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How to Make the Winning Offer On a House

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 offer? Will you put in a very nice but totally unremarkable presentation? Of course not. Here’s what you’re going to do.


Monica S. Betancourt
President/Realtor, The Monica Betancourt Group
Vice President, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices EWM Realty

How to make an offer that beats the competition to buy a house. A lot is said on this topic.

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 who wants to buy a house and has done any research at all already knows that. So, what else?

What can really help you win that bidding war?
Because it definitely isn’t only about making the highest bid.
As a long-time Realtor, I’ve seen many winning offers that
were not the top dollar offer.

Let’s look at what I’ve seen consistently put hopeful Buyers over the top.

Jump the Gun
This isn’t usually considered a good thing, but when it comes to winning a home bidding war, 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 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. Selling and buying a home are extremely personal transactions.

Flippers aside, just as much as you’re buying a house you’ve 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.

A home sale is often a very emotional transaction for both sides.

It’s quite common for Sellers to cry the last time they walk out of their home. And it’s 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 top dollar 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 competitors, 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 do your Sellers want? To close ASAP, “yesterday” if not sooner? Or do they actually need as much time as possible because their new living arrangements aren’t ready?

If the Sellers’ need for either scenario is strong, accommodating them will be a major plus in your favor. It could even be the winning card you play against more-or-less similar competing Buyers who aren’t so obliging.

When one of these scenarios is a big factor for the Sellers and you simply can’t accommodate them due to your own moving schedule, 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, a 1-month wait for an appraisal, and so on is a major nuisance and red flag to Sellers.

In addition to the host of inconveniences, they’ll 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 they can do nothing about, like the sale of your current home.

If you’re in competition to buy a house you can’t bear to lose, and the contingencies are just a bonus for you — not 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 property appraisal and
home inspection contingencies give you, plan ahead. With notice,
a well-connected local Realtor and experienced lender can get these
key steps taken care of within a few days of making your offer.

This way, at least you won’t be asking the Sellers 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.

Personal considerations and common sense aren’t as standard
in home offers as you might think. Be the Buyer who includes all of these
elements in your offer and get an edge on the competition.

Have family and friends looking to buy a home? Share these and more of our Tips for Buyers!