What is an all-cash real estate offer, and should you make one?

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Mortgage rates are at historic lows, but not all homebuyers are leveraging the record-breaking downtrend with a home loan. Instead, they’re forgoing financing and making an all-cash offer on a house.

What is an all-cash offer on a house?

What does an all-cash offer mean? All-cash offers take the need for securing a mortgage out of the homebuying equation, eliminating the potential challenges of working with a bank or lender.

There are plenty of buyers who can afford to do it, too. According to ATTOM Data Solutions, more than 25 percent of single-family home and condo purchases in 2019 were all-cash deals.

Not everyone who makes an all-cash offer is going to live in the property, though. Some of those homes and condos are income properties, and those owners are often looking to pay no interest to a lender while earning money from tenants or travelers.

Pros and cons of an all-cash offer

The biggest upside for a cash offer is the long-term benefit of paying zero interest or principal on a mortgage, which can add up to big savings over the typical loan term.

The additional perks of paying cash begin before the property is even yours.

“You have a lot more negotiation power with an all-cash offer, and you can usually get a better price,” explains Boniface F. Allocco, attorney and co-founder of Allocco, Miller & Cahill, P.C. and a residential real estate law specialist in Illinois.

“If there are multiple offers on a property, the seller will most likely go with the cash offer because it’s a sure bet,” Allocco says.

In addition to the potential of getting a lower price, the escrow fee is typically split between the buyer and seller in a cash transaction, whereas the fee is usually a buyer’s charge when financing is involved. By avoiding this, Allocco says the buyer can save, on average, between $700 and $800.

You can also skip a number of the pesky fees that are tacked on when closing with a lender. No one needs to process your application, initiate a loan or verify your income, so many of the typical closing costs aren’t a factor.

All-cash offers also prove to be especially helpful for self-employed individuals.

“Those who are not traditional employees who receive W-2 forms can face difficulties getting financing,” Allocco notes. “They have to jump through a few extra hoops.”

Cash offers aren’t all upside, however.

“You don’t have the benefit of a lender performing an appraisal,” Allocco says, “so it’s unknown if you’re paying too much for the property.”

When tax time arrives, homeowners with mortgages benefit from writing off the interest that added up throughout the year, as well. Allocco says that he has seen some clients who want to make cash offers face pushback from their accountants who advise them to take the financing route so they can write off the interest and lower their tax bill.

How an all-cash closing differs from a traditional transaction

All-cash offers tend to close faster than deals where a mortgage is involved. However, according to Allocco, there’s still typically a 30-day closing period due to work on the seller’s end. In Chicago, for example, the seller will need to receive zoning survey certification, water certification, association documents if buying a condo, title documents and other formalized information about the property.

Cash buyers will still have to deal with some paperwork, too, but the number of documents required is significantly fewer than what is required for a traditional financed closing. In a cash closing, Allocco says that cash buyers will sign a settlement statement and a few title company documents.

How to make an all-cash offer

  • Budget for both the property and extra expenses. In addition to having the money for the property, you’ll need to make sure that you can cover other costs such as property taxes, a home inspection, homeowners insurance and moving expenses.
  • Prepare to prove your personal finances. Get proper documentation from your bank that shows you have the funds ready for the transaction. “The seller is going to want to see a piece of paper that shows you have the liquid cash to purchase this property,” Allocco says.
  • Be ready to be more earnest. All-cash offers are about the cash. With no lender involved, the seller will expect to see a bigger amount of earnest, or deposit, money — somewhere between 5 percent and 10 percent of the purchase price, according to Allocco.
  • Get a professional to look at what you’re buying. You’re paying a lot of cash, so once your offer is accepted, it’s wise to pay for a home inspection to verify there are no hidden flaws with the property.

Bottom line

The ability to pay all-cash for a property can eliminate a lot of the stress of homebuying, but make sure it doesn’t hinder the rest of your financial goals and obligations.

“A cash offer is not for everybody,” Allocco says. “You still need to be able to have the liquidity to enjoy your life. If you can make an all-cash offer in a way that doesn’t affect your regular lifestyle or impede your future retirement plans, it’s probably a benefit to you.”

Featured image by Ariel Skelley of Getty Images.

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