How Bargain Hunting for a Home Can Backfire

Rising home prices and low inventory of homes for sale mean that homebuyers, especially first-timers, find themselves willing to try almost anything to get into a house at a price they can afford.

It is tempting to make some compromises, try to negotiate harder or to look for hidden bargains.

The experts at urge caution in your quest for a bargain. They have identified eight times that bargain hunting could backfire and end up costing you more than you expected.

1. Working without an agent. As a buyer, there are no savings to be found here. The sellers pay the commission for both themselves and the buyers. If you think you might be a tougher negotiator and more capable of getting a better deal, you are almost certainly wrong.

2. Buying a home in a short sale. This appears to offer a chance for a buyer to get a bargain because the seller needs to dump the home quickly. The real estate market has changed over the past five or six years and rising home values have lowered the inventory on short sales. You might get lucky, but don’t pin your hopes on it.

3. Making a big compromise to get the home. Do you really think that buying a house with too few bedrooms or some major remodeling to make livable is a bargain? Make a list of features you must have in a home and stick to it.

4. Failing to hire your own inspector. As a percentage of what you’re going to pay for the house, an inspector’s fee is a tiny fraction. A professional inspector working only for you is an insurance policy against some very costly repairs you may not see on your own.

5. Making a long list of inclusions. While you might really like that dining room chandelier, is it really worth losing the house over? If you are really looking for a bargain, don’t expect to get anything but the house itself.

6. Insisting on unreasonable repairs. If a home inspection reveals a major problem like a cracked foundation, that needs to be either fixed or a reduction in the sales price has to be negotiated. But asking, for example, for new skylights is not reasonable. When the house is yours, knock yourself out.

7. Making a lowball offer. This is especially tempting if a home has been on the market for a long time. But a lowball offer can trigger a bidding war for the home because you probably are not the only potential buyer who has looked at the property.

8. Using the wrong strategy when multiple offers are coming in. Because the inventory of homes for sale is so low now, multiple offers for a single home are more common. Putting a lot of contingencies on a purchase is not a winning strategy. Buyers also must be ready to offer a better price if that’s what it takes to get the house.

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