that you have strong financial terms or that you’re letting them stay there for 60 days so they’re not having to go rent an apartment. I mean, every situation is different.”
The good news for buyers, Slyman said, is inventory is on the rise.
“We are in a better inventory stage than we have been all year,” Slyman said. “We are seeing it change every day. I’ve got more listing appointments this week than I’ve had in the last probably two months combined. I mean, it’s busy, and there is hope.”