Sellers: How to get the most for your house

Receiving five offers in 48 hours for my parents' former home bowled me over, especially considering the real estate market we all just barely lived through.

And these weren't just offers; they were great offers for the four-bedroom ranch house I grew up in. Three were for $15,000 over the asking price, which we had set high. One came in at asking, and one came in $10,000 below asking, but with a 90 percent cash down payment.

The multiple offers not only confirm that the market is coming back, but that the $15,000 I strategically spent on the makeover paid off, as I'd hoped, in a faster sale at a higher price than if we'd sold "as is." Much higher meaning a net gain of nearly $100,000.

Now, if I had put in a full-price offer on a home within hours of its going on the market, I would assume I had it. Yet the full-price offer was in fourth place.

After recapping the offers with my listing agent and good friend Bill Wood, we decided to turn down the two lowest ones, and ask the three remaining buyers, whose above-asking offers were all within $1,000 of one another's, to make their best and final offers.

Two raised their price by $10,000, the third by $5,000.

Now what?

"We go with the most qualified buyer," Wood advised. "There's a lot more to an offer than price."

Wood and I considered the three upgraded offers, weighing these additional factors, which also may help you if you're ever faced with multiple offers or competing for a hot property:

•Price. The amount of the offer is easy to fixate on, but higher is not always better. In the end, we accepted the second-highest offer, the one $5,000 lower than the other two, because that buyer scored higher on what else matters.

•Down payment. The winning buyer was putting 20 percent down, so only had to finance 80 percent. The other two buyers were planning to put down 10 and 5 percent. Of course, I was partial to the 90 percent cash-down buyers, but their purchase price was too low.

•Loan. All three finalists had been pre-approved for loans. However two were getting FHA loans, which have more red tape; the ultimate buyer was getting a conventional loan, which tends to imply better overall credit.

•Escrow. We wanted a 30-day escrow, which each party agreed to. But if one had needed a longer escrow, that would have been a drawback.

•Reserves. Wood looked at the buying parties' bank statements to see how much money they would have left after the purchase. A buyer with healthy reserves is more attractive to lenders and sellers. Unlike the buyer whose offer we accepted, the two runners up — though they qualified for the loan — would have been stretched more financially.

•Contingencies. The winning buyer had sold a house and it had closed escrow. They had cash from that sale in the bank, and were ready to move. One runner up had a house in escrow that needed to close. The third was a first-time buyer borrowing money from parents. We favored the buyer with no strings attached.

•Love letters. Though Wood was immune to the heartstring tactics, the letters and photos from two of the bidders did make a difference to me. Much as I wanted to sell the place to all who loved my childhood home, the little slugger's family will move in this week.

Join me next week as we take the journey from offer accepted to deal done.

Syndicated columnist and speaker Marni Jameson is the author of "House of Havoc" and "The House Always Wins" (Da Capo Press).

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