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How to Negotiate an Offer During a Seller’s Market

Contrary to what many people thought would happen when COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic, the real estate market is still booming. Buyers are still buying, and inventory is still low. This means things move quickly, and homes often sell above asking price. Times are completely different than they were a decade ago. Gone are the days of extended negotiation periods and buyers asking for more, more, more. Negotiating an offer on a home can be tricky right now, especially since you’re likely to find yourself in a multiple offer situation. Here’s how to negotiate an offer quickly and effectively during a mid-pandemic seller’s market. 

Be realistic and generous with your offer. 

How low can you go? Not so much. Housing inventory is consistently low across most markets, which means there are more buyers than there are houses for sale. Don’t expect yours to be the only offer a seller receives. You’re going to have to find some way to make your offer more attractive than the others. Not only does your offer need to be realistic, it needs to be generous. It also needs to prove to the seller that you’re serious about buying their home and want to get a move on. 

Show the listing agent and seller that you have the means to buy. 

Don’t get pre-qualified or pre-approved. Go ahead and get a strong approval letter from a local lender who can work quickly. If you’re paying cash, have your proof of funds ready to go. If you’re getting a home loan, you should have a solid loan commitment before you even think about home shopping. Lenders have tightened up guidelines. Oftentimes, they want a higher credit score than they did in the past. Work with an experienced local lender who knows your specific market (and maybe even knows your real estate agent) and can get the job done quickly and efficiently.

Offer a large amount of earnest money.

The bigger the earnest money check, the more serious your offer looks to the seller. When the seller sees that you’re willing to put a large amount of money on the line, they’ll know you’re not likely to back out of the contract for any arbitrary reason. That said, make sure you protect yourself from potentially losing that earnest money by including financing and home inspection contingencies in your offer.

Forget about asking for any extras. 

In a market that favors the seller, you’re much less likely to score any extras or freebies. Be careful about asking for too much, including closing costs or home warranties. Don’t ask for extra appliances or personal items unless specifically stated. In fact, you may want to offer to pay a portion of the seller’s closing costs, like the attorney fees and deed stamps. Offer to pay the HOA transfer fees as well. This will absolutely make your offer more attractive.

Write a personal letter.

Write a letter to the sellers telling them what you love about the home. Introduce yourself and your family, and tell them exactly why their house is perfect for you. Adding this personal touch to your offer helps the sellers see you as a real, live person, not just a bunch of numbers and letters on a contract. It may or may not help your efforts, but it certainly can’t hurt!

Have your agent call the listing agent. 

It is absolutely imperative that you do not do this yourself, but ask your buyer’s agent to do so. Have them ask when the sellers prefer to close and what is most important to them in the contract. There’s some information the listing agent legally cannot share, but little things like these are fine to ask about.

Offer flexibility.

The more flexible you are, the higher your chances are of the seller accepting your offer. Let them know that you’re willing to work with them in whatever capacity they need. If they need a quick closing, so be it. If they need to push the closing date out by a few weeks while they find a new place to live, do your best to make it happen.

While it may feel like you’re giving up an awful lot to be “the chosen one,” such is the nature of real estate. For many years, buyers had the upper hand. Now it’s time to be patient while sellers have their heyday. It’ll be well worth it once you have a completely accepted and signed purchase agreement and move closer to closing day.

 

Friday Five // October 16th, 2020

We’ve come to the end of another week, which means it’s time for the Friday Five, our roundup of five fun events happening in the Charleston area this weekend. Get a special delivery from a beloved princess, shop local artists and artisans, have brunch on the harbor, and more. And as always, no matter what you choose to do, the staff and agents at Johnson & Wilson Real Estate Company hope you have a very happy and safe weekend!

Treat your little ones (or maybe just yourself!) to Pumpkin Deliveries from Cinderella! This Friday between 2:30pm and 6:00pm, Cinderella will be delivering pumpkins to homes across the Lowcountry. For $50 (and $10 per additional child), Cinderella will visit your front yard or other outdoor location for a socially distanced meet and greet and special delivery. Cinderella and the children will stay at least ten feet apart, with the princess placing the sanitized pumpkin a safe distance away. She will then read a story and then pose for socially distanced photos. Visits will be approximately ten minutes long. Check the link above for reservations. 

