You’ve found the perfect home that meets all of your criteria and fits within your budget. It’s time to make an offer - but not just any offer. Especially in hot markets, you’ll likely experience competition with multiple offers so you need to make sure that yours is the strongest and most attractive. Your offer should persuade the seller that you are a serious contender who will give them most of what they want, while also protecting your interests.
But before we get into the details about what makes for a winning offer, let’s take a quick look at the basic components of an offer.
Many purchase offers are state-specific, so components vary slightly from state to state, but the vast majority of purchase offers made in the U.S. contain these key components:
Consideration Window: This clause specifies how long the offer’s terms remain valid, i.e. how long the seller has to respond.
Total Purchase Price and Financing: This details the total amount the buyer is willing to pay, the amount of the down payment, the amount to be financed and the loan type. Often times, there will be a financing contingency included with the offer, which means that the offer is contingent on the buyer securing financing for the property. Having a financing contingency protects the buyer in the event they are unable to get approved for a loan.
Legal Description: This is the description of the property as written on the original title and usually includes some combination of the subdivision, block and lot numbers, the property’s numerical measurements and the description of its boundaries.
Contingencies: A contingency is something that must be met in order for the contract to become binding and can be added to protect either the buyer or the seller. Common contingencies include a home inspection, an appraisal, loan approval or the sale of buyer’s existing property.
Description of Included Fixtures and Appliances: This will describe any and all fixtures, appliances and personal property to be included at the sale at no additional cost, such as kitchen appliances, HVAC equipment and smoke detectors.
Special Assessments: Special assessments are one-time tax assessments levied by local government units for public infrastructure projects. Most of the time, the seller pays any special assessments levied prior to the closing date, while the buyer pays any after closing, but this provision will assign responsibility.
Closing and Delivery Dates: This stipulation sets the closing date and when the home is to be delivered to the buyer, i.e. when the buyer can move in. Both of these dates may be extended if loan approval, property repairs or other transaction components take more time than expected.
*Remember that this is a general list and you should always ask your agent about any state-specific practices, requirements or clauses.
In competitive markets, sellers often have negotiating power over buyers and bidding wars may erupt for the best properties. So you need to craft an offer that shows the seller you are serious and gives you a competitive edge, while still protecting your interests. Here are some ways that you can give yourself the best chance at submitting the winning offer:
Pay Cash: This may be very difficult to do for most people, especially in high-cost markets, but if you do have the funds available, a cash offer is almost always more attractive than a financed offer. Sellers love cash offers because they are less likely to fall through due to a buyer's inability to get financing and allow for a quicker close.
Get Pre-approved: If you can’t pay with cash and need to get a mortgage, get pre-approved by a lender before making an offer. While this doesn’t guarantee final loan approval, it shows the seller that a lender has verified your income and credit score and determined that you can afford a mortgage, providing the seller with confidence that the deal won’t fall through due to an inability to secure financing. As your real estate agents, we can recommend lenders to work with.
Make Your Best Offer: It might be tempting to submit a low offer and try to get a good deal, but in competitive markets the best course of action is to make your first offer your best one. Always base your offer on recent sales of comparable homes in the area.
Add an Escalation Clause: An escalation clause means that the buyer will agree to increase the offer if there’s a higher bid from another buyer. For example, a buyer offers $250,000 with the addition of an escalation clause which states in the case of a competing offer, the offer will increase in increments of $2,000 up to a certain amount. But keep in mind that if you agree to pay more than market value as determined by an appraisal, your lender may not lend the full amount and you would be responsible for the difference.
Give the Seller Time: Give the seller adequate time to respond and be willing to work with the seller’s timetable for closing.
Make a Connection: Tell the seller what you love about their home in a handwritten letter. This is a way to connect with the seller on a personal level and appeal to their emotions.
THE URSINI TEAM AT COMPASS
We're not your typical real estate agents. As former city dwellers, we appreciate the qualities that make city lifestyle so unique, from the convenience of walking to your favorite restaurant or corner store to the vast and diverse cultural and entertainment activities. But we’ve also experienced the challenges and frustrations that are motivating you to seek change. During our transition from the city to the suburbs, we had the same thoughts, concerns and questions, prompting us to create a better way to navigate the suburban home search process for others.
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The Ursini Team is a team of real estate brokers affiliated with Compass. Compass is a licensed real estate broker and abides by equal housing opportunity laws. All material presented herein is intended for informational purposes only. Information is compiled from sources deemed reliable but is subject to errors, omissions, changes in price, condition, sale, or withdrawal without notice. No statement is made as to accuracy of any description. All measurements and square footages are approximate. This is not intended to solicit property already listed. Nothing herein shall be construed as legal, accounting or other professional advice outside the realm of real estate brokerage.
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