When it comes to purchasing a home, many people aren't especially hard to please. Sure they want a safe neighborhood, good schools and solid construction. But assuming they find a property with those elements, they're ready to bid.
If they lose out to rival bidders, there's no heartache because they figure they'll find another property that's equally nice.
But then there are rare homebuyers willing to spend months looking for the perfect home. They know exactly what they want or need and are willing to do what it takes to obtain it.
In this category was a doctor who specialized in emergency medicine and needed a property on a main road within one mile from his hospital. He and his wife -- also a physician -- also wanted an exceptional elementary school for their three young kids.
To meet their exacting requirements, Ashley Richardson -- the couple's real estate agent -- narrowed the search, finding just one home that qualified. The couple made a generous bid for it and prevailed.
"Some homebuyers are well justified for being fussy," says Richardson, who's affiliated with the Council of Residential Specialists (www.crs.com).
There can be many reasons why some buyers have a "must-have" feeling about a property. Some are captivated by historic details or the work of a specific architect. Others dream of a hard-to-find setting -- for example, a property that abuts a nature preserve. Others want to live very close to relatives.
Michael Crowley, a real estate broker and past president of the National Association of Exclusive Buyer Agents (www.naeba.org), tells the true story of a woman in her 20s who insisted on buying right next to her grandfather -- an ailing 70-year-old.
"The minute that next-door house came on the market, she had to have it. That was the only place she'd even consider and price didn't seem to matter. In fact, she overpaid," Crowley recalls.
John Rygiol, an independent real estate broker who specializes in working solely with buyers, says an increasing number of baby boomers now wish to live close to their grown children. They also want a one-level house, which -- depending on the area -- could narrow their search parameters dramatically.
He says that in many neighborhoods a lack of available housing inventory is complicating the search for homebuyers with specific wants or needs.
Are you a homebuyer with exacting requirements? If so, these pointers could prove useful:
-- Make it clear you can afford the sellers' property.
Before accepting an offer, sellers want assurances that the buyers have the wherewithal to make good on a proposed deal. If you're competing for a one-of-a-kind property in an area with few listings, getting your financing lined up in advance is crucial.
One way to prove you're qualified is with a "pre-approval letter" from a bank or mortgage-lending firm. Such a letter is granted only after your credit history has been checked and your income verified. Proof of income can be demonstrated through pay stubs and W-2 statements.
To strengthen your bid even more, Crowley says it's wise to also provide copies of account statements showing you have the funds to cover both your down payment and closing costs. Also, note where you work and how long you've been employed there.
-- Submit a friendly letter along with your bid.
Crowley says it's almost universally true that people who've lived in a home for years become emotionally attached to it. Because this is so common, letting the sellers know you love their home could conceivably influence them to favor your offer. One way to show your appreciation is by attaching a brief letter to your bid.
What should you say in such a letter?
To be most effective, Crowley suggests you focus on areas that are apparent priorities for the home's owners.
"Look around the home and you can easily tell what the owners value most," he says.
-- Shape an offer adapted to the sellers' timing needs.
Though the bottom line is nearly always the leading factor that determines whether the sellers of a home accept, reject or counter your bid, timing also counts.
Suppose, for example, that the owners need to shed the property quickly because they're making an out-of-state job move. If so, they could wish to close quickly. On the other hand, a couple making an elaborate retirement move might prefer to delay closing for months. In either case, adapting to the sellers' timing could help you get your first offer accepted in a tight-market situation.
-- Consider trying to beat rivals by outbidding them -- within reason.
Rygiol calls it an "escalation clause" and, not surprisingly, it's a powerful tool that some buyers are now beginning to use to outdo other bidders in highly competitive markets. It's a clause in the sales contract that promises to pay a set amount above the highest bidder -- up to a maximum fixed sum.
But this should only be considered a sort of "nuclear option." Crowley says he tries to dissuade most clients from using such a clause -- no matter how much they want a home. He insists that typical purchasers who lose a home to another bidder later find another that's just as good or better.
"The minute you decide you have to have a house no matter the price, you're going to pay too much. As we found out in the last boom market, a feeding frenzy is not in the buyers' interest," Crowley says.
(To contact Ellen James Martin, email her at email@example.com.)