wanting to buy and frustrated

sarieAugust 19, 2011

I recently sold my house after my children left the next so I could "downsize". I am looking to buy a condo in a specific development. The only one in the area that offers fenced space for my dog. I am prequalified, good credit, no debt and have a small savings for down payment.

I am not impressed with the few that are available currently. Only 4 sold last year and 6 so far this year. All of the units currently listed seem overpriced. If I look at the sale price per square foot, all 10 of the sold units are close in range, and the ones currently listed are a lot higher per square foot.

I have started doing some research and collecting addresses of units that were listed for sale over the last couple of years and have been taken off the market for whatever reason. Seems like several were listed in my price range and at the "common" sale price per square foot. I have been using Zillow and the city website for data. I also had some flagged as potential units to look at (while I waited for my house to sell).

Am I crazy to consider contacting some of these owners and asking if they are still interested in selling?

My sister thinks that if I do, many owners will want to raise the price since I am so willing to buy.

How would I approach this without people thinking I am a solicitor or willing to overpay for their property?

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If you are limiting yourself to one development/condo go to the manager of the units. Other than that, I would suggest going to an agency/agent specializing in condos. Don't sign with one agency, get everything in writing and are you experienced enough to deal with buying etc.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2011 at 10:18AM
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And at least in our area, Zillow is always laughably out of date with their numbers.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2011 at 10:23AM
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I don't see the harm, you will save the real estate commission right off the bat so they may be willing to sell at a lower price because they will net the same amount in the long run. Remember, you'll hopefully be living there soon, so treat them respectfully in regards to price. You may consider the units overpriced, but they feel the price is fair. I'd let them know you like the complex (without letting on you feel it is your only option, and let them know you are contacting a few potential sellers, so they realize they do have competition.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2011 at 10:40AM
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I am not using Zillow for the comp prices. However, if a unit has been listed, it tells the dates it listed and removed from the market.
Also is good for calculating sq/ft sales info without me having to do the math (for units that have sold). All of the info I have on the current listings is from MLS.

I am still working with the same realtor that sold my home, we have a history together (she sold me my house, I used her to sell my parents house when they needed to sell 15 years ago, etc). I havent even mentioned this "plan" to her yet.

We have spoken the the maintenance manager. A friend of my realtor. He said he'd keep an ear out for people getting ready to sell. I'm not sure how to find the HOA manager.

The only reason I say the units are overpriced is because all the units that have sold have dropped the price from where these guys are listed or they have removed thier listings and not sold.

But some that are in the history as being "listing removed" were listed in the range that is the same as the units that have sold.

Best way to contact current owners? Mail? in person?

    Bookmark   August 19, 2011 at 11:00AM
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AT least one person has posted here who has done what you want to do.

Write a short letter, tell them that you saw they took their condo off the market and are they still interested in selling. Give your contact information.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2011 at 11:26AM
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I sent a short, handwritten "fishing" letter to an out of town owner of an unlisted house. I got all the pertinent information from the county tax records. I eventually got a call a few months later from their new real estate agent. Unfortunately, the inside was extensively and expensively updated so the list price was out of our price range.

It doesn't hurt to ask.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2011 at 11:43AM
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However, if a unit has been listed, it tells the dates it listed and removed from the market.
Also is good for calculating sq/ft sales info without me having to do the math (for units that have sold). All of the info I have on the current listings is from MLS.

Just FWIW, Trullia is also good for this, as well as being a good place to see when something comes back on the market, usually a bit quicker than the info appears on zillow.

I agree with the others that mail is the best way to contact the owner of an off-market property.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2011 at 12:17PM
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Thanks for the replies.

Now I have to figure out how to word a letter without being stalkish....

    Bookmark   August 19, 2011 at 12:35PM
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I wouldn't hold out a lot of hope for the letter approach. It is quite common for sellers to get unsolicited letters from agents or other folk trolling for business.

If you are really interested in just one building, I would probably knock on doors. I know - kinda creepy and aggressive, but at least they will know you are a real buyer and not a sales pitch.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2011 at 1:10PM
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Personally, I would not let anyone in my home even if I thought they wanted to buy it. Too dangerous. Maybe meet at a cafe etc, but if you send a letter note on the back -identifying you are not an agent, but wonder if your condo is still avaiable, Give a cell phone number (inside) or email address. Not your real address or phone #. Even most agents now have to be careful. Sad to say.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2011 at 1:31PM
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You have nothing to lose by sending letters. Send them to ALL the owners who have units you would consider, not just those who have withdrawn listings.

