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Welcome to the 2021 Spring House Hunt

Mar 30, 2021 06:00AM ● By Pamela Johnson
The spring house hunt this year is something like the Easter egg hunts of my childhood. Remember the days when you would get all ramped up to get out into the yard, basket in hand, scrambling against the clock and the rest of the neighborhood kids in hopes of being the first to find the golden egg? It was a competition for sure with the coveted shiny egg and its 10-dollar tag--the ultimate prize.  

House hunting this spring takes on a similar urgency with consequences of a monumental scale as inventories for single-family, condos, and rentals have reached a record low. This puts buyers in an extremely competitive situation as they try to find their new home. To put it into perspective, as I am writing this (March 15), there are a mere 5 single-family homes on the market in Bellingham. Twenty-eight are under contract waiting to close.  

Buyers lying in wait, pre-approvals in hand; love letters to sellers already written, sitting in a buyer’s draft file waiting for the right opportunity to be presented. Lines forming outside open houses tell the tale better than I can. The market is brisk. Buyers must make quick decisions. 

The thought of making such a large emotional and financial decision after a measly fifteen-minute viewing is challenging, but it has become the norm this year. Add the need for a quick decision to knowing that they will be up against multiple offers puts buyers in a most precarious situation.

How do you secure the golden egg in this extreme seller market? It is important to develop an offer strategy that puts your best foot forward right out of the gate. In this market, that strategy is just as essential as your housing wants and needs. It is not uncommon to have one shot and one shot only. There are times when a seller will respond to all offers with a “best and final” scenario, but you cannot count on that. Increasingly that is not always the case. The conventional thinking that a seller will come back to all offers is changing. Many sellers will select one out of the pack and go with it. If you do not go best foot forward, you might lose any chance at all to revise your offer. With that in mind how do you determine what is the best offer you can present?

By now most buyers know that they have to have a good preapproval. Now it is critical that it be from a reputable lender, preferably stating that credit and income have been checked; it references the type of program; and it indicates the amount of down payment with any other pertinent information that will shed positive light. A buyer should do as much homework as possible prior to the viewing--checking out the comparable sales, zoning, neighborhood amenities etc. It is comforting to be fully informed when a quick decision must be made. Having a great seller love letter can be helpful as well. I recently had a buyer refer to a seller’s backyard as their “field of dreams.” Apparently the seller agreed because with three almost identical offers, the “field of dreams“won out.  

What about price? With stiff competition, how do you know what to offer these days? Naturally, you rely on your agent’s experience in the marketplace and an in-depth evaluation of comparative sales. That being said, what’s the right amount in a multiple situation--knowing you might have just one shot? I like to look at it this way: what is the amount you would be willing to pay knowing that if you lost the home to a higher or stronger offer you would not lose sleep over your decision? Said from a position of personal experience, it is that amount that you might want to offer. Keep your offer clean. Do not ask for a seller’s personal possessions; keep dates as tight as possible and contingencies to a minimum.  

Yes, the 2021 spring house hunt is in full bloom. Experts say that it is going to continue. Maybe it won’t be as much fun as an egg hunt but just as competitive. Regardless, if you are prepared, you will end up with the prize!   

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