Join Charleston Music Hall on Friday evening for their Around the Bend series, a socially distanced outdoor concert series at The Bend in North Charleston. This week’s event is Queen of Soul: A Tribute to Aretha Franklin Featuring Black Diamond & Black Noyze. Purchase a socially distanced square for up to four people (must be from the same party). Squares are sectioned off with six-foot aisles in between. Get one free, on-site parking spot with the purchase of each square. No concessions will be available to buy onsite, so bring your own beer, wine, drinks, food, coolers, blankets and chairs. Get tickets and more info at the link above. 

Visit Magnolia Plantation and Gardens this Saturday and Sunday for the 13th annual Autumn on the Ashley Arts and Crafts Fair. Shop dozens of Lowcountry artisans featuring handcrafted items like wood carvings, paintings, textiles, jewelry, photography, natural skincare, lawn art, and more. Autumn on the Ashley is the perfect opportunity to support local talented artists and artisans and get an early start on your holiday shopping. The event takes place from 8:30am until 4:30pm and is free to attend, but attendance to Magnolia Gardens requires basic garden admission.

Enjoy a beautiful Sunday morning on the Charleston Harbor with a relaxing Brunch Cruise aboard the Charleston Princess. Join Charleston Harbor Tours & Events for a well-appointed gourmet buffet brunch from Dish & Design Catering. Brunch includes local favorites liek shrimp and grits with tasso gravy, French toast casserole, scrambled eggs, ham, bacon, country potatoes, assorted fruit, biscuits with jam, butter, and jellies, along with fresh orange juice and freshly brewed, locally roasted coffee. Is your mouth watering yet? Ours surely is! After brunch, head up to the second deck for some live music performed by talented local musicians. This event is family friendly and fun for all! 

Join the Charleston Gaillard Center either in person or via livestream this Sunday for their Five-Year Anniversary Celebration. This special performance celebrating half a decade of enriching the Charleston community will be held exactly five years after the inaugural concert. The celebration takes place from 7pm until 10pm and features a string quartet from the Charleston Symphony Orchestra; Artist-in-Residence and Charleston’s first poet laureate, Marcus Amaker; and Artist-in-Residence Emeritus and Grammy Award-winning Charlton Singleton. Patron safety remains the Gaillard Center’s first priority, so numerous safety measures have been put into place to allow guests to gather safely within the Martha and John M. Rivers Performance Hall. If you cannot attend in person, you can attend the show virtually via online streaming. Find more information and purchase tickets at the link above.

Friday Five // October 9th, 2020

TGIF! It’s time for the Friday Five, our weekly roundup of five fun events taking place in the Charleston area this weekend. Participate in a walk and talk tour, experience a unique outdoor movie event, attend a fall festival, and more. As always, no matter what you choose to do, the staff and agents at Johnson & Wilson Real Estate Company wish you a very happy and safe weekend!

Anyone who’s interested in the history, lore, architecture, gardens, and beauty of Charleston will be thrilled by The Fall Tours, an ongoing seasonal event brought to you by the Preservation Society of Charleston. Fall is the perfect season to fall in love with our beautiful city all over again, and these amazing and informative tours will inspire you to do just that. Visit the Preservation Society’s website to see all their offerings. This weekend’s tour topics include the Charleston Justice Journey Walk and Talk; South of Broad Piazzas, Porches, and Gardens; the ABCs of Architecture Walk and Talk; Charleston Well-Preserved; and the Battery Piazzas, Porches, and Gardens. Get your tickets now as there is a limited daily capacity. No interiors are included in these tours. Face masks and social distancing are required, and there will be sanitation stations at each property. 

