Lace up your running shoes, and steel your nerves to fight the crowds: Black Friday is just around the corner, promising bargains galore on everything from flat-screen TVs to smart speakers and beyond.
Only can you score a Black Friday deal on a house?
No, homes aren't going to be advertised in circulars as "door busters" or at "20% off!"
But make no mistake, real estate listings obey many of the same principles of consumer psychology. And that means that if you're bargain shopping for a home, a few Black Friday-inspired ninja moves can work wonders here, too.
Here are a few to try.
Door busters, as any Black Friday aficionado knows, are those special deals that stores offer right when their doors open, and are often limited in availability to, say, the first 50 shoppers who line up with a thermos of coffee during the wee hours to guarantee first dibs.
The old "Early bird gets the worm" rule is often the name of the game when it comes to home buying, too.
We're not saying you should show up (with your sleeping bag) to camp out for an open house. With real estate, there are other ways to beat the crowds.
For starters, make sure you spot listings as soon as they go live (sign up for the realtor.com mobile app to get listings that are updated every 15 minutes). If you see something you like, don't wait!
“In a tight market, houses can get multiple offers the same day they're listed," explains Tyler Drew, a California-based real estate developer. Once a home's on the market, "you should be ready to strike."
To ensure you can make an offer quickly that can be taken seriously, you'll want to get pre-approved for a mortgage so home sellers know you can afford the house. Or, if you want to strike even before a house gets placed on the market, there's a way to do that too.
Rather than asking an agent for their current listings, ask if there are any listings he or she is working on where the seller hasn't signed on quite yet.
"Basically, the agent will try to find an interested buyer before they have even locked down the listing, and use that to entice the seller to sign the listing agreement with them," says Steve Davis, founder of Real Wealth Academy, LLC.
By making an offer on a house before it goes on the market, you could potentially save a bundle, since you're negotiating with these home sellers before they're enticed by other offers that could drive up the price.
Stick to your shopping list
Ever enter a Black Friday sale looking to buy just a blender, but leave the store with a whole new set of kitchen appliances?
Then you know how tempting it can be to get caught up in the frenzy of a sale. And that's fine if you've got tons of cash, not so fine if you're on a budget.
The solution? Write down your shopping list, and stick with it. This ensures you get exactly what you want, and nothing more. The same applies to home shopping, too.
“Before you start looking, write down the nonnegotiable features your new home needs," says Jackie Hinton, a real estate broker for Center Coast Realty in Chicago. "Then, if a place doesn't have everything on the list, don't go see it, no matter how curious you are."
This way, you won't get excited about a house unless it truly has everything you need.
"I've dealt with many a client who immediately regretted moving to a new area or state, only to move back," says Drew.
To avoid this, make sure you really do your research—and love not only the house, but the neighborhood it's in.
Drew adds: "Ask yourself: Do you really want to live there, or do you just have a fantasy about it?"
Don’t fall for a discount unless it's truly a deal
Signs screaming "Thirty percent off!" are hard to miss. Have you ever noticed, though, how these signs might be on the priciest of the entire collection that still costs a bundle, discount or not?
In a similar manner, real estate listings with "Price Reduced!" signs might certainly catch your eye, but don't assume they're bargains before you've done some research.
Many homes, after all, may be initially overpriced, and even a price reduction might not set things right. The best way to know what a house is truly worth is through comps—that is, comparable properties that have sold recently in the area.
“Have your agent run comparable properties first,” Drew explains, “While not exact, this will help know which houses are overpriced and which ones aren't.”
Here's more on how to figure out how much a house is worth.
Don't fall for a good deal if it's not what you want
Have you ever bought something for a steal, only to get home and realize it’s an outdated or chintzy model that won't work well for your purposes?
A great discount is only as good as the product you get for it, and if it turns out you don’t like it, whatever you've bought is a waste.
Similarly, on the home-buying side of things, don't be so dazzled by a low price tag that you don't kick the tires and check what could be hiding behind it. Make sure to learn everything you can about a house—warts and all.
"Some agents may hype the fact certain things are present, like new appliances, but maybe omit the old furnace," says Drew.
One way to do this is to get a thorough home inspection, which will tell you what shape a house is in. That way, if, say, the roof is run-down, and you'll have to pony up $50,000 in a few years to replace it, you can fact that into your "deal" and decide if it's right for you.
The more you learn, the better you'll know if a house is worth your while.