Property & Finance
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Make the Right Offer on Your Dream Cabin

By Melissa M Kellogg
Published: April 1, 2009

Whether you’re buying your first vacation home or trading up, the current economic climate makes putting together the right offer a challenge like never before.

So, what goes into making a winning offer?

Alison Craig has been selling lakehomes for decades. A licensed broker – and owner of Alison V. Craig Realty LLC of Hague, N.Y. – she says buying a vacation home is different than purchasing a primary residence. Vacation homes are generally “not something someone has to have,” says Craig. “It’s an emotional need.”

More Than Money

Often, sellers want more than just the money when selling their vacation home, a place where they’ve created so many family memories. Understanding the emotional aspect of buying and selling a vacation home can help buyers get the best price. “Sellers want the feeling that the right family is in their house,” says Craig, who often encourages the buyer and seller to meet, and if they like one another, the sellers will often work harder to get the deal done.

Realtor Marjorie Nolan, co-owner of Kurilla Real Estate in Brainerd, Minn., agrees this softer side is an important part of a vacation home sales transaction. She spends a great deal of time with buyers and sellers to understand what they want – monetarily and otherwise. Buyers can be far more successful in making the right offer if they understand all sides of the sale, Nolan says.

Craig saw a buyer offer a lower price in exchange for a later closing date so that the sellers could enjoy one last summer in their lakehome. The offer worked. The buyers got their price, and the owners got one last summer.

Know the Neighborhood

Once her buyers are ready to make an offer, Nolan says she spends time helping educate her customers on the local vacation home market – which she says is integral to making the right offer. She takes her clients to visit comparable cabins and goes over comparable sale prices. She also helps buyers understand how the current economic climate has affected the local real estate market.

Name Your Price

The final step in coming up with a winning offer is to name your price. Craig says when working with your realtor to put an offer together, take into consideration not only what the property’s worth, but exactly what you can afford – then offer just below that so you have bargaining room.

She also suggests offering 10 percent below asking price, which she says is generally fair. “It won’t insult the seller and gets the dialogue going,” says Craig.

“Buying and selling a vacation home is a very personal thing,” she says. “If you try to do right by everybody, you will come up with the right price.”

Melissa M. Kellogg, a freelance writer from Edwards, Colo., and fourth generation Adirondack camper, dreams of the day she and her family can make an offer on an Adirondack camp of their own.  

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