How to Write a Winning Offer in a Seller's Market

How to Write a Winning Offer in a Seller's Market

Forget the spin. Take off the rose-colored glasses too. Let's be honest. Most buyers are hoping to score a home at the current real estate market's lower pricing tiers and face fierce competition, creating a process fraught with disappointment.

That's the bad news. But I am by nature a confident guy, a problem solver, and a believer in the philosophy that winners never quit. So here is the good news. A buyer with a savvy agent can write an offer that a seller will find hard to refuse.

Be Ready to Act Fast

Desirable properties often have multiple offers a couple of days after hitting the market. There is no margin of error for indecisiveness or being unprepared to offer a hot property as quickly as possible. That means you should not even consider offering a home if you do not have a preapproval letter from an accredited lender.  

Don't Be Coy

In this market, you can feel reasonably confident that if you have fallen in love with a home, so have other buyers. The occasion calls for an assertive approach, not a timid one. Open with your best offer, which should equal the asking price or higher. Your real estate professional will provide insights based on competitive properties also for sale in the neighborhood and homes that have already sold.

Go Above and Beyond

Let the sellers know your degree of commitment by upping the earnest money to 3% of the sale price. Doing so will instill seller confidence that you will not be likely to walk away from the deal since you have more money at risk. Another enticement is to make the earnest money offer non-refundable should you as the buyer cause the value to fall apart for any reason.

However, let me insert a caveat here. Consider the option carefully and talk it over with your agent and lender. You would need to prepare to forgo other contingencies to make this work.

It Isn't Only About Money.

Another way to sweeten the pot for a seller is to remove as many contingencies as possible. Examples include a home inspection. If you are uncomfortable with doing so, consider shortening the time you request to get one done. You can also agree to up your down payment if the appraisal falls short of the agreed-upon price of the home. Again be advised this is a risk you should consider carefully.

Be Accommodating

An experienced, assertive agent will find out as much as possible about the seller's situation to write an enticing offer. If they are anxious for a quick sale, offer to get to the closing table as soon as possible. If the opposite is the case and they might appreciate a few extra days after closing to move out, give it to them. Do the sellers want to exclude that antique light fixture in the dining room that is a family heirloom? Don't even think of being disagreeable with the request.

Appeal to Their Emotions

Many of today's buyers include a personal handwritten note to the sellers along with the purchase offer. Appeal to their emotions by listing why you love the home and why you will be the best person to buy it. Don't go overboard; limit your letter to a couple of paragraphs. It may not work, but then again, you have nothing to lose for trying.

Include an Escalation Clause in Your Offer

Escalation clauses are becoming more popular than ever when a hot property that will undoubtedly draw multiple offers comes on the market. It's a method a buyer can use to put more money on the table (with increments of $1000, for instance) while edging out the competition while setting limits with a cap.

Let's assume there is a desirable home in a highly sought-after neighborhood listed for $299,900. Our buyer and his agent know this property will generate several offers and conclude that the highest may come in at $310,000. The stage is set for a bidding war which our buyer fears he will not win, so instead, she opts to add a clause that says she is willing to go $1000 above the highest offer received up to a cap of $316,000, hoping the seller will take the $311,000 rather than counteroffer.

The success or failure of using the escalation clause as an element for a successful offer depends on the seller's situation. Someone who has already moved to another home may be eager to sell and avoid losing the highest and best bid. A homeowner who is not in a hurry to make a move may go with counteroffers or take the home off the market and relist at $316,000, which was the cap on the escalation clause. 

Have a Strong Team Advocating for You

In a market where competition is intense, timing can be the difference between having an offer accepted or rejected. It would help if an experienced professional team working on your behalf. When choosing a lender, make sure they will be ready to fast-track your loan through underwriting and approval. Hire a real estate professional who knows the intricacies of the market and has a proven track record of success writing winning purchase offers for buyers.

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