The best time of year to shop for a house is a very personal decision. Some people do it year-round, like a hobby or obsession. But it’s pretty clear from industry data that springtime is the season when home buying starts to ramp up in a really big way.
As temperatures get warmer, the desire to put down roots somewhere new finds Americans — especially renters and growing families — searching online real estate sites until the wee hours or popping into open houses in desired neighborhoods. Check out the blog we wrote a few months ago for tips on contactless house hunting if you want to go the ultra-safe route.
No matter when you conduct your home search, once you’re lucky enough to actually find your dream home before it’s snatched up by someone else, you may be wondering — what’s the best way to make a competitive offer that will seal the deal? These tips will help make your first offer really stand out.
Six ways to get your offer noticed
- Get pre-approved. Getting pre-approved before you even start house hunting is the way to go. First of all, it’s the best way to understand your financial limits and give you budget parameters that you can use to refine your home search to properties or neighborhoods that are more in line with your ability to live comfortably. The last thing you want is to fall in love with a home you can’t actually afford—or make an offer on your dream home only to find out that you’re denied for the loan.
Pre-approvals also give any offer you make an edge over offers from buyers who aren’t pre-approved. It adds weight to your offer — as long as you’re not low-balling it — showing the seller just how serious you are about buying. And remember, getting pre-qualified for a loan is not as meaningful as getting preapproved. Unlike a pre-qual, a pre-approval is granted only after running the numbers. It means a lender is backing your offer. So before anything else, consider getting pre-approved.
- Put your best foot forward. Work directly with your real estate agent to determine what a strong offer is. In a buyer’s market, where there’s more available inventory than buyers, you may have an opportunity to negotiate on price. A seller’s market will have more buyers than homes for sale, putting you in a tougher spot, and you might even get into a multiple bid scenario.
As a good starting point, have your realtor assess the property value and then look at the value of homes in the surrounding neighborhood. If you really love the house and your pre-approval budget allows, make a strong offer and then ask your realtor to bump it by a thousand bucks if competitive bids come in — but have a cap limit in mind.
Other options are to pay some of it in cash if you can: sellers love that. Or you can increase the amount of your down payment or earnest money deposit: that cements the seriousness of your offer. Counteroffers and negotiations happen fast, so be prepared (and near your phone) at all times.
- Find a personal connection. It may feel awkward telling a stranger how much you love their house, but at one time, they loved that house too. They probably still do. Use that to your advantage. Submitting your offer with a personal letter can establish a connection with the seller and help you stand out from the other potential buyers.
This may sound old-fashioned, but it works: use a pen and some nice stationery and be authentic. Allude to how you’ve been dreaming of a neighborhood like theirs for some time and how you’ve fallen in love with their home. Make a connection by commenting on some of the home’s personality, like a framed photo or the homey feeling you got from lingering in the kitchen. Thinking of raising a family and creating memories there? Let them know.
- Speed up the inspection. Home sales contracts often allow buyers the option of backing out of an offer during the inspection period. Longer periods force the seller to sit and wait for the buyer to commit and extend the home’s time off-market. If the buyer backs out, the seller may have missed out on other offers.
Skipping the inspection entirely is risky; however, you can shorten the inspection due diligence period by asking for three days versus the standard ten. This takes more of the uncertainty off of the seller, which, in turn, will help your offer stand out, especially when there are multiple offers. However, it also puts pressure on you to get the inspection done ASAP, so only use this tactic if you’re 100% sure you want the property and can abide by the quick turnaround.
- Don’t be greedy. This tip is all about inclusions, items a seller is willing to leave behind as a part of the sale. Inclusions are not things like built-in cabinets or in-ground shrubbery: those stay. Instead, they might include otherwise removable things like appliances, window blinds, ceiling fans and remote garage door openers. Sellers identify inclusions in the listing, hoping they’ll appeal to potential buyers and result in a faster sale at the full asking price.
It’s common for some buyers to ask for even more. Maybe some patio furniture caught their eye, or they want the antique clock in the hallway. Under normal circumstances, sure, go ahead and ask. Just be warned that you could risk losing your dream house over something you could potentially buy yourself. The best-case scenario is that inclusion requests just slow things down if you and the seller start to negotiate the price. Worst case scenario? You’ll appear greedy and the seller will pass you by, especially if he has other offers on the table.
If you really want this house, this is not a good time to ask the seller to include personal property in the sale. If you must ask for inclusions, be specific. List each item individually to avoid confusion or disputes down the road.
- Be flexible on the closing date. Most sellers want to close on a home sale fast. Contingencies — like needing to sell your current home first — can irritate a seller who wants to quickly wrap things up. Removing these roadblocks can help your offer stand out from others, especially in a seller’s market where there may be many interested buyers.
On the other hand, what if the seller needs more time because they’re simultaneously buying a new house and want to align both closing dates? It might help your cause to ask how much time the seller needs and to be flexible with your closing date. If nothing else, offer that the seller can stay in the home for a short time after closing (rent-free) so that they can get things in order with their move. Little things like that can go a long way towards helping your offer stand out — even against higher offers.
Go get ’em. We’re right there with you!
Putting an offer on a dream home is exciting. The faster you move the process forward, the faster the seller gets their money and the faster you get to move into your new home.
Ready to move forward? Contact us to learn about our 6-7-1 process, which features a six-hour goal for an underwritten approval decision, a seven-day goal that gets closing documents out weeks before closing to avoid last-minute confusion and a typical closing in just one day*. Find a Movement loan officer near you to get started.
*While it is Movement Mortgage’s goal to provide underwriting results within six hours of receiving an application, process loans in seven days, and close in one day, extenuating circumstances may cause delays outside of this window.