Diving Into the Dilemma

Sigh. The ubiquitous “contingent” offer. Used to be relatively standard fare in real estate. Not quite a bonafide staple but certainly a recognizable cog in the machinations of the marketplace of yore – now dispersed into the hither and yon.


Is there any aspect of our current market more loaded with what-ifs than a contingent offer? More fraught with peril? More centrally located on the receiving line of extreme fear and loathing?


Yeah I know. Contingent offer? All offers are contingent on something aren’t they? Some little ‘catch’ that robs them of their ability to bestow complete and utter certainty from day one of a 30 or 45 day escrow.


There are always inspection contingencies aren’t there? Finance contingencies? Appraisals? And of course that huge shadowy black hole of uncertainty we refer to as ‘buyers remorse.’ The euphemism we use for a thousand different feelings or weak links in the chain of life events that can easy suck an escrow into a cascade of gravitational demise that takes about a New York nano-second.


Let’s face it…if someone truly wants to get out of an escrow during their “investigation” period – for whatever reason – they can always claim they don’t like the school district. Or they didn’t realize the bus line was so far away. Or the freeway noise is too loud. Or there is a rental house right next door. Not to mention the fact that they found one termite too many and the tipping point was reached. Excuses to bail? Let me count the ways. There’s a million of them.


That’s life. That’s real estate. Hope and wish all we want. Cry and scream and hold our breaths until we turn blue. There are never going to be any completely “sure” things. There’s always a 5,000 pound gorilla sitting smack dab in the middle of everyone’s escrow. Get used to it, if you aren’t already.


But a “contingent offer” in the vernacular of most Agents refers to the granddaddy of all contingencies. The Big Kahuna. If there are all those normal “catches” in a standard escrow, this is the one more aptly thought of as Catch #22. The catch that transforms a $5,000 gorilla into an existential $500,000 beast. Almost everyone knows it by some nasty name. It’s that excruciating “thing” where someone has to sell a property first in order to buy another.


Sound familiar? Some of you have been thinking about moving for quite awhile. But you keep talking yourself out of it because you can’t quite figure out how to do it in a way that makes sense.


Whaddaya do first? Go find the house you want to buy and then put your house on the market? Or sell your current house without actually knowing where you are going to go? The more you get into the mind-games associated with either of those scenarios, the more screwy it gets. And the more screwed you feel.


Some of you are active buyers with your houses on the market too and you’ve already been shot down trying to make offers on short sales or bank-owned properties that refuse to even look at your terminally-flawed offerings. It feels like you went to the open house and some strange corporate poltergeist slammed the door shut in your face.


Some of you have already experienced the rolling of eyes and “You gotta be kidding” look of a dismissive listing agent when you mentioned you had to sell your house in order to buy their listing.


Some of you “organic” sellers have already turned up your noses at offers from your kindred soulmates – “organic” buyers – because you weren’t willing to take a chance they would actually be able to sell their house. It’s ok for you to be one of them. But it’s not ok for them to be one of you. Afterall, this is you we’re talking about. Right?


No matter which perspective you come from, contingency offers are brain-twisters. Conundrums. They are like one of those Bamboo Finger Torture Puzzles we had as kids. The more you struggle against both ends the tighter things get. The more trapped you feel. The more trapped you feel, the more you squirm.


How do you sell in this market? How do you buy in this market? How do you do both? The market feels stuck and how can earnest individuals get unstuck without having to gnaw off one of the legs of their own transition?


That’s the real estate dilemma we’ll dive into over the next few weeks.



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