October 9th is World Egg Day, so there’s no better time to celebrate the rescheduled Park Pets Doggie Easter Egg Hunt than this weekend! This community celebration is hosted by Park Pets, Sesame Burgers and Beer, DIG in the Park, and Old Hat Vintage. Bring your well-behaved pups on a leash and make sure they have up-to-date rabies tags or certification. Every egg found during the hunt contains a treat or prize for you and your dog. Prizes include gift certificates and other goodies donated by Park Circle Businesses. The event takes place at Park Pets from 10am until 12pm and will be held rain or shine. Admission is $10 per dog. Get your tickets at the link above!

Start your Saturday off on a relaxed, balanced note with Firefly Yoga, a 45-minute outdoor yoga class at Firefly Distillery at Park Circle. This gentle yoga class led by Reagan Sobel is meant for yogis of all levels and is sure to ground you, connect you, and invite calmness and transformation into your life. Social distancing protocols will be in place with mats spaced six or more feet apart. Bring your yoga mat or purchase on onsite for $15. After yoga, stay awhile and enjoy Firefly’s new Park Circle location with live music, food trucks, fun tasting, and the best vodka in town. The class is $10 per person, and tickets can be purchased at the link above.

Also on Saturday, Knightsville General Store and Country Cafe will host its 4th Annual Fall Festival from 11am until 7pm. Fox Ridge Farms Petting Zoo will be at the event, as well as Noble Crest Farm with horse and pony rides. Play lots of fun games, and shop local arts and craft vendors as well. You’ll use tickets to access the petting zoo (2 tickets), pony rides (4 tickets), games (1 ticket each), popcorn (2 tickets), and cotton candy (3 tickets). Ticket prices are $1 each, 11 for $10, or 23 for $20. There will be no refunds for unused tickets, and they may only be used on the listed items.

Experience a drive-in movie experience like no other this weekend with Drive-In The Woods at Woodlands Nature Reserve. This outdoor movie experience takes place on a 6,000-acre reserve that combines the serenity of the outdoors with a spaced-out, safe, and appropriately distanced evening under the stars. Arrive early and enjoy the slightly cooler fall evenings as you enjoy pre-movie live music, hike the reserve, and soak up some sun. When dusk arrives, two full-length features will come to life each night on a 60’x30’ screen in a grassy field flanked by trees. Every Friday and Saturday in October, Drive-In the Woods will have food trucks and vendors onsite as well. Bring your coolers, blankets, and chairs and settle in to watch a film or two with HD audio and FM transmission. Gates open at 5pm with live music until 7pm. The earlier family-friendly feature (PG/PG-13) begins at 7pm, and the late show (rated R) begins at 9:30pm. Tickets are $40 per vehicle for up to four people and are limited to 150 cars. Double feature passes are $60. Check the link above for this weekend’s featured films.

3 Times You Might Lose Your Earnest Money For Good

When a homebuyer presents a seller and their listing agent with a purchase offer, the buyer typically includes something called an earnest money deposit. Earnest money, sometimes called good faith money, is defined as “money paid to confirm a contract.” Earnest money shows the seller that you’re serious about buying their home. How, you ask? Basically, you write a check that goes into an escrow account. It waits there until closing day, when it will be refunded to you or applied toward your closing costs. There are some instances, however, when you might not get that earnest money back. Here are some examples of how to lose your earnest money deposit for good.

You waived your contingencies. 

Sure, a hefty earnest money deposit combined with few-to-no contingencies is a great way to get a seller’s attention and show them you really want to buy their house. But waiving contingencies could create major problems for you later on. For example, if you didn’t take advantage of the home inspection contingency and serious defects are found during the inspection period, you might not be able to back out without forfeiting your earnest money deposit. Similarly, if you’re unable to secure a home loan but waived the financing contingency, the sellers may keep you on the hook for the purchase or keep the earnest money as recompense if you back out. It might sound like a good bargaining tool, but leaving contingencies out of your purchase agreement can be costly.

You ignored the “time is of the essence” bit.

Most purchase agreements will include timelines for certain jobs to be done. For example, it may require a home inspection to be done within two weeks of the agreement being signed. This gives all parties ample time to get their ducks in a row and perform any subsequent tasks that arise from the inspection or appraisal. If you don’t have the inspection completed by the date outlined in the contract, you may be in breach of contract and might have to forfeit your earnest money. 

