Guide to Writing a Winning Offer

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20 Ways to Write a Winning Offer

#1: Submit your mortgage pre-approval from a reputable, local lender. A pre-approval from an out-of-town or big box lender can create doubt in the mind of a seller. For example, I've seen sellers disregard offers from buyers who are pre-approved by an internet lender. Give your seller every reason to believe your pre-approval is solid by working with a local bank or credit union. 

#2: Even better, work with a local lender who can deliver your loan commitment in a week or less. Yes, some lenders can get the job done this quickly. For more info, please reach out to me. You can also get a head start on your loan approval process by going through the initial underwriting process, this reduces the number of financing days needed thereby making your offer that more solid.

#3: Ask your mortgage lender to email and call the listing agent on your behalf when you submit your offer. This simple touch gives the seller an extra boost of confidence that you'll close without any problems. 

#4: Create a connection with your sellers by writing a thoughtful letter. For example, if the sellers raised their family in their home, write a letter which explains why their house is perfect for you and your family. Have everyone in your family sign the letter (the kids with crayons), and include a family photo. Most buyers choose not to write a letter, but very often it's the personal letter that's the deciding factor in a multiple offer situation. 

#5: Write the seller's preferred closing date into your offer. In a competitive situation you want to do all that you can to reasonably address the seller's preferred terms. Giving the seller their preferred closing date is a great way to tip the scales in your favor. 

#6: Write an above average amount of earnest money into your offer. The typical earnest money check is about 1% of the offer price. Make your offer stand out by submitting a higher than average earnest money amount.

#7: Make a stronger impression with your earnest money by submitting it with your offer. 

#8: If your finances allow, specify a down payment amount of at least 20%-25% in your financing contingency. This will help you gain an advantage over other buyers who are putting less money down. 

#9: Consider whether you really need to include an appraisal contingency in your offer to purchase. Right now many winning offers don't include this contingency. Talk to your buyer agent about the pluses and minuses of including an appraisal contingency in your offer to purchase. You can also guarantee up to a certain amount by using a partial waiver.

#10: Make your offer stronger by making it a cash offer - even if you intend to purchase with a mortgage. If you have accounts which demonstrate sufficient cash to close, you can use these accounts as proof of funds and submit a cash offer. Once your offer is accepted you can choose to finance with a mortgage instead. Contact me to learn more about the steps involved with this type of offer. 

#11: Don't make your offer contingent on the sale of your current home. Instead, work with your lender to get pre-approved for financing which doesn't require you to sell in order to buy. Of course you can still work with your agent to sell your current home and buy your new one on the same day. See this article for a few tips on buying and selling at the same time. 

#12: Don't ask the seller to pay for a home warranty. An alternative way to protect yourself against future repair costs is to hire a good home inspector. A thorough home inspection will identify necessary repairs, which you and your agent can then negotiate as part of your home inspection contingency. 

#13: Don't ask the seller to pay for any other extra fees. Closing costs and other extra fees affect the seller's bottom line and could cause you to miss out on your dream home. 

#14: Don't make your offer contingent upon the review of deed restrictions and covenants. Instead, do your homework up front and review these documents before you submit your offer. If you're satisfied with your review, then submit your offer to purchase with this contingency excluded. 

#15: As much as possible, shorten each contingency deadline (financing, inspection, etc.) to the fewest number of days possible. Talk to your buyer agent about an appropriate number of days for each contingency. 

#16: Hand deliver your offer. This can be especially helpful when writing an offer on a For Sale By Owner property. This gives your agent a face-to-face opportunity to clarify your interests in the property and establish rapport with the seller. 

#17: Work with an experienced buyer agent who goes the extra mile to communicate your interests. Too many buyer agents over-rely on texts and emails when communicating with listing agents. We recommend you hire a buyer representative who knows the value of calling the listing agent and explaining the merits of your offer. When you're up against other offers, your buyer agent's communication style can make or break your chances for getting your offer accepted. 

#18: Make the seller's move easier by allowing the seller to rent back the property from you for a few days or a week after closing. 

#19: Offer to pay some or all of the seller's closing costs. This can be a nice way to appeal to the seller's financial interests without causing the appraised value of the home to come in under the contract price. 

#20: Offer to pay some or all of the seller's property tax at closing. This strategy is recommended for very competitive offers only. 

More Thoughts on Writing a Winning Offer

Your chances for success go up for every winning strategy you include in your offer. And very often it's not just the price that determines the winner. Usually it's about the offer as a whole, the overall tone of the negotiation, and who the seller trusts is the best fit for their home. That's why it's so important to work with an agent who sets a positive tone during the negotiation while working with you to assemble a great offer.  

Please note these strategies are intended for a hot seller's market and negotiations with multiple competing offers. Market conditions and strategies will change over time. Every offer is unique. In no way should this article be treated as legal advice or as a substitute for the advice you should be seeking from your attorney or buyer agent.