For First Time Buyers: A Word of Advice


I am a real estate agent in the Raleigh area market, where we are in a terrible housing shortage, particularly in the first time buyer price point.  Here, many of our first timers use USDA funding in order to get 100% financing, and most of them don’t have enough discretionary money to cover all of their closing costs (some can’t cover ANY).  Often this is because they’ve just finished paying off student loans and can finally, barely qualify to buy a home of their own and get out of the rental racket.

Today, for every home under 150K that pops onto the market, there are about 8 offers on the table in a matter of hours.  First time buyers are offering at LEAST $5000 dollars above list price in order to have a remote chance at having their offer accepted and I’m guessing many of these folks will be disappointed by a low appraised value, potentially after they have spent a lot of money on inspections.  Bad idea.

What this means is:  1) The home is most likely NOT going to “appraise” at that list-price-plus-closing-cost price, because homes are ALREADY priced at the high end of the range due to demand.  2)  If the home does not appraise, then young buyer must bring to closing the difference between appraised value and offer price, or walk away and lose the hard earned due diligence money they put on the table with the offer.  First time buyers looking for sellers to ‘pay their closing costs’ cannot AFFORD to lose that due diligence money and forget about having them bring the difference to closing.  And by the way, sellers are taking FULL advantage of the situation by asking for HUGE due diligence amounts from people barely able to get into the market in the first place.  They do this because the likelihood of an over-list-price home appraising at the higher value is LOW; so the seller stands to be able to pocket whatever amount of due diligence money the potential buyer put forth.

First time buyers, please listen carefully.  If you offer above appraisal value and it actually works, you go into your first home “upside down”.  What you WANT is to walk in with some equity, and in this market that’s hard to pull off; but going in under water is just a bad idea.

So please consider this:  SAVE money to pay your closing costs, or at least SOME of them,  yourself.  That way, you can offer full list price and ask for ZERO closing cost assistance from the seller.  OR…ask for a monetary gift from a family member (with a letter stating such). You might just have a chance at having your offer accepted in that circumstance, and you won’t be upside down when you close.  Talk with your lender about what you have to do in order to accept a gift and make sure that’s allowed by your loan type, but it’s usually an option for you.

Listen, if you have to finance in your closing costs, you are advertising to a seller, who already has a pile of offers on the table, that you can’t afford the house, or that you have no skin in the game.  Either or both of those advertisements will get your offer rejected in record time.  Sellers want to know that you have invested enough to stick around through the whole process, because if you walk away, that seller has lost VALUABLE marketing time.  Sellers don’t like losing hot market time, with perfectly good reason.  If they view you as cash-poor, that makes you a bad risk in their minds.  In this market, sellers don’t NEED to accept a bad risk. There are too many good ones on the table.

This market is NOT the one where you can expect the sellers to fund your way into a house.  YOU have to contribute.  If you cannot, your best bet is a new home from a builder.  Builders have deep pockets and usually offer some closing cost assistance, although it’s minimal in the under-150K price point.  In short: you need money to buy a house.  Remember you may have to pay for inspections, and that can add up pretty fast if you do home, HVAC, roof,septic, well and crawl space inspections and a survey.

I love working with first time buyers, but if I always, always have to be the one to tell you that won’t work, you can’t do that, your offer was rejected, etc…then I end up being the bad guy and I’m not a bad guy.  This is just a twisted, crazy market, and your only viable option is to understand the market and play by its rules.

I once had a builder tell me he was just going to “ignore the market” and keep selling.  That was when the market was crashing.  Want to make a guess how that turned out?  It was a disaster, of course!  You cannot just ignore reality; you MUST operate within it.

So…know what you face going in, prepare monetarily, and prepare with patience.  You may submit several offers before yours gets accepted.  Meanwhile, SAVE SAVE SAVE!  I wish you the very best of luck and I’m proud of you for getting to the point where you can buy your first home!  Let’s get together, talk things through, and get you prepared for this crazy market.


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