Looking for the Real Deal? 8 Ways to Find a Deal on a House in Seattle in 2023
May 5, 2023
I love a good deal. Who doesn’t? Two-for-one pizza’s from Pagliacci? Sign me up. Fifty percent off everything in Nordstrom? There in a heartbeat. Paying less than list price for a 3-bedroom, 2-bath single-family home in Fremont? I would LITERALLY KILL to make this my reality.
But let’s pump the brakes a little. Pizza and reasonably priced khakis are one thing, but a six-to-seven figure real estate investment is entirely another. It doesn’t behoove us to pretend otherwise.
I talk to would-be buyers all the time who tell me they want to wait to buy until they can get a good “deal.” What I find, however, is that very few of these individuals have a solid conception of what a “deal” means in the Seattle housing market in 2023, much less whether the “deal” they want is realistically attainable.
Step one in finding a deal on a house in Seattle is to understand what a “deal” means for you. Does it mean you bought a home at or slightly below list price and didn’t have to compete with other buyers? Perhaps it means you were able to wring a closing cost concession out of the sellers. Maybe it means finding that piece of land no one else knows about and building your dream home on it in 6 months for 20% under budget. If you’re seriously considering that last one, I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you. However, if in fact you’re setting your sights a little more realistically, there’s good news…
It is, in fact, possible to buy a home for a “deal” in Seattle in 2023. But it’s not easy. And you need to go into the process of finding your “deal” with a sober mind and patient understanding that 1) it might not happen, and 2) if it does, it could take quite a while. With that in mind, let’s talk about how I WOULD SUGGEST you go about looking for that elusive “deal” in Seattle Real Estate in 2023.
1. Know your competitive advantage!
If you want the same type of property as everyone else, you’re going to compete with everyone else. And this means you’re going to pay more. It’s the basic law of supply and demand. So, ask yourself: What sort of things might drive other people away from a house but don’t particularly phase you? Are you ok with a little road noise? Bingo, competitive advantage. Don’t care about off-street (or even no) parking? That’s a huge competitive advantage in the Seattle area, where parking can easily add $50-75k to the cost of a home.
Another competitive advantage might be that you have the capacity to do a home remodel. Many Seattle home buyers are not at all interested in fixing up a home, so if a home needs to be renovated, this will instantly turn off a segment of buyers. In this situation, you’ll want a real estate agent who can help you figure out what type of home updates are possible, and how much it might cost. The Get Happy at Home team does this all the time for our clients, and with the construction side of our business, Happy at Home Contracting, we can get the work done for you, too. Check out some of our projects here!
When you decide what trade offs you are willing to make, if you want a “deal,” think firstly about which ones will give you a competitive advantage. Feel free to reach out and we can brainstorm together!
2. Check out homes that have been sitting on the market for a long time.
Most people know that those homes which are long on the market are more susceptible to negotiation and below-list-price offers. In Seattle, this rule of thumb typically applies to homes that have been on the market for a minimum of 20 days. But it’s really at that 30-day mark that it becomes more likely that the sellers are willing to negotiate. However, you also need to find out why this home hasn’t sold yet. Your real estate agent can do some digging for you to figure this out as it’s not always obvious.
3. Find a home that’s been sitting on the market for awhile AND has motivated sellers.
Following up on the last point, if a home is failing to sell, AND the sellers really need to sell for some reason, this can be a great opportunity to score a deal. Again, you’ll likely need your agent to do some clever digging to figure out these sorts of seller details.
4. Don’t ignore homes that look terrible online.
Sometimes, a perfectly good home is presented very poorly online. You’ll know it when you see it—the listing agent didn’t have professional photos taken, or maybe the home features outdated finishes and loud paint colors, for example. Many people can’t make the leap in their imaginations from how a home looks online to the potential it might have. There is an emotional component to buying a home, after all. If you can see the potential, then it might be worth touring in person and giving the home a chance. If the substance is there, the style can be changed.
