It’s never been a better time to be a consumer in America. I can go online right now and, provided I have the funds, buy just about anything my heart desires and get it delivered right to my door.
It’s crazy to think that I can get a hamburger from Five Guys delivered to my door within an hour. What a time to be alive! But when it comes to buying a new home, that is a much different story. You can’t get your new home delivered to you in an hour. You have to go out and start shopping in real life.
As we work with buyers, there are some stubborn myths that keep coming up over and over. Especially here in the Puget Sound area. Here are the Top 5 Home Buying myths we are bumping up against.
Myth #1: There’s a bidding war on EVERYTHING.
Recently The Seattle Times ran a piece entitled “Seattle-area housing market is ‘on steroids’; see what’s happening near you“ You can read that here.
In the email blast that accompanied the Times article, the tease was: “A Beacon Hill house in ‘awful condition’ drew seven all-cash offers, with the winner ponying up significantly more than the asking price. It’s one sign of how sizzling competition sent King County home prices rocketing upward last month at a pace not seen since June. And in one part of the county, prices are up 30% over last year.”
When people see these stories in the media, it can lead to thinking that every single house is going above asking price and that maybe it would be smart to just sit this one out. Who wants to get into a bidding war
That is simply not true. Here are the latest stats from Windermere Research. For King County, when you look at just residential listings, it is an incredibly high 64% of listings that sold above asking price in March 2021. But when you add in other housing types like condos, that number drops to 58%.
I’m not going to try and sugar coat that number and say that it’s not difficult out there for buyers right now. I just want to point out that just under half of the properties sell at or below list price. The trick is knowing which is which and having a game plan to buy in the 42% of the market where you’re not in a bidding war. We have a plan for that.
Myth #2: I will have to waive all contingencies to “win” a house.
The second biggest myth we run into is that a buyer in this market will have to waive every contingency that protects them in order to get their offer accepted. This statement is also not true, unless you’re only looking at homes that are ending up in bidding wars. For that type of house, you will need to consider waiving things to make your offer more competitive.
Having said all that, there are strategies where we can still give you protection as a buyer and still remain competitive. The biggest example is what’s called a Pre-Inspection. This is where you can get an inspection done prior to making an offer and get the protections of an inspection and still be able to waive the contingency in your offer. There is an out of pocket expense, but you are getting the best of both worlds.
With a little bit of hustle, you can get the knowledge and assurances that the contingencies are intended to provide while still crafting a winning offer.
Myth #3: I need to have a huge down payment.
This Myth is wrapped up in all the hyperbolic stories we are all hearing about the outlier properties that get into bidding wars and have all cash offers. Yes that does happen for truly unique and special listings, but it’s by no means the norm across all price brackets and all locations.
The purpose of the down payment is to show your lender and by proxy, show the sellers, that you are a serious buyer. The logic goes like this: from the lender’s perspective, the more money you invest in the property on the front end, the less likely you are to default and walk away from the property. Remember all those zero down loans that were all the rage in 2006? If you had one of those loans and then you lost your job, it was very easy to just default on the loan. You had next to nothing invested. The lender then gets stuck with the house and has to pay attorneys to foreclose and then sell the property as a Bank Owned Asset. They really don’t want to do that.
When you put a good chunk of money down – the magic number is 20% – banks now deem you as not a flight risk, because you have invested significant cash into the property.
That 20% number also removes the PMI requirement for a buyer. PMI stands for private mortgage insurance and it’s an additional fee tacked on to your monthly mortgage payment when you put less than 20% down. PMI is another story for another article but suffice it to say, that anything north of 20% is plenty good to buy a house.
There are tons of programs where you can be a viable buyer for less than 20% down. You just need to choose your prospective houses and loan programs accordingly. We have strategies for that too. Members of the Military, teachers, even Boing or tech workers all have potential loan programs out there. There are even loans for first time buyers that don’t have a big down payment. We can get you hooked up with a lender that can help with this process.
Myth #4: I should avoid a home that has ANY problems.
This is a very stubborn myth for home buyers. Especially first time buyers. People are so accustomed to buying new things, they want their home to be perfect. Buying a house is not like buying an iPhone. Houses don’t come from a factory in China pre-built in shiny new packaging. They typically are stick built on the lot and therefore have a multitude of quirks. Nearly every home is “used.” You are buying it from another owner, not a builder. So there is going to be wear and tear on the systems in the home.
I like to think of it like a sea-saw. The more and more “perfect” a house is pushing down on one side of the sea-saw, the higher the demand and price will go on the other side of the sea-saw.
I once had a client who said they didn’t want to write an offer because the kitchen wall was red. I tried to point out that you could paint that wall for $50 and a weekend, but they were not having it.
If you lean in to solving a few issues with a house, you can vastly improve your odds of finding a home that you can afford and one that will not be a victim of a bidding war.
You’d be surprised at what a difference a fresh coat of paint and pulling out old carpets can make in a house.
Myth #5: I need perfect credit to buy in this market.
Our final myth for today’s buyers is that you have to have a credit score in the 800s to buy in this market. Obviously, a great credit score helps, but it’s not mandatory.
The way it actually works is that the lower your score, the higher your interest rate will be. There is a cutoff point where lenders will no longer lend a conforming loan – but again, that’s outside the scope of this article. The takeaway is you can still be a buyer, but you won’t be getting that 2.875% loan that we heard so much about.
The other solution to this is to raise your credit score – then buy a house. We have resources and professionals that can take a look at your finances and help you to raise your score in a matter of months. For some folks it could take longer, but it you’ve been dreaming of buying a property, it costs you nothing to start the process of raising your credit score.
We can help you figure out how to buy, even if there are some blemishes on your credit.
Those are the Top 5 Myths for Home Buyers we are seeing. We have strategies to overcome all of them. Let’s talk about it in a Ron and Don Sit Down. You can get a free guide for buyers on our website. Then let’s set up a time to talk
Ron Upshaw is a Licensed Agent at
Windermere Real Estate Midtown
1920 North 34th Street
Seattle, WA 98103.