Editor’s Note: This week, we’re publishing a series of blogs to help home buyers and agents alike make their offers stand out in today's ultracompetitive real estate market. This is the final blog in the series. You can read Part 1 here, and Part 2 here, and remember to always keep an eye on our blog for new content.
If you’ve been reading our series on making your home offer stand out, you’re well aware of the critical importance of working with terrific local agents and lenders to assemble your A-Team, and how you can utilize what is typically a tedious mortgage application process to your advantage to make your offer stand out. (And if you haven’t, you should check them out at the links above!)
Today, we’re here to discuss how personalization plays a major role in this process. Real estate is about relationships, and the more you can cater to the ones that matter in this process – namely, sellers and their listing agent – the better.
Here’s a closer look at some tactics to do so:
Personalizing Your Home Purchase Offer
Stop us if you’ve heard this before: real estate is about relationships. Sure, some home sales are purely transactional, but the vast majority still involve a personal element that extends beyond the numbers. That element can take a variety of forms, but it’s critical to remember that not every home, seller, or offer is made equally. The list of “care abouts” will vary from person to person, which is why it’s important to get as much information as possible about your sellers and personalize your offer.
Here’s a few things to consider to help you do so:
What Matters to Sellers?
We can give you all the tips and tricks we can think of, but none would be as important as this. Each seller has something that they care about in this process, so the best way to find out what matters is simply to ask. Typically, the best way to do this is to have a conversation with a listing agent at an open house, or to have your buyer’s agent call the listing agent privately to have a conversation (if not both).
Everyone knows money is going to matter, but it’s not always the only thing or even the most important. There are endless possibilities of what might matter:
- Maybe it’s an old, family home that a seller wants to see go to someone they trust will care for the property the right way.
- The seller could be a veteran and wants to sell to another veteran or active service member, if possible.
- Maybe the seller just had to pay a significant appraisal gap on a new home they purchased, and therefore expect whoever buys their home to do the same.
There are almost always some small details that may not be available to the general public, but that come to light with a friendly conversation.
Time to Close
While an expedited closing is enticing from a security perspective, sometimes moving out immediately isn’t what a seller wants or needs.
We see this a lot with families with school-aged children, or when sellers are starting a new job (especially if they’re working on a contract or have a delayed start date several months away).
For example: it’s not uncommon for a home purchase to be contingent on the sale of your current home, but for families with children in the midst of the school year, moving would be a major disruption. Owners selling their home in March or April might be looking to wait until the end of June to close so that their kids can wrap up the school year.
There are a number of reasons sellers might want more time before closing, but it’s important to remember that speed isn’t always the goal, and that if possible, flexibility from a buyer might be what pushes their offer over the top.
Speaking of flexibility …
Use and Occupancy
As mentioned, sometimes a seller needs a little extra time to move out of their house, but needs a relatively quick closing. That’s where a use and occupancy might come in handy.
In a use and occupancy agreement, the seller gets to stay in their home for an agreed upon extended period of time, and typically would pay rent to the buyers (and new owners) in order to stay.
A typical use and occupancy rent-back agreement covers the monthly cost of a buyer’s mortgage, but the cost can be negotiated. In some cases, if a buyer is able to do so, a free use and occupancy offer can make a significant difference in your offer.
For buyers, one benefit of the use and occupancy is that they can lock in an interest rate at a specific time, even though they won’t be moving into their new home until a later date. For sellers, this could be an appealing offer because they have their home sold, but don’t have to move sooner than they’re ready to do so.
Share Something about the Buyer
It goes without saying, but at the same time you’re establishing a relationship with a listing agent and asking about the sellers’ needs, you can share information about yourself or your buyer as well. While many agents and sellers like to keep things as transactional as possible, it never hurts to share minor personal details unless a seller has specifically asked buyers not to do so.
And for agents, especially if this is a new listing agent you haven’t encountered before, it’s OK to share a little about yourselves too. Ultimately, the goal is make a connection and help both the listing agent and sellers feel comfortable with you and your buyers. In whatever way you can, you want to bring a real, human element to your offer and be memorable; you want to avoid being another name in a pile.
Maybe your buyer’s offer won’t get accepted, but if you take the time to make a connection you’ll know it’s not because the listing agent or seller is unsure or feeling negative about you or the sellers.
Another uncommon request from listing agents is a “clean” offer. This generally means as straightforward of an offer as a buyer is able to make, with as few contingencies as possible. When in doubt, a simple offer with a competitive purchase price and no additional terms is as clean as it gets.