You got cold feet. 

If you’re under contract and simply decide this property isn’t for you, or you’re just not ready to buy after all, the sellers have every right to keep your earnest money. That said, as long as you haven’t waived those aforementioned contingencies, you have an out. But if you lack any contingencies and just decide not to go through with the purchase, the seller most likely won’t give you your money back. Consider it a consolation prize for them missing out on other buyers while you were under contract. 

No one wants to wave goodbye to a hefty sum of money without having something to show for it. Keep these tips in mind, and you shouldn’t have a problem getting your earnest money deposit back on closing day.

Friday Five // October 2nd, 2020

It’s Friday once again, and you know what that means! It’s time for the Friday Five, our weekly roundup of five fun events taking place around the Charleston area over the weekend. Chase chills and thrills, learn all about a new hobby, hoist a stein to Oktoberfest, and more. As always, no matter what you choose to do, the staff and agents at Johnson & Wilson Real Estate Company hope you have a very happy and safe weekend! 

Beginning this weekend, you can experience gills, chills, and thrills at the South Carolina Aquarium’s Haunted Trail all month long. Enter the Haunted Trail and adventure through eight spooky themed rooms with creepy crawlers, ghostly ghouls, and scary surprises. As you travel through the trail, you’ll find Scare Control sensors marked by LED lights. Wave your hand in front of the sensor to take your frightful thrills to the next level. Note that this attraction is designed to be scary. As such, the recommended minimum age is eight years old. Guests under 13 must be accompanied by an adult. The trail uses strobe effects and flashing lights, near or complete darkness, tight spaces, loud and sudden noises, and uneven/moving floors. Please take these into consideration when deciding whether this attraction is safe for you and your family. Attendance is free with admission or membership. Masks and social distancing are required. 

Those interested in photography will enjoy Charleston Photography Group’s Beginners Guide to Photography this Saturday from 9am until noon. This three-hour session is a photography walk that will wean you off of “Auto” mode and transform your everyday snapshots into something the pros would admire! You’ll learn all about aperture and depth of field, different focal lengths, correctly exposing photos, and using composition techniques, white balance and color, and shutter speed. During this hands-on class, you’ll practice your new skills by taking tons of shots. This class is open to all skill levels, from beginner to amateur. Bring a camera that has full manual or semi-manual modes. Book in advance at the link above. 

Two Blokes Brewing says, “Nothing is normal this year, so why should Oktoberfest be?” So head to the brewery this Saturday for NOT-toberfest at Two Blokes and stretch out the summer just a little longer! Outdoor music by BrotherMan begins at 5pm, and The Immortal Lobster will be on hand with food beginning at 4pm. There will be a special firkin, and the release of Two Blokes’ new Tropical Hazy Pale Ale. Anyone who orders a pint of the new release will be put into a raffle for a chance to win some Two Blokes swag. Wear your best Tropical/Hawaiian shirts to blend in with the theme, and feel free to bring beach chairs to sit in the grass or parking lot if no tables are available. Masks are required inside the taproom unless seated at a table.

If you’d rather celebrate actual Oktoberfest, head to Frothy Beard Brewing Company in West Ashley this Saturday for the Frothy Oktoberfest Celebration. Now that the weather is a little cooler, the beer has turned slightly darker and more malty as Frothy gears up for Oktoberfest. Join them Saturday for socially distanced fun and festivities with Hans Schmidt German Band from 3pm until 6pm, food and drink specials, and the ever-popular stein hoisting competition.

This Saturday evening, Charleston Opera Theater and Mount Pleasant Memorial Waterfront Park bring you Opera on the Waterfront. This is a free, socially distanced event on the lawn at Memorial Waterfront Park, co-hosted with the Town of Mount Pleasant, Innovative Event Services, and Fox Music House. Join these sponsors at 7pm Saturday to see an exciting cast with international and national credits perform a program of opera’s greatest hits. This fun event will appeal to both the seasoned opera lover and the novice. Bring your blankets and chairs, and arrive early to grab a prime spot on the lawn. Don’t forget to stop by the food truck while you’re there! 

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