"What can I get you?" the waitress politely asked.
"Hmmm, everything looks good, I can't decide between the waffle or the pancakes," my breakfast companion said. (Pancakes, of course).
"Let me give you a minute to make up your mind," the busy waitress replied. "I'll get you some coffee in the meantime."
Coffee or tea?
Pancakes or waffles?
Sausage or bacon?
If only buying a house was as easy as ordering breakfast.
It's not. Obviously, there's a lot more on the line when it comes to purchasing a home. If you don't like the waffle, it's no big deal; you can send it back and change your order. Unfortunately, that's not true of houses. Like children (or a dog), a home is a rather LARGE COMMITMENT. Moreover, a home is a MAJOR life purchase that you are likely going to be living in for the next several years - if not for several decades, which is why Buyers can suddenly hem and haw on a property they were 100% committed to yesterday, only to have second thoughts today . . . .
Let me remind you, If you are AT ALL ambivalent - it's not your house!
Not that we don't want you to buy; Realtors only get paid for consummated transactions. However, It's NOT an Agent's job to "sell" you a house that won't meet your family's growing needs or push you into something that blows the budget. So make this decision carefully because once made, there's very little room for recourse or backtracking.
Given the lack of available housing stock, the historically low-interest rates, and the highly competitive nature of Real Estate, nearly every good house is in high demand, AND almost every winning offer is going to be NON-contingent. Put another way, you gotta love the property before plunking down your hard-earned dollars, 'cuz you are going into battle and your good-faith money could be at risk if you change your mind.
The good-faith deposit (aka "consideration") is typically 3% of the purchase price and this part of the down payment is meant to keep a Buyer fully engaged. If there's a change of heart midstream, you could very well lose tens of thousands of dollars should the Seller fail to procure the same offer amount once the house goes back on the market - and that's a distinct possibility. (Properties that fall out of escrow are often surrounded by question marks, whether valid or not, ie: What's wrong with the house?)
Finally, if you're a person that has a difficult time coming to a decision, no matter what market forces are at play, this is definitely NOT the market for you. Throwing a low-ball offer into the mix "just to see," isn't a winning strategy, nor will it miraculously secure the property. Unless you are the only interested party come time to bid, your due diligence will be fairly limited, and that non-contingent offer will leave you without a safety net. That being said, if you want the house, you'll need to write your highest and best and give it your all.
"But we figure there are $250,000 of upgrades, which is why we're deducting that amount from our offer."
I hear you, but it's not going to save you.
Or put less bluntly, your concerns are entirely valid but I guarantee you that someone else has thrown away the spreadsheet and is far more interested in the "value proposition" than in the math.
So jump in with both feet, pony up, and at least give yourself a fighting chance to play; otherwise, there's not much point in writing at all. (That's three metaphors in one sentence if anybody's counting.) In other words, say goodbye to ambivalence.
Once you get the house, we can celebrate with pancakes! (Yum.)
How can we help you?
Question: Pancakes or waffles?
Bonus Round: From what movie did I lift the quote: "I hear you, but it's not going to save you."?
Julie Gardner, has been writing The Perspective for 15 years and has published more than 600 essays. She is also a frequent contributor to the Sound Off column in the Real Estate section of The San Francisco Chronicle.