Can We Bribe A Buyer?

 Posted by at 5:56 am
Aug 012010

While I’ve never been asked exactly that question, it’s sometimes implied–especially given the slow moving market we’re experiencing. There’s an obvious temptation to “get creative” when property goes on the market. After all, what was the tax credit? (And for the linguists: what is the difference between an incentive and a bribe?)

Definitions aside, recent changes in the mortgage industry have an impact. For all practical purposes, there are severe limits on what sorts of  (and how much) incentive sellers can offer a buyer. Savvy buyers are often leery because they recognize gimmicks and the risks associated with “rebates” in any form.

Some of the things that do work :

  • Realistic pricing… there’s very little reason for a buyer to pay more than fair market value and it’s easy for them to have some sense of what that is.
  • Curb appeal matters and the old “one chance to make a first impression” logic applies. Keep the lawn mowed and trimmed, plant a few flowers.
  • Keep the inside neat and fresh. You don’t need to create a sterile look, certainly… but neatness counts.
  • Part of neatness is “decluttering.” Pack up and store 1/3 to 1/2 of your “stuff.” It’ll make the house look bigger and you might discover you don’t miss it!
  • Think “exposure.” Don’t be bashful about letting people know your house is for sale… and make sure the information about it is complete and accurate. Facts are important, but presentation makes a difference.
  • Be patient. At least one study showed that it takes as much as 21 showings to sell a house.

These are “safe” and relatively inexpensive buyer incentives. Remember that an incentive is only an incentive if the buyer wants it! At the same time, understand that once a buyer falls in love they may drive a hard bargain.  Be prepared for low offers even if you’re priced right. A lot of buyers are using the “nothing ventured, nothing gained” approach.