Tell them what you've told us: You're interested in their condo; are a pre-qualified buyer; want to buy NOW. Don't elaborate. Don't say you want only that complex. It's just, "Hello, I'm interested in buying a condo like yours. Call me." You may want to tell them you are NOT a Realtor, trying to drum up business.

We've done this twice. Once, it was 'long distance'. We sold a rental property and wanted to replace it with a vacation rental condo on Maui. We knew which complex we wanted, but found the Realtors in the area to be absolutely 'spacey'. We obtained a list of owners from someone we'd rented from. (We could also have gone to the Maui County Assessor for a list of owners.) We got four genuine replies and bought one of the units direct from the owner. We engaged an attorney on Maui to handle the details. We were fortunate to have a seller who was both honest and familiar with real estate on Maui. In a way, he was our 'Realtor' on island. We arrived Maui one evening; stayed in 'our' condo overnight; closed on it the next day. That was 10 years ago.

Our current permanent home is another example. We wanted to live in a specific neighborhood. We asked a Realtor friend (who works in another town) to be go-between for us. We gave him the names and addresses of about five houses we liked, and he sent the letters. None of those panned out, but when we did buy -- direct from another owner -- we engaged him to draw the offer and attend to the closing details, along with our attorney. (Of course, we paid him, but not a full commission.) You may want to talk to your Realtor friend to see if she would do something similar; ask what she would charge you. Finding your seller is just the beginning! There will be negotiations and contracts and shepherding the sale through to a closing. (I assume you have an attorney.)

Good luck! Let us know what happens!

    Bookmark   August 19, 2011 at 1:38PM
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Write a letter..or type it and sign it. Also note that you are not an investor and are looking to buy to live it the unit.

Try to limite to 2-3 paragraphs. People will skim the letter quickly and the more words, the more they will miss.

You don't have to worry about them overpricing. well, if they do, you just talk to them about the Sold comps and the price/sq ft for those. this should get them to be in the correct price zone. if not, then you move on because you cannot agree on price. But don't get into price in the initial letter.

****Why don't you start offerring on existing properties that are currently listed? Simply offer a fair price based on sold comps that you know about. And have your agent explain this with the offer. make sure your first offer is low enough to leave room for negotiation. Don't worry about the owners thinking it is lowball...just do it.

Most of the folks that are currently listed would LOVE to get an offer and chances are very high that one or more of them will come to terms with you...especially since you have the sold comps...so it proves you are in the correct ballpark for market price. realize that some owners will think their place is worth more than it really is because of either their view or maybe some expensive flooring they added and they think theirs is worth a lot more than the sold comps. You'll quickly learn who is willing to deal and who will hold firm by making offers to those currently listed.

Don't tell anyone you have to live in that complex only. That is for you to know.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2011 at 4:40PM
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If you are already working with a Realtor, why is she not doing this for you? If she is the one representing you, she should be the one doing the legwork & finding you what you want, even if that means doing so by less than traditional methods.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2011 at 2:47PM
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Your agent should be able to easily figure this out for you. I've been showing in a similar situation here...unique condo complex (only one with garages and deeded boat slips), sqft nearly identical, only 50 units. The ones that have sold have been in the low $200K; all the ones listed are in the upper $200K-$300K. A look at he recorded mortgages in the public record tells the back story.
The high-listed ones are going to sit on the market forever and buyers just have to wait until someone needs to sell - I have two buyers waiting, and yes, I've got spies asking around on the grounds (all the snowbirds are gone now though) and have contacted the folks who have withdrawn or expired, and they all owe too much. Even if someone is willing to pay the excessive price, unless they have cash, it'll never go through because it won't appraise.

    Bookmark   August 26, 2011 at 7:59AM
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Thank you all for the replies.

My realtor is the one who spoke to the grounds manager.

It seems as if my situtation is exactly like c9pilot, they all owe too much although more research showed me that many of the zillow "expired" listings actually had sold. I find it hard to believe zillow could be so wrong.

I have my eye on a unit and with luck this might be the right one for me.

    Bookmark   August 26, 2011 at 12:12PM
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Ah-hah! They're going to hold 'until the market improves'. Well, fine, if they can afford the carrying costs.

We'll be hoping to hear that you've had an offer accepted.

    Bookmark   August 26, 2011 at 5:32PM
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