Creative Ways to Buy A House

Kevin and Patti Silva needed to buy a house – fast.

Along with their two children, three dogs and a cat, they had sold their house in Atlanta and were all packed, with the moving truck scheduled for late May, ready to move to the Bay Area for a job transfer.

When conventional house hunting with a real estate agent didn’t work out, Kevin Silva placed a detailed Craigslist ad describing their target neighborhood, price and house size. He netted five responses, one of which led to making a deal to buy a San Anselmo house directly from the owner.

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While having all the stars and planets align so perfectly is rare, the Silvas’ story illustrates how many house hunters are coloring outside the lines to land a place in the overheated real estate market. Whether it be cold-calling homeowners with offers or placing ads in search of potential houses for sale, being creative is key, experts say.

Of course, the top strategy is both the simplest and the hardest – pay way over asking, in all cash.

Short of that, there are a variety of ways prospective buyers can find a house as well as rise to the top of the offer pile:

Placing an ad: Swooping in with an offer before a home is officially posted for sale is a top tactic, and it worked for the Silvas.

After being consistently outbid, they considered renting, but that market was too competitive. “I realized unless we got really aggressive, we would end up in my parents’ basement in San Mateo with the kids, the dogs, the cat and a really unhappy wife,” Kevin Silva said. In the end, a simple online ad labeled “Wanted to buy: House in San Anselmo or Fairfax” did the trick. A $1 million budget undoubtedly helped. He got one response from a man who, like Silva, was of Portuguese ancestry. They quickly bonded on the phone. Silva visited the three-bedroom house and liked it, and returned with a real estate agent friend who advised him that $1 million was a reasonable price. Attorneys helped draw up the paperwork in an amicable deal.

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