How I saved $8,000 by being nice

On March 27, I made an offer on a new condominium across town. It was priced just on the edge of what I could afford, but the location is great, and I really love the unit, so I decided to stretch myself a bit and make an offer. Across town, there was another very attractive condo with a lot of pluses going for it, and it was priced significantly lower. However, it was clearly my second choice.

I really wanted to hedge my bets by submitting offers on both units, just in case one would be rejected, because given how competitive the Boston housing market is, this was a high likelihood. However, since both sellers wanted offers to be submitted by Tuesday morning, I didn’t really have any wiggle room. Also, there was a chance that the offer on my second choice would be accepted before my first one, that I would have to accept their deal to lock it in, and then have my offer on my first choice to be  accepted, causing me to lose my deposit or be stuck with my second choice. Not cool!

Rather than taking this risk, I decided to put my energy into my primary choice.  I sharpened my pencil, calculated what I could afford, and made my offer, settling at 5% over asking price.  Finally, I wrote a short letter of introduction. As I said to my real estate agent, it wasn’t my best work, but I hope to that it would make a difference. What I wrote is below:

Dear <Seller's Name>,

I had the pleasure of visiting your condo yesterday during the open house, and I’m very interested in purchasing it. I love the layout and the location, and can easily see myself happily living there for some time – especially if I have a private space to do my morning yoga routine in that awesome third floor space!

I understand you would need to find suitable housing before you could depart. To help you with this, you could continue to live there through July - which should give you ample time to find your new home – as long as my basic costs for the property (mortgage, taxes, insurance, and HOA fee) are covered.

If there’s anything we can do to help come to a mutually-beneficial agreement, please let me know!

Sincerely,

Peter Nikolaidis

Since I had noticed that the seller practices yoga – as was evidenced by several yoga books throughout the condo, I decided to reference that, as I didn’t have much else by which to form a connection. Given how quickly the Boston real estate market moves, it’s not like I could say “let’s get together for coffee next week and go over what you want to get out of this transaction,” so I had to go with what little info I could gather. Also, since I the sale was contingent on the seller finding her own location, and I was not in a hurry to move, I decided to offer her an extended stay if she was not able to find housing prior to closing.

It worked! My agent called me  in the afternoon to tell me that they had narrowed selection down to three offers, and that they wanted our “best and final.” This is a common tactic to squeeze a little more money out of the buyers, and why not? It works, doesn’t it? (Note, the last time I had bid on a condo, and  was asked for my best and final, my response was “you already have it.”) I went back to the drawing board, sharpened my pencil… again, and offered $2,000 more.  Several hours crawled by from that point.  My agent called me back that evening to tell me that my offer had been accepted, even though someone else had offered $8,000 more than my final bid!  I was told that the seller’s agent liked my agent the best, and that the seller really liked my letter of introduction.

The moral of the story is “pay attention, communicate clearly, use every resource at your disposal, and be nice to people.”