Put Seller's Perks in the Contract

During the real estate market free-fall, sellers were offering creative incentives—Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow anyone?—to win over skittish buyers. Though that may no longer be common practice, if a seller is offering incentives, make sure they are included in the purchase price.

When the real estate market was in free-fall, home sellers started coming up with creative incentives to win over skittish buyers. One homeowner even offered to throw his classic Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow in with any real estate deal; others have agreed to make the first few mortgage payments for the buyer. Offering big-ticket items like cars or boats may no longer be common, but it’s still very much a buyer’s market, say many real estate experts, and sellers are still offering goodies like new furniture, big-screen TVs, and appliances to sweeten deals.

If the seller offers incentives such as furniture or appliances like refrigerators or air conditioners as part of the deal, make sure these items are included in the purchase contract, say some real estate agents, especially if you’re buying from a private homeowner. Be specific; an unethical seller may try to leave inferior appliances or cheaper furniture in place of what you thought you were getting. Include the make and model of any appliances, for example, or take pictures of everything the seller has promised to leave.

Buyers who deal with home builders are more likely to get perks, since, unlike private homeowners, developers are losing money every day a house remains unsold. Some of the more valuable incentives include furniture and appliance packages; some builders will even assume the buyer’s closing costs. Again, real estate mavens suggest that any offers a builder makes should be made part of the purchase contract. That way, if the contract terms aren’t met, you can back out of the deal.