5. Take a closer look at homes that aren’t staged or properly prepared.
This is similar to #4, but look for homes that haven’t been staged. Staged homes are proven to sell faster and for more money; people love being able to envision how they’re going to live in a home and decorate a space. Also be on the lookout for homes that weren’t properly prepared for the market. This could include things like a messy looking front yard, an unattractive exterior paint color, broken things that are easily fixable, worn carpets, hardwood floors that should be refinished, etc.
6. New townhome groups or condo buildings where there’s just 1 or 2 homes left for sale.
Whenever you see a new building complex and there’s only 1 or 2 listings left, there’s a great opportunity for a potential deal, particularly if that home has been on the market a while (usually we measure this by when the first unit was listed, rather than how long the particular available unit has been advertised on the MLS). This is true whether it’s a townhouse group, a condo building, or even a planned community of single-family homes. At this point, the builder is often ready to move on. They are eager to get those last units SOLD!
Recently, I worked with some buyer clients. We found a townhome in South Seattle that was in a group of 50 townhomes, and there were only 3 left. Through conversations I had with the listing agent, I found out that the builders were anxious to get the townhomes sold so they could move onto the next project. We were able to negotiate and get a great deal (concessions and lower-than-list price) on the home.
Another recent example: one of my clients was interested in a beautiful new condo building, which was struggling to sell the remaining units after closing most others. The builders weren’t willing to drop the price (for marketing reasons), but they were willing to give my buyer an extra $20k in closing costs. Sometimes you just have to ask; you can’t get what you don’t ask for. (Also, as a side note, keep this in mind as you’re searching for a home! If you’re looking at the sold prices for recent listings, you don’t know if there were seller concessions included in there.)
7. Search in “in-betweener” neighborhoods or lesser known neighborhoods.
A lot of times when people are searching for a home, they want to live in a big name neighborhood like Ballard or Capitol Hill. But there are a lot of in-betweener or “micro-neighborhoods” that are lesser known, and might not be on other buyers’ radars.
Take Pigeon Point in West Seattle for example. This is not one of West Seattle’s well-known neighborhoods, and yet there are some great properties here! This micro-neighborhood is on the top of the hill, surrounded by greenery, and offers a sense of seclusion, and yet it’s close to the West Seattle Bridge. Look for these “hidden” spots if you want a “deal.” But be aware, you still may have to move fast!
8. Consider buying a condo.
Seattle’s condo market is so depressed right now. So, generally, buying a condo is a great way to find a deal. Eventually, the condo market will go back up; people keep moving to Seattle and they need to live somewhere. Especially if you’re a first-time home buyer, a condo is a smart way to get into the market and start to build equity. Your first home doesn’t need to be your forever home; it can also be a stepping stone to your next home (or a source of passive income as a rental down the road).
Hot tip: Some people believe that there are off-market deals to be had on homes, but I would be wary of anyone coming to you claiming to have a “pocket listing.” First of all, these are hard to come by, and typically only apply to vacant land deals or new building complexes that are just beginning to get built. In the latter case, you will RARELY end up paying a “deal” price by buying early. In Seattle, pre-market deals on new construction often end up being more expensive than those who wait, and come with much higher risk. Second, there are very strict requirements regarding the pre-list marketing of properties in Washington, and so it’s rare that anyone touting such listings is acting legally and ethically. Finally, most people will want to list their home to get the best price possible. So, when I see a seller in Seattle that wants to go this route, I have to question their reason why and whether they would be easy to work with. These deals are the most at risk of falling through and being a waste of both time and money.
Here’s one last word of wisdom, just for good measure:
A “deal” isn’t everything. Don’t be the person who owns 1,000 pairs of socks because they saw them in Goodwill for 25 cents a pair. Don’t be the person who never upgraded from their high school beater car because they couldn’t find a good “deal” on a new one, despite having the money to buy. Your house is a home, not a “deal,” and sometimes it makes sense to pay that extra 5% over list price to land somewhere you can be truly happy. I promise, if you keep this mindset, you’ll have a much better time in your home search, and end up with a much better home. 🙂