What is Buying Your Own House Back?

J Philip Faranda April 13, 2012

The illusion of the spring market is that of abundance here in Westchester and all over the country for that matter. In spite of the overall down market, April and May are when the buyers are out, looking, making offers, and mainly scooping the cream off the top. Upon occasion, we see a seller get a fairly respectable offer and then fall into the trap of thinking that it is 2005 all over again.

For example, consider a home priced at $500,000 that gets an offer of $450,000, which is not uncommon. A good agent will guide their seller client through the ping pong of negotiations, taking into account the market activity and anything they can read on the other side with the buyer and their agent. A good listing agent will evaluate signs from their counterpart representing the buyer, often speak with the loan officer to double check qualifications, and generally draw on their skill and expereince to advise the seller on maximizing the number that can be gotten from the buyer. After protracted negotiations, the buyer raises their bid to $490,000 (this is a hypothetical example, remember).

The seller is at $500,000. They originally hoped for more money.

They are still getting showings.
Zillow says the house is worth $517,000.
They recall all the work and improvements they made on the place over the years.
A home they were considering buying once they sold comes off the market, taking the edge off the urgency they may have felt a week prior.
Their cousin in Petaluma is incredulous, because the same house out there would be $600,000 easy, or so they say.

The seller, mindful of all these things, makes the fatal mistake of assuming that they could get more money if they held out for another, better offer. After all, these buyers were the clowns who originally offered them a crummy $450,000!

And the seller, against the advice of their agent, tells the agent to make a best and final counter offer to the buyer of $495,000.

The buyer walks and buys another home a few blocks away that just came on.

The seller bought back their house for $5,000. They were the high bidder. They get the house. Again. Three months later in July, they reduce their price to $475,000. They close with another buyer in October for $455,000. That $5000 counter offer cost them $35,000, and another 6 mortgage payments.

This should never happen when a buyer and seller are only 1-2% apart. But it does happen, because the seller is tempted by the sirens on the rocks of the spring rush.

Making that last counter for 1% or less of the asking price of the house is known as buying the house back for $5000. Spring comes but once a year. Be very careful about getting to absorbed in the wheeling and dealing. People don’t want to go back and forth- they want a home. Listen to your agent. If they advise you to take something that close, take them seriously. We all have a story like this.

I know all too well the anecdotes of the pushy agent who jumps up and down for their client to take a lowball offer.  This is not one of those times. When the buyer is within a mortgage payment or two of your number and your agent is telling you this is it, strike while the iron is hot. Don’t buy back your own house for a marginal amount. It could save you far more money in the long run and avoid a protracted extension of market time as a stale listing because you let one slip through your fingers.

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