The Seattle real estate market has cooled down over the past year or so. You’ve probably heard that already. But what you might not know is that home buyers now have more negotiating leverage, when asking for seller concessions.
In this article, we’ll talk about some of the common examples of seller concessions, and how they might benefit you as a Seattle-area home buyer.
Seattle Housing Market Starting to Favor Buyers
According to a recent article in The Seattle Times, there were nearly five times as many King County homes for sale at the end of 2022, when compared to a year earlier. That’s just one of many metrics that show a general cooling trend within the Seattle-area real estate market.
For more evidence of this trend, we can analyze the current inventory situation. According to a January 2023 report from Realtor.com, the total number of active real estate listings in the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue metro area increased by 176% over the previous 12 months.
The bottom line is that the Seattle real estate market has downshifted in a way that’s starting to favor buyers, more so than in the past. To quote the Times article mentioned above:
“[Sellers] put more effort in sprucing up their homes before listing, they slash their prices when homes linger on the market, and they sometimes help buyers cover the cost of getting a lower rate from their lender. Those tactics are a marked change from earlier days of the pandemic, when sellers could count on buyers scrambling to quickly submit offers…”
This ongoing shift puts home buyers in a better position to ask for a concession from the seller. But what is a seller concession, exactly? And how do you know if it’s the right time to ask for one? Let’s explore that next.
What Is a Seller Concession?
A “concession” is when one person or group concedes (or gives) something to another person or group. In a real estate context, a seller concession occurs when a homeowner offers to give something to the buyer. Sellers do this to attract more offers and sell their homes more quickly.
In the Seattle real estate market, there are many different types of seller concessions. Here are some of the most common examples:
- Closing cost assistance: This is when the seller agrees to pay a portion of the buyer’s closing costs, such as title fees, appraisal fees, and lender fees.
- Rate buydown: The seller agrees to give the buyer a credit at closing that can be used to buy down the interest rate on the buyer’s mortgage loan. Essentially, the seller is contributing money to reduce the amount of interest the buyer will pay over the life of the loan.
- Repairs or credits: A seller might also agree to make repairs to the property, or to give the buyer a credit to cover the cost of those repairs.
- Home warranty: Sometimes a seller will purchase a home warranty for the buyer, which covers certain repairs or replacements of appliances and systems in the home.
- Pre-paids: The seller agrees to pay for items such as property taxes, homeowners insurance, or HOA dues for a certain period of time.
In short, anytime a seller offers to contribute something that helps the buyer close the deal, it’s considered a concession.
How Do Home Buyers Ask for a Concession?
Now you know the basic definition of a seller concession, within a real estate context. The next logical question is, when does it make sense for a home buyer to ask for one?
Much of this will depend on local real estate market conditions:
- In a highly competitive and fast-moving market, sellers are typically less likely to offer concessions. The simple reason is they don’t need to. In a competitive market, sellers often receive multiple offers from buyers soon after listing their homes for sale.
- But in a slower real estate market (like the current situation in Seattle), sellers tend to go above and beyond to attract offers from buyers. This means offering concessions, contributions toward closing costs, mortgage rate buydowns, etc.
Sometimes, a seller will advertise that they are willing to offer concessions for Seattle-area buyers. They might write it into the listing or put it on the yard sign. In other cases, a seller might be willing to offer a concession without broadcasting it.
Like almost everything in a real estate transaction, seller concessions are completely negotiable. A home buyer in the Seattle area could request some kind of concession simply by including it within the purchase agreement. It has to be written into the contract and signed by both parties.
If you’re working with a Seattle-area real estate agent, he or she should handle this process for you. It’s up to you whether or not you want to ask for a seller concession. But your agent will take care of the paperwork and negotiating aspects of it. They’ll include your request within the purchase agreement, and then wait to see how the seller responds.