EVANSVILLE, Ind. — Hear the term “cover letter,” and your first thoughts likely go to job or scholarship applications.
For first-time homebuyers, however, a good cover letter can combine a human element with a financial offer, grabbing the seller’s attention.
Maddi Hargett, 23, was eager to get into her first house and hoped to land on Evansville’s West Side. An ideal property popped on the market, listed at just over $100,000 and with a big backyard for Hargett’s beloved pets.
Hargett works at the Vanderburgh Humane Society, where she helps prepare animals for surgery, and she has two dogs and a cat of her own. Her cover letter, she said, laid out why she loved the house and wanted to be its next occupant.
She firmly believes her letter, among other things, helped her gain an edge with the seller.
For subscribers: What rising mortgage rates mean for Evansville’s hot housing market
“I was able to put 10% down and had no government loan,” said Hargett, who lived at home until she was 22 and spent the last few years accumulating enough for a substantial down payment.
Given the scant inventory, sellers in the current market usually see an avalanche of offers. Hargett said the environment forced her to make a quick decision; she had only 15 minutes to tour the house she ultimately bought.
She said her new home on Reitz Hill is a idea spot for her fur family as well as for animals she fosters.
Hargett had looked at one other home, “but I’m so glad it didn’t work out because the second one fit my needs so much better.”
First-time homebuyers Cameron and Bailey Morgan of Henderson, Kentucky, also had to act fast.
The couple had been renting, but they spotted a house on Facebook they wanted. They connected with agent Amber Wood and got preapproved for a loan.
The house was listed for $200,000. The Morgans offered $205,000, with a maximum of $210,000. “Two days later, it got approved,” Bailey said.
The Morgans and their dog, Nellie, are enjoying their new house and urge other first-time homebuyers to keep plugging away, even when the market seems impenetrable.
“Get preapproval, make a strong offer and the right (house) will come along when it’s your time,” Bailey said.
Agents on both sides of the Ohio River say there’s a less than 30-day supply of houses listed for sale, and the most coveted ones are flying off the market. In Vanderburgh County, average sale prices have topped $191,000 and are up 12% from last year.
Warrick County’s average sale has surpassed $273,000, up nearly 8%. Henderson County’s trend line is flatter, with an average sale of about $182,000.
Rising mortgage rates could impact the housing market as 2022 goes on, but agents don’t see significant change yet and say the environment still favors sellers.
“This is year 18 for me,” Wood said, “and this is by far the hardest market I’ve ever seen for buyers.”
How can first-time homebuyers beat back all of these headwinds? The Courier & Press and The Gleaner asked area agents.
When seeking advice, stay local
Seek out a local agent, said Wood, who is with Collier & Company.
“You need someone who’s handled a multiple-offer situation, can explain how to be competitive and can give you tips on how to edge out your competition,” Wood said. “Without a Realtor, your interest might not be protected.”
It’s also a good idea to get a locally based lender who can meet face-to-face and can connect with you after business hours, said Liz Miller with ERA First Advantage Realty of Newburgh.
Plus, Miller said, the good local lenders “are widely known with agents and we lean towards them.”
Be ready to act fast
Hargett and the Morgans jumped into the bidding on houses they wanted quickly, and without doing so, they might not have gotten the keys.
Get preapproval for a loan before you begin looking at houses.
Miller said she’s been encouraging buyers to speak to their bosses “to let them know that they are actively house hunting and ask for some flexibility in hours and scheduling in the event a home lists while they’re at work.
“It’s still very much true that the first one to the table usually has the upper hand.”
Compete, but don’t overpay
There’s a fine line between a lowball offer and overpaying, but it’s a balance that any first-time homebuyer must achieve, according to local agents.
“Stay within your comfortable budget so you can enjoy other activities in life,” said Amy Price with RE/MAX Revolution in Evansville.
Hang in there
Agents said first-time buyers should be persistent and prepare for some disappointment along the way.
“This is your first home and most likely not your last,” Price said. “The term ‘starter home’ was created for that reason.”