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How to buy a home

Our Monday Q + A’s are culled from Phyllis’s Real Estate Question and Answer Column in the Crescenta Valley Weekly.  Home buying blues is from several years ago – the Los Angeles real estate market has certainly changed!

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Ask Phyllis is a blog series of frequently asked real estate questions.  Have a question about real estate?  Email us here

Dear Phyllis,

We have been on and off looking to buy a home for awhile. We have made a handful of offers but to no avail. Our first offer was on a bank foreclosure (two years ago). There were more than ten offers and we didn’t get it. The next offer was a short sale, we were in escrow for five months and the bank never approved the short sale. The home later sold for less than our offer. The most recent debacle was where we offered full price on a home and the seller waited nearly a week to respond and by that time we were competing with other buyers. The last offer was the worst because we gave the seller everything they asked for and we still didn’t get the house. I guess my question is can you help me make some sense out of this market?


Dear P.G.

I understand your disappointment and confusion. It is a difficult real estate market for home buyers. As far as the home which sold for less than your short sale offer, short sales and foreclosures are completely different. They are serviced by two different departments by the lender (or loan servicer). In a short sale, the bank is trying to prevent a loss, in a foreclosure the bank has taken the loss, and is now quickly trying to recapture what they can from it. Some short sales are simple while many are nightmares. It usually boils down to the lender and some are notorious for losing paperwork, not returning calls, etc.

On your most recent nightmare, I sympathize. When a home lists for sale, it is an offering. You presented the seller with what I assume was a good offer. Likely your offer was contingent upon you qualifying for a loan and approving the condition (after you had an inspection). The seller was under no obligation to accept your full price contingent offer. I am not an attorney but even had your offer been non-contingent, I don’t think the seller would have to accept. A listing is simply an offering for sale. It is unfortunate that the seller sat on your offer so long that you were competing with other buyers. Time is generally a buyer’s worst enemy. Next time you might try writing your offer with a short expiration date and reminding the seller’s agent that your offer is only good for 24 hours.

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