No matter which side of the transaction you're on, you don't want to give up more than you have to.
After months of searching for the perfect home, making some offers, and maybe even competing with other buyers, you finally have a deal on your dream home. It took some negotiations, but you and the seller have come to terms.
Or have you?
Too often, getting a signed contract and putting your money into escrow is the beginning of what can become yet another round of negotiations. Here are five things every home buyer and seller should know about last-minute negotiations or credits.
Buyers may ask for credits based on property inspections.
Usually, a real estate contract either provides for a property inspection, or buyers inspect before signing. Depending on the property and the issues, a buyer might also have a particular type of inspection for the sewer line, septic, pool or roof.
These inspections can bring to light issues that the buyer couldn’t possibly have known about before making an offer. Once inspected, the buyer may still be interested in pursuing the sale. But given the needed repairs they will probably want to re-negotiate the price by asking for credits or a reduction in the purchase price.
Sellers should consider having a property inspection before listing.
The goal is to avoid negotiations once you’re under contract, because they’re not going to be in your favor. If you know the roof is near the end of its life or the furnace breaks from time to time, let it be known upfront, because rarely can you “sneak” something past the buyer.
You might even go as far as having your property inspected before listing the home. This way, you can address any issues, and make the inspection report available to buyers. They can come up with their best offer upfront, knowing what they’re getting.
If you have an inspection report or are otherwise assured your property is in great shape, you could even ask for an “as-is” clause in the contract. Although it’s not necessarily enforceable, it will send a strong message to the buyers that you aren’t open to more negotiation.
Sellers may try to avoid giving credits by having work done before escrow closes.
After inspections, the seller might agree to have work done before the closing. Or the seller may require that a payment is given directly to a contractor for the purpose of performing the specific, required work and nothing else.
These agreements help protect the seller, because buyers sometimes ask for credits just to help offset the closing costs — and never intends to do the repair work.
It also protects the seller if initial estimates for needed work turn out to have been overstated.
Buyers who ask for credits just to get the price down may be taking a chance.
Sometimes the buyer concedes on the purchase price thinking they can come back after the property inspection and ask for an additional concession.
The buyer may even feel empowered now that they’ve completed a series of inspections and are just weeks away from closing. The seller isn’t going to go back to the drawing board with a new buyer over a few more dollars, right?
Actually, they might. If it’s a strong buyer’s market, there’s a good chance the buyer can pull it off, but if it’s more of a neutral or a seller’s market, the seller may call your bluff. They’re assuming that you’re the one who, having invested all this time and money on inspections and an appraisal, isn’t going to walk away over a few dollars.
Buyers nearly always ask for credits, so sellers should give themselves some cushion.
You should also leave some additional room for negotiation when you’re in escrow. Always assume the buyer will ask for minor repair work — they nearly always do, even if there are no major issues. If you leave some cushion for yourself, you’ll feel better about the deal, and you’ll have protected yourself against the inevitable.
Conversely, the last thing you want is to be blindsided by a buyer asking for a few thousand dollars credit — just when you think the deal is finally done.
Whether you've lived in your home for a day or a decade, buckle up — homeownership can be a wild ride
You may live in your home for two years, or you may hunker down for two decades. But no matter how long you call it yours, you’ll likely experience these four key stages of homeownership — from the day you get your keys to the day you hand them off to your home’s new owner.
Read on to learn more about what to expect from each phase.
Phase 1: Starting out
The “sold” sign is posted, your belongings are packed, and the day finally arrives — you get the keys to your new home. You open the front door, and possibilities abound. How will you decorate? Where will that new couch go? Which rooms will the kids choose?
This first phase is all about unpacking, settling in, and getting to know your new home. If you’ve upsized from a smaller home, you may be tempted to jump in and start filling all that extra space.
And while you may be eager to make your mark on your new home’s interior (or exterior), Diana Bohn, a Seattle-based agent with Windermere Real Estate, warns against making extensive changes to a home right after moving in.
“It’s always good to be in your home for a year or so before knocking down any walls,” she explains. “Get your furniture in there, unpack, and see how the home lives. It’s hard to know how the space is going to feel until you’ve been there for a while. Go through all the seasons at least once.”
Phase 2: Settling in
It may take you a few months to move into the second phase — or even a few years (we won’t judge if you still have packed boxes gathering dust after a year or two). But this phase is when your house becomes a home, and you start enjoying your everyday life in the space.
You’ve figured out where all your belongings should go, you’ve done the bulk of your decorating, and you’re getting to know your neighbors and a few local hangouts. You’ve likely celebrated the holidays in your home a time or two, welcomed out-of-town guests, and gotten to know (and love?) your home’s unique quirks.
Phase 3: Fixing up
If the housing market continues its current upward trend, it’s likely that, after even a few years in your home, you’re sitting on some equity. So what should you do with it? Phase 3 is often the time when homeowners can take advantage of equity they’ve gained.
