For Sarah and Ian Bogaty, selling their home was definitely less stressful than finding a new one.
The couple sold their Plainview house in a few days without an open house and over asking price, but it took a year-and-a-half to find a new home on Long Island while actively looking, living in a rental during some of that time.
“We made three or four offers, but they fell through,” said Sarah Bogaty, 42. “And there were a lot of houses where they looked good, but when we got there, it was completely gutted … We had one where we were in contract, but the appraiser said we can’t loan for that.”
Despite looking originally in the Melville and Dix Hills area, they ended up in the same school district they were in, a good thing for her two children, ages 9 and 13. In the end, Bogaty said, it worked out.
“I don’t think we settled. It is definitely a house we are happy with.”
They close on the house in October and are living in a rental for now.
The dizzying speed at which houses are being bought and sold has changed the business. Before, it was standard to make an offer, sign it and then overnight or fax it to the seller for signature, and then await the inspections and mortgage approval. Now, these same inspections are being waived, buyers are being lured to make a larger down payment, and contracts have become a nail-biter until the seller signs. Even novel ways of making your buyer stand out, such as personal pleas and agreements to postpone the closing six months or more, are now standard.
Joanne Mills, a real estate agent with Exit Family Realty in Lindenhurst, has one buyer who recently made an offer that was $50,000 over the asking price, had gone through underwriting to have a mortgage commitment ready to go, has excellent credit rating, no house to sell, and was willing to be flexible on the move-in date. That buyer did not get the house.
“It’s a frustrating time,” Mills said. “Sometimes, the buyers feel they are settling. They feel forced to make an offer for more than the seller had even asked for, and that builds on that frustration.”
Some real estate agents feel the pain, too. While listing agents, the ones commissioned to sell a house, are doing well with houses selling in no time and for well over asking price, buyer’s agents are dealing with tons of work making offers that never get to the table.
Sellers hold out
One of the biggest frustrations is that after offers are accepted and buyers sign contracts, sellers prefer to hold out for a better deal and not sign right away.
“It’s not illegal,” Mills said. “The seller has every right to accept the best offer until it is signed by both parties. So, it is a dance. Buyers are feeling frustrated, feeling disrespected. It’s very emotional.”
Mills sold Risa Matsuki’s home in Copiague in four days, after 14 offers, for about 10% over asking price. The person she chose was financially secure, but the tipping point in her favor was a note she wrote to Matsuki describing what the house meant to her as a first-time homebuyer. Matsuki said she could relate, and approved the offer.
She was thrilled at how easy it was to sell, but soon discovered how excruciating it would be to buy her next home.
“I thought it would be easy, but it was the worst thing ever,” she says.
Looking not only for herself and her 3-year-old daughter, but also for her fiance, Paul Davidson, and room for his three older children, Matsuki was set on moving to Syosset for the schools. She found the homes there were going well over the listed price, just like her own, and they kept getting shut out. After months of looking, they settled on a home outside Matsuki’s original quest, in Bayville with harbor views — only to discover that their ordeal had just begun.
“We put in our offer, and they said the price on the flyers and listing were wrong, and it was actually $30,000 more,” she said. “It felt crazy. We had to adjust our offer to meet exactly what was said.”
Sellers often have final say over when the closing takes place. Matsuki and Davidson made the offer at the end of December, with closing expected in March, but it didn’t close until May 5.
Paying more, within reason
Todd Zipkin, co-owner of Americana Mortgage Group Inc. in Manhasset, advises clients not to get too hung up on the “over-asking price” bid, within reason.
“Don’t lose the house you love because it is $10,000, $15,000 or even $20,000 more over asking, because every $10,000 with good credit is about $42 a month,” he said. “You can be aggressive because money is so cheap.”
Buyers with good credit are often getting rates just under 3% for a 30-year mortgage, lenders say.
The low rates continue to attract new homebuyers to open houses — like one in Farmingdale on Saturday that drew Brooklynites Khalid and Sadaf Khan, and a Queens couple, Eddie Delvalle and his wife Luz Oviedo, with their children Gabriel Delvalle and Maia Delvalle.
Anthony Zanni, of Keller Williams Points North in Woodbury, who held the Farmingdale open house, said it brought 450 prospective buyers over the two-day weekend, resulting in 53 offers, one of which has already been accepted.
“It’s easy to have 53 offers and present them to a seller, but I can take a buyer to 50 homes and make good offers, and lose every one,” Zanni said. “It is frustrating.”
Matthew Lenner, agent for Keller Williams Realty Gold Coast, said he has never seen anything like this in his 20 or more years in the business.
Sometimes even a high offer doesn’t secure the deal, leaving buyers in a tailspin.
“In Southold, we were literally on our way to the inspection,” he said. “The listing agent called on the way. A cash offer of $50,000 over our offer was made. Those are the moments when you get a pit in your stomach.”
Still, in the end, there is usually a house.
Mills likened the process to childbirth.
“There is the moment, in the end, when they have the keys in their hands, that it is worth it. It’s like having that baby in your arms. Nothing else matters.”
New homebuyers can get help
For first-time homebuyers, this market can be dizzying. In addition to your real estate agent’s advice, these programs offer help for first-time homebuyers.
NYSAR Housing Opportunities Foundation grant: Eligible first-time homebuyers…
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