Four Things You Can Use as Leverage When Buying a Home

by J.R.June 13, 2018

When you’re buying a home, it can feel like you’re at the mercy of the unseen forces of the housing world: the overall market, the seller’s unwillingness to budge, comp values and interest rates.

As frustrating as all this can seem, don’t lose sight of the fact that you, as a buyer, have a lot more leverage than you think you do, even in a seller’s market. Understanding what these leverage points are are crucial to your home search, the offer/counter-offer back-and-forth, and your escrow process.

In this article, we’re going to cover five of your leverage points and include the insights of Realtors, real estate agents, and homeowners who have seen or used these tips to gain an advantage.

Relator and Buyers

1. Negotiate With Flippers – Hard Money Makes Them Flexible

Negotiating for the price of a home is a given. However, as a buyer, your negotiations have much more leverage with flippers who borrowed hard money (loans with high interest rates) to finance their flip.

Jared Viernes, a Wichita-based Realtor with Sunflower Real Estate, said these high interest rates, in addition to monthly repayments on the loan, provide the flipper substantial motivation to sell their home and not let it go back on the market. As such, you have leverage. The seller will be, most likely, willing to concede on post-inspection contingencies in order to make sure the house is sold before the next loan payment is due. “Once under contract, the seller will be more pliable during re-negotiations since it will likely cost them at least $1000 if the property falls out of contract and goes back on the market,” Viernes said.

2. Ask for the Home’s Maintenance Records

Asking for the maintenance record for a home is kind of like asking a seller for the maintenance record for a car. These records can show you how well-loved a home has been under the owner’s care – or at least prove that the owners were meticulous enough to keep records of work done on the house.

HomeZada‘s Elizabeth Dodson recommends that buyers ask for a maintenance record of the home in order to get a sense of what was done to the house. Having this list, she said, can be a point of leverage for you if the records are sparse.

“One method to help buyers gain some control of buying a home is to ask the seller for a documented account of the maintenance on the home. If the home has been well cared for, then the home is worth more than if the home was not well cared for, ” Dodson said. “Simply by asking for a documented home maintenance schedule can put some control back in the buyer’s hand.”

3. Connect With the Homeowner Through a Letter

In a seller’s market where multiple offers are on the table and buyers are competing for their dream home, making an extra effort to communicate why you want the house can give you the leverage you need to close on the home.

Viernes points out that homeowners who raised their kid in the house they’re selling have sentimental ties. Writing a letter to the homeowner expressing your own hopes and dreams for the home can increase your chances of winning over the seller.

“Many sellers have owned the home for many years and raised a family in the home; these types of sellers want the next owners to be as emotionally attached to the home as they are,” Viernes noted. “To these types of sellers, a ‘love letter’ from the buyers can increase the value of their offer drastically.” Use this tip with discernment, though. It’s not meant to be a tool for deception.
New Homeowners

4. Offer Free Rent to the Seller

While selling a home is, at its root, a financial transaction and transfer of ownership, it’s much more complex than that. Sellers with families have to uproot their network of friends and schools, in many cases. And, as a buyer, you may be in a situation where your current lease isn’t up yet and you’d rather finish out the last few months than have to pay a fee to your landlord.

In this situation, says Logan Link, a real estate agent with San Francisco-based Logan & Bernard, striking up a rent-back agreement could be the tipping point for the buyer. Basically, this agreement means that you’ll let the seller remain in the house rent-free for, on average, 30-60 days.

“This can be helpful to sellers for a variety of reasons – so children can finish out the school year; so they can locate their next place without the hassle of finding a short-term rental; so a particular holiday can be spent in the home; or simply to make packing less rushed and stressful,” Link said.

A Quick Word About Paying Cash

One recommendation we received from numerous experts is to pay as much as you can with cash, whether that means making a sizeable down payment or paying for the entire price tag.

While this is a great tip and can certainly help you close on a home much quicker, it’s also a tip that isn’t as universal as the other advice in our post. Few home-shoppers have enough cash saved up to make a cash offer on a home.

Wrapping it Up: Each Market Has Its Nuances

While all of the tips we’ve listed here are reliable, each one of them is at the mercy of the market in your area.

Much of your success will depend on how you can, with the help of your real estate agent, read the situation and see opportunities to gain the advantage as you’re making an offer and working through escrow.

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About The Author
J.R. is a reporter for, uncovers the hard truths about personal finance through in-depth research and interviews with experts. He has written extensively on topics including credit cards, credit scores, debt, financial advisors, and other personal finance issues.