Making a Home Offer? Crush the Competition with These Moves

You’ve looked at more houses than you can remember. Now you’ve found it… The One. Will you leave to chance the slightest factor in making the winning home offer? Will you put in a very nice but totally unremarkable presentation? Of course not. Here’s what you’re going to do.


How to make a home offer that beats the competition. A lot is said on this topic, and much of it is a given.

Offer cash and provide proof of funds with your offer. Have a certified loan pre-approval letter. Make the offer in writing. Present it in person. Beef up your earnest money deposit. Submit complete paperwork.

But really, everyone knows and does that. So, what else? What can really help you crush that bidding war?

Let’s check out 6 proven winning tactics.

Jump the Gun

It isn’t often this is considered a good thing, but when it comes to winning out on a home, jumping the gun is a savvy move.

In this case, “the gun” is a new listing’s first open house. Don’t wait for it. Crawl the MLS listings every day and as soon as you see a home you like, get your agent to set up a showing no later than the next day – the same day if at all possible.

Getting yourself in front of the Seller before anyone else shows him that you’re seriously motivated and action-oriented. This reflects well on the probability of a fast and smooth transaction, and what Seller won’t count that as a big plus when considering your offer?


Get Personal with the Seller

It’s not just business. Buying and selling a home is extremely personal.

Flippers aside, just as much as you are buying a home you have fallen in love with and dream of living a happy life in with your family, the Seller is parting with that setting of so many family experiences and milestones.

This is often a very emotional transaction for both sides.

It is extremely common for Sellers to cry the last time they walk out of their home. And it is just as common for Sellers to choose Buyers they believe will love their home as much as they do, even if they don’t make the best financial offer.

But they can’t know how much you love it and your dreams for your life there if you don’t tell them. So do. Either in person when touring the house the second or third time after you’ve had a chance to absorb the nuances, or in a letter along with your offer.

Be specific. And focus on emotional connections, not monetary value features.

Is there a beautiful garden they obviously gave much love to? Maybe they even made a point of reminiscing fondly about the time they put in the trumpet vine that made their yard a hummingbird magnet? Or the hilariously hopeless attempt to grow corn they still laugh about? Tell them how important the garden is to you and how much you’re looking forward to tending it, teaching your kids to grow vegetables in it, putting your personal touches on it, and making it even more wildlife friendly.

You get the point. Pay attention to their words and actions. See what they obviously love most about their home and reflect that back to them. Assure them those same features and more are special to you and that you’ll take good care of them.


Do Not Covet Thy Seller’s Goods

When you’re competing for a home, don’t be greedy. You never know just how neck-and-neck your offer may be with your competitor’s, so don’t give up the slightest edge.

However stunning the floor lamps are, however cool the riding lawn mower looks, however amazing the smart refrigerator is, however convenient it would be to get to keep those lovely window treatments – if they’re not included in the listing details, don’t even ask about them, much less press for them.

It’s quite simple… Are any of those things worth losing out on the house you’ve set your heart on because demanding them was the only real difference between your offer and someone else’s?


Put Time on the Seller’s Side

Time. So many have lamented that there just isn’t enough of it. But Sellers often lament that there’s just too much of it.

What does your Seller want? To close ASAP, “yesterday” if not sooner? Or does he need as much time as possible because his new living arrangements aren’t ready.

If the Seller’s need for either scenario is strong, accommodating him will be a major plus in your favor. It could actually be the winning card you play against more-or-less similar competing Buyers who aren’t so obliging about the closing and/or move-in date.

When one of these scenarios is a big factor for the Seller and you simply can’t accommodate him due to your own moving schedule pressures, find another enticing way to sweeten your offer. It will offset your inability to meet that scheduling need and keep you in the running for the house.


Keep It Simple

An offer spilling over with demands for closing credits, repairs, the house being vacated prior to closing, a 3-week wait for an appraisal, and so on and so on is a major nuisance and red flag to a Seller.

In addition to the host of inconveniences, he will also see this as a pile of reasons the closing is likely to get delayed, perhaps more than once, and maybe even cause the deal to fall through. Especially with contingencies he can do nothing about, like the sale of your current home.

If you’re in competition for a house you can’t bear to lose, and the contingencies are just a bonus for you — not serious make-or-break issues — skip them. Keep your demands to a bare minimum, or to none at all if possible.

However! Don’t make yourself vulnerable.

Rather than pass on the vital protection that appraisal and inspection contingencies give you, plan ahead. With notice, a good local agent and experienced lender can get these key property reviews taken care of within a few days of making your offer.

That way, at least you won’t be asking the Seller to wait around for weeks, only to possibly find out there’s a deal-breaking problem. That will make these contingencies much less of a strike against you.


Tack on an Escalation Clauses (Very Cautiously)

This is a way to protect yourself from losing out on your dream home to another Buyer who simply offered to pay a bit more than you.

You can include in your offer a clause that automatically increases your bid by a certain dollar amount, up to a certain dollar amount, when a higher bid is put in. That’s right – it’s a good old-fashioned bidding war weapon.

Ever done this on eBay? Same basic idea, just on a much bigger scale (probably, we must imagine). The win is more amazing and rewarding, but so is the risk of digging yourself into a financial hole.

Beware the frenzied desire to “win.” Keep in mind the property’s actual value. Don’t start life in your new home under water by making a bid that puts your buying price over the appraised value, at least not by very much. And make the cap very tight so the bidding war doesn’t get away from you.

Get expert advice from a seasoned agent and your financial advisor before leveraging this option. Any difference between your bid and the appraised value will come out of your pocket, in cash. Your appraised value mortgage loan won’t cover it.

It’s best to use this tool in a Buyer’s market, where you and other Buyers may be starting out with bids that are below asking price/appraised value. That way you can keep the increased bid within the appraised value.

And one last “beware” note.

Make sure there are other bidders for the house! You’ll be telling the Seller how much you’re actually willing to pay. If you’re the only bidder, why would he accept less than you’ve already told him he can get? You can be sure any “low-ball” offer will get countered to get you up to your real maximum offer, or as close as possible.


Personal considerations and common sense aren’t as typical in home offers as you might think. Be the Buyer who includes all of these in your offer and you’ll put yourself at the head of the competing pack.


Which of these or other tactics have you used to land the winning home offer? Tell us about your experience in the comments below! And we hope you’ll share these tips with family and friends looking to buy a home.