Should you sell yourself to buy a home?

A Toronto couple’s strategy reminds us that personal connections matter

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There’s no question that it’s a tough world for home buyers these days, particularly in Toronto and Vancouver. But even when prices rise and tactics change, there’s always one method that stands the test of time: selling yourself.

CBC News reported that after visiting 15 houses and being outbid three times, a Toronto couple decided to go the extra mile. They took to creating postcard-like flyers adorned with family photos and text explaining their house-buying plea and sending them out, unsolicited, to hundreds of houses they were interested in buying. The article noted that some realtors do send out personalized letters to home-sellers to appeal to their softer side, but a hundred-flyer mail-out to those who haven’t listed their homes is rare. At least it set them apart!

First steps for first-time home buyers »

Their story touches on the more personal aspect of house buying; it’s more than just putting forth the highest bid. Here are other ways to use your human side to gain an advantage in negotiating and securing a home to call your own.

1. Put a face to the name

Richard Irwin, author of Tips and Traps for Negotiating Real Estate, says you should always dig into why a person is selling. A casual conversation may reveal information on what’s important to the sellers, which can be used to your advantage during negotiations. For example, if you know they’ve already bought a new house and need to get this one off their hands fast, you could pressure them to get the price you want.

2. Put the power in your hands with a tight deadline

A good buyer will use a sense of urgency to create more favourable conditions for themselves. Making an offer with a tight deadline will crank up the heat on sellers, making it more likely that they’ll accept your offer quickly, rather than countering with their own.

3. Form an emotional connection

It’s worth a lot to have both parties walking away feeling like winners. That’s more likely to happen when the seller and buyer relate to each other. Take the example of Jody White, a former MoneySense writer, who was once sold a condo despite offering $10,000 less than a competing offer. Jody was presented by his agent as a hardworking and recently-separated young man, and the sellers quickly formed a connection with him.

In contrast, real estate broker Sarah Daniels is convinced she had the sale of a $1.5 million home derail because the buyer and seller argued over the possession of a built-in cappuccino maker. The fallout wasn’t immediate, but the buyers eventually walked and the sellers sold months later—for $100,000 less than the original offer. The lesson? Form a bond if you can, but at the very least, don’t get on anyone’s bad side.

If you’re looking to learn more about the fine art of persuasion in real estate, check out our guide on the delicate art of negotiation.

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