First, if you bought an older home, it may be time to update some of your home’s major systems — think furnace, roof, or windows. Portland, OR-based mortgage broker Lauren Green of Green Family Mortgage recommends researching two options for financing home improvements: home equity lines of credit (HELOC) and cash-out refinances.
“Many people have no idea they can access their home’s equity,” Green says. “They think the only way to take advantage of their home’s increased value is to sell it, but in reality, there are some great ways to access the equity in your home while still living in it.”
Second, after living in your home for a few years, you probably have a better idea of the renovations that would really make your home work for your lifestyle.
“There are lots of reasons why someone may decide to remodel instead of sell and look for a new home,” says Tyler Coke, project manager and business development manager at Marrone & Marrone, a custom home builder and remodeler in the Bay Area. “One thing that appeals to many homeowners is the custom aspect of it. You can design and create exactly the type of space that fits your lifestyle and speaks to how you use your home.”
Phase 4: Moving on
When will you know it’s time to move on? And what will prompt you to move somewhere new?
“Usually, it’s some kind of transition that causes people to sell,” says Bohn. “A new job, a growing family, or downsizing once the kids move out. In big cities, we’re also seeing people moving from more centrally located neighborhoods to farther-flung suburbs, where their money will get them more.”
Whatever your reason for putting your home on the market, the day you sign on the dotted line and close your front door for the last time is likely to be a bittersweet moment. But change can be good, and the next time you buy a home, you’ll be well-versed in all four phases and know just what you’re looking for.
Looking for a new way to give back? Try opening your home to those in need.
When it comes to giving back, most people immediately think of donating time or money to a cause. But another just as effective — and perhaps less thought of — option is sharing your home as a force for good.
Here are six ways to make a difference with your home.
1. Connect your neighbors through reading
Perhaps you’ve seen charming little structures in your neighborhood that are similar to mailboxes but filled with books. Started in 2009, the Little Free Library inspires a love for reading while building community. Purchase or build one of these book-exchange boxes to place in front of your home, and fill it with books you want to share.
2. Host a soldier for the holidays
Live near a military base? Many organizations offer the opportunity to host a soldier for a holiday meal at your home. Connect with your local U.S. Army Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) or Navy MWR resource office to find hosting opportunities.
3. Share your home with a cancer patient and their family
Cancer patients seeking treatment may end up at hospitals and communities far from home. While many hospitals provide lodging, there’s also an opportunity for hosts to step in and provide a homey place to stay.
Programs vary by area, so connect with your local hospital. If you’re in the greater Philadelphia area, check out Hosts for Hospitals or Boston’s Hospitality Homes.
4. Open your home to evacuees
When a natural disaster strikes, entire communities are unable to return home. Launched in 2017, Airbnb Open Homes is a program that works with nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to book homes for people in need, for free. When a disaster occurs, hosts near affected areas are contacted with requests from displaced families and individuals.
5. Provide a safe place for refugees
Those forced to flee their country may not always have the connections and immediate financial resources to find shelter. A spare room or unused part of the house could be a great temporary solution for these refugees while they get on their feet.
Room for Refugees started in the United Kingdom and now works in the U.S. and Canada too. Many other refugee resettlement services offer hosting opportunities, so research the relevant needs in your area.
6. Get creative
Invite your neighbors over for dinner, or throw a progressive dinner party. Hosting a Death Over Dinner party is a great way to talk about end-of-life care for you or someone you love. Other ideas include hosting a lecture series, documentary viewing or craft night, all in an effort to build community right where you live.
It's essential to have the right marketing plan, pricing strategy and real estate agent.
When shopping for a home, it’s not uncommon to come across one that truly stands out. It’s not because the home is an old fixer-upper or that it’s a newly renovated home with a designer kitchen. It’s a home that’s architecturally significant or in some way conveys a “different” attribute. For instance, it might be a castle, a church or even a fire station that has been converted into one or more living spaces.
With an unusual home, pricing and marketing can be a challenge. Here are three things to keep in mind when either buying or selling a truly unique property.
1. Buyers should be cautious
As crazy as it sounds, a would-be buyer may want to reconsider purchasing an offbeat home. While it may be a home you love, it is also an investment. A home with a unique, unchangeable structural feature will likely alienate a large portion of the market.
If you’re faced with the opportunity to purchase a unique home, don’t get caught up in the excitement of it all. Think long term. Understand that when it comes time to sell, it may be a burden, particularly if you try to sell in a slow market.
2. When selling, don’t assume buyers will love what you love
As the owner of an interesting or different home who is considering a sale, be aware that not everyone will have the same feeling about the home as you did when you bought the place. While you’re likely to get lots of activity, showings and excitement over your property, a lot of that may simply be curious buyers, nosy neighbors or tire kickers.
Time after time, sellers with unique homes believe that since they fell head over heels, another buyer who might feel the same. But that person could be hard to find.
