HOUSE HUNTING

Buyers shoot first, ask questions later

 

mbrannigan@MiamiHerald.com

Vivian and Pablo “P.J.” Rodriguez have been hunting for a house in Miami for nearly two years.

The search has turned into something of an odyssey for the couple, both 32-year-old attorneys who are looking to move from their Brickell high-rise condominium to a single-family home with plans to start a family.

They aren’t overly picky, and they’re willing even to remodel a whole house if necessary.

Yet time and again, they’ve been beaten out amid keen competition for the dwindling supply of homes for sale.

After at least five failed offers on homes in the past eight months alone, they finally landed a contract on May 3.

That happened only after the Rodriguezes rushed in an offer to buy a house that they hadn’t even seen yet.

They actually had a second offer out at the same time, but it went nowhere.

“We would use Google Maps and Google Earth or have someone we know drive by,” said P.J. Rodriguez, a tax attorney with Therrel Baisden P.A. in Miami.

“The market has now gotten that your reaction time to get the offer in has to be instantaneous, because otherwise there will be multiple offers in and you won’t be considered,” he said.

Timing is of the essence given the tight market and keen demand. “They both work, so if a house came on the market Monday and they waited until Saturday when they could go see it, they’d probably miss out,’’ said Taylor Corey, an agent with Coldwell Banker who has been helping them navigate the tight market.

Among the ones that got away, “two were bank-owned,’’ said Corey. “You put an offer in and wait forever to find out you didn’t get it.’’

And the Rodriguezes are playing a strong hand. They’re prepared to make a down payment of 20 percent or more, and they have some extra cash in the event (not uncommon) that an appraisal comes in below the contract price.

But they have repeatedly been aced by cash buyers or faced bidding wars where they decided the value wasn’t there.

During the protracted search, which focused on the Continental Park and Baptist Hospital area in southwest Miami-Dade, the Rodriguezes adapted their strategy to the sellers’ market and the dearth of inventory.

When they first started looking, the Rodriguezes were making conservative offers, expecting to go back and forth with a buyer to negotiate the best deal.

But with multiple offers pretty much the norm on attractive properties these days, sellers can pick among the strongest offers.

“Now we pretty much put our best offer forward from the beginning, because otherwise,’’ said P.J. Rodriguez, “there will be someone else who is.’’

The Rodriguezes aren’t home free yet.

Last week, the couple found out the appraisal on the home that went under contract May 3 came in $90,000 below the contract price of $490,000. They plan to challenge the appraisal by presenting other comparable home sales.

“We have to dispute it,’’ said the agent. “but the problem is the sellers have a back-up contract.’’

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