Lack of Homes for Sale is a Problem for Sellers, Too

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It might be a seller’s market, but for most people who list their home, getting it sold only marks halfway to the finish line.

The greatest challenge for home sellers this year is a lack of homes to choose from when they themselves move, according to a survey this month of more than 800 Redfin real estate agents. Nearly two-thirds said this was an issue they were seeing.


“It’s a seller’s market, but the catch is, most sellers need to buy as well,” said Eileen Lorway, a Redfin real estate agent in the Boston area. “This is a conversation I have with many clients at our first meeting. We discuss options like ‘seller to find suitable housing’ contingencies for the sale contract, ‘purchase contingent on sale of current home’ options for the buy offer, rental options, stay-with-family options and bridge loans. Sellers who are buying need to think outside the box a little bit. It’s not easy, but we often do end up closing on sale and purchase on the same day.”

“I also encourage sellers who are also buyers to think about selling first. They should consider temporary rental options, or moving in with relatives after they sell.  Then they will be able to take the time they need to find their dream house, know exactly what they’ll have to work with financially, and won’t end up adding unnecessary contingencies to offers, which will give them a better chance to get the home,” said Lorway.

Stronger Competition and Bidding Wars Highlight Real Estate Season So Far

Most agents reported that the market so far this year is faster and competition is more intense than last year.


Our agents’ sense of the market matches what we found in the most recent Redfin Real-Time Housing Market Tracker, which reported that home were selling eight days faster than this time last year, with nearly 20 percent selling above list price.

Among agents surveyed, 57.2 percent had already been involved in at least one instance of a home receiving 10 or more offers this year. And only 1.8 percent of agents had yet to be involved in a bidding war.

Despite Intense Competition, Buyers Are Having Success With Less than 20 Percent Down

While competition for homes may be fierce, it’s still possible to get a home without putting 20 percent (or more) down, according to Redfin agents.


Half of agents reported that the typical down payment for successful buyers in their market was less than 20 percent, meaning there are other ways to make an offer competitive.

“I’ve had successful negotiations where my clients put down less than 20 percent. Most sellers aren’t really fixated on that as much as on the overall quality of the offer,” said Redfin real estate agent Rano Khudayberdieva, who works in the Chicago suburbs.

“When I work as a listing agent, we try to figure out the buyer’s maximum pre-approval amount. If the offer is a bit below that, how much they put down shouldn’t be an issue. I typically reach out to the lender to find out how confident they are that the loan will be approved. If it’s a lender I know and trust, and they assure me they can approve it quickly, then we consider it a solid offer,” said Khudayberdieva.

“However, there is one caveat; if the price is escalating higher than I think the home can appraise, I advise my seller against accepting an offer with a down payment of 5 percent or less, which indicates the buyer might not be able to come up with additional cash to cover the appraisal deficiency. Generally, though, 10 percent down or more is good. And cover letters do make a difference – you’d rather have a committed buyer who put a little less down than a buyer with 20 percent down who may back out,” said Khudayberdieva.

Building a rapport with the seller can also help, said Redfin real estate agent Tim Zielonka of Chicago.

“I recently had an FHA-backed offer with 3.5 percent down beat out four other offers, each of which had conventional 20-percent down loans. The sellers were at the showing. I introduced them to the buyers and pointed out that both were huge enthusiasts of both vintage bicycles and classic cars, which put them at ease with one another and enabled them to form a natural connection. Had they not discovered this shared interest, my clients may not have gotten the property,” said Zielonka, who added that the offer amount and overall terms were still strong, despite the low down payment.

Recently, Redfin agents shared even more tips on how to make a non-cash offer as competitive as possible, as well as how to write an outstanding offer letter.

About the Survey

Redfin’s survey was conducted between March 17  and March 23, and includes responses from 820 real estate agents in 31 states and Washington, D.C.

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Alex provides journalists with the information they need for their stories. Prior to joining Redfin, he was a freelance writer who wrote extensively on the ins and outs of condo purchasing. He also covered luxury goods, with a minor in book reviews. He lives in Chicago and is lucky enough to be able to walk to work. Redfin is a full-service real estate brokerage that uses modern technology to make clients smarter and faster. For more information about working with a Redfin real estate agent to buy or sell a home, visit our "Why Redfin?," page.

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