3. Hire the right agent and have a serious marketing/pricing discussion
A unique home requires a unique marketing plan and pricing strategy as well as a good agent. The buyer may not even live in your local market, and instead might be an opportunist buyer open to a unique property. So you should consider advertising outside the mainstream circles. Media and press can help get the special home the attention it may need.
The buyer may not want to live in your town but is fascinated by an old church or castle. The more you get this out there, the better your options for finding the specific buyer.
If you get lots of action but few offers, you may need to drop the price below the comparable sales to generate interest, particularly if you really need to sell. Just like a home with a funky floor plan, on a busy intersection or with a tiny backyard, the market for your unique home is simply smaller.
With online home listings, blogging and real estate television shows, unique homes stand out and get more exposure than ever. But selling a distinctive or offbeat property requires out-of-the-box thinking early on, and with a top agent. You only have one chance to make a first impression. Be certain to price the home right, expose it to the masses and have a strategic plan in right from the start.
Dwell shares insider tips after consulting architects, DIY home builders and shipping container experts from around the world.
You’ve decided to join the shipping container revolution. Your plans are drawn up, your site is prepared and your welding torch is ready to transform a discarded steel box into the durable, stylish and sustainable home of your dreams. Now what?
To help you get started, we asked architects, DIY home builders and shipping container experts from around the world for their insider tips on bringing home the best possible container for your building needs.
The first step, they agree, is to find a reputable distributor. “Shipping companies don’t want people calling them for one or 10 containers. They prefer to sell to dealers,” says Barry Naef, director of the ISBU Association (ISBU stands for intermodal steel building units, the term for containers used specifically for construction).
He recommends checking the extensive international list of dealers on the Eco Green Sources website. And don’t despair if you live far from the ocean. Thanks to a network of inland distribution hubs, says Naef, “there are as many [containers] in the mid-U.S. and Canada as there are at the ports, at nearly the same prices.” A dealer can help arrange for overland transport of your container via 18-wheeler truck.
Other sourcing options exist, too. In Zambia, a local NGO supplied Tokyo-based architect Mikiko Endo with old containers it had used to transport donations (she transformed them into maternity clinic housing). In Israel, architect Galit Golany purchased a refurbished container from a prefab construction company, then fixed up the turnkey unit with timber cladding, roofing, a deck and stone base.
Stephen Shoup, founder of Oakland’s building Lab, agrees that looking for a distributor that will do some basic modifications prior to sale is a good idea.
“It’s tons of fun to be standing there with a plasma cutter and a welder and be hacking into these things and pasting them back together, but if you’re encountering engineering issues, then you’re going to need licensed welders. That cost is much more controllable when done at the fabrication shop or shipyard,” says Shoup.
Another option is to purchase a container manufactured specifically for building, like the ones from Toronto-based MEKA or Silhouette Spice in Tokyo. These can be cheaply transported using existing global shipping networks, but are tailor-made to meet building codes (Japan’s are especially strict).
If you do decide to purchase a genuine seafaring container, you’ll need to keep a number of factors in mind. First is size. Although dimensions are generally standardized, your safest bet for projects that join multiple units is to purchase a single brand (perhaps one whose logo you fancy). Houston-based architect Christopher Robertson, who has designed both upscale residential and disaster-relief housing using containers, recommends choosing “high cubes” (HQ), which are about a foot taller than standard, because the smaller size can feel claustrophobic after installing insulation. Lengths vary from 8 to 53 feet, with 20 feet and 40 feet being the most common.
Whichever you choose, Robertson cautions that the costs of transportation and modification quickly add up. “There’s a real misconception that building with containers is absurdly inexpensive. Unfortunately, that’s not true at all,” he says.
Assuming you’re still hooked on the many other benefits of container construction, you’ll need to think about age and condition. Options range from virtually unscathed “one-trippers” to eight-to-10-year-old retired containers, with varying degrees of rust, dents and warping. Your choice depends on your design goals.
For Brook van der Linde, an artist who built a DIY container home with her husband in Asheville, cost and sustainability were more important than perfect condition. “Our goal was to use materials that were headed for the landfill. Our containers were constructed in 2005 so they had a good long life going to China and back,” she says.
Robertson, on the other hand, sought out one-trippers for his residential project. “They’re a little more expensive but they look a lot better,” he explains. “If they start having a lot of dings and rusts, you lose the aesthetic pleasure.”
Although a container’s history is trackable via its serial number, the best way to assess its condition is through a visual once-over prior to purchase. Arrive at the lot armed with a level to check for excessive warping and a checklist of potential problems, such as holes, dents, damaged door seals, and corrosion (a little rust is par for the course). Don’t forget to use your nose, as well. The wood flooring of most containers is treated with toxic pesticides, which you’ll need to seal or remove, and others may have been used to transport unpleasantly odiferous contents.
Finally, once you’ve made your choice, take a deep breath. The toughest — and most enjoyable — phase of building your container home is still to come.