This is where things can get a little complicated, and it’s pertinent to make sure that buyers understand the legalities of what contingencies they may be waiving. A standard “clean” offer in today’s market usually implies no contingencies are being added to the typical offer to purchase.
Every offer to purchase includes a mortgage contingency, which simply states that if a buyer is unable to obtain financing from a lender, the offer will be null and void.
The presence of a mortgage contingency might make another common contingency, the appraisal contingency, irrelevant. In an appraisal contingency, an offer states that a home must appraise at or above purchase price to confirm its value. However, in most cases, when a home doesn’t appraise for the sale price, a lender will deny the mortgage application. There are ways around this, like getting a loan for the appraisal price and offering to bridge an appraisal gap with unfinanced cash above and beyond how the bank or lender has valued the home. This, of course, would be a beneficial additional term on an offer. But one tactic buyer’s agents like to use is to not include an appraisal contingency at all, knowing the buyer is protected by the mortgage contingency – if a home doesn’t appraise and a loan is denied, the mortgage contingency kicks in due to an inability to secure financing for the loan price.
Finally, inspection contingencies are typically included as part of a standard offer to purchase, but are increasingly being waived in today’s market. No agent can legally advise you to waive your right to a pre-purchase inspection, but a listing agent can share that offers with inspection contingencies aren’t being considered. Ultimately, it’s up to the buyer to decide their comfort level in waiving this protection.
“In this market, where sellers are looking for clean offers, buyers may not feel comfortable waiving every contingency. It may not always be the best in their interest,” CHARLESGATE agent Jen DeNisco explained. “So we try to find other ways in which buyers can still be protected.
“For example, I’ve had buyers who flat out will not buy without an inspection. But when they’re up against other offers that are waiving that contingency, how do you get around that?”
One way, she explained, is asking for an inspection for informational purposes only and then not making the inspection contingency part of the formal offer.
Understanding contingencies, how a buyer chooses to utilize or waive them, workarounds to them, and what a seller expects in your offer regarding them is a critical piece to making your offer stand out.
No matter your choice, your goal is always to be as competitive as possible within your comfort range. Which brings us to our final tip.
Be Competitive from the Jump
You never get a second chance to make a first impression.
It might be cliché, but in this market, it’s absolutely true.
“Buying in this market is so different than it was 10 or 15 years ago,” said DeNisco. “If you are buying your second property or if you've already been a property owner, then this feels a lot different than the first time you purchased.
“If you are under the impression as a buyer that you're going to be able to negotiate price and terms in this market, that's probably not going to be the case.”
The current real estate landscape has turned completely into a seller’s market. Would-be buyers are offering over asking price, and they’re waiving contingencies. Which is why buyers need to be prepared, with the guidance of both their agent and lender, to make their best offer first, because there's not always going to be an opportunity to negotiate up.
It can be uncomfortable to start with your highest and best offer from the jump, but DeNisco uses one simple question to help buyers get into the right frame of mind.
“The question I ask my buyers when they’re making an offer is ‘what are you willing to lose this house for? What’s the price you’re willing to let someone else buy it for?,’ she shared. “When they have that number, that’s their offer. That’s the number they should start at.”
Why start so high? Well, beyond meeting the price that the market demands, it’s partially to avoid the disappointment that comes with losing an offer.
“If somebody comes in even $5K over your best offer, you can walk away from that home with the satisfaction of knowing you weren’t going to pay that much anyway,” she said.
The same goes for contingencies: if you’re comfortable and willing to waive something up front, but would be disappointed if you didn’t and lost your bid because of it, just do it the first time.
You likely won’t get a second chance to negotiate, but by presenting your highest and best offer from the beginning, you’ll absolutely stand out and be in the running.
How to Make Your Home Offer Stand Out: Recap
Today’s real estate market is unlike any we’ve ever seen before, but it’s not impossible to make your offer stand out and get accepted. If you’ve read our series, you’ve seen our top tips from agents and lenders alike:
- Assemble your A-Team
- Work with a local lender
- Make a great impression – and make sure your team does, too.
- Know your numbers, and consider a fast-track approval
- Personalize your offer to cater to the seller’s needs
- Be competitive from the jump by making your first offer your highest and best.
Now, the only thing left is to get out there and win. If you put these practices into play, we’re sure you’ll make your offer stand out.
Ready to start assembling your own A-Team? Meet our agents and speak with someone today.