When it comes to buying a house, the highest priced offer gets the house…right? Not always! Sure, a hefty sum on an offer is the first thing that every seller wants to see, but any good real estate agent will advise their seller that each offer is a sum of its parts.
Here are five reasons why you may just beat that higher offer:
Cash Is King
If you can buy with all cash, you will likely win out over a higher-priced offer. According to RealtyTrac’s latest data, 43% of all home sales in 2014 have been all-cash deals. Savvy sellers know the benefits of an all-cash buyer: there is no issue involving mortgages and lenders, the escrow closes faster, and there is no appraisal to worry about.
The Next Best Thing: A Pre-Approval Letter
A pre-approval letter is the confirmation from your mortgage broker or bank that you’re ready to buy in a set price range and have been pre-approved for the loan. In essence, the pre-approval letter turns you into a virtual cash buyer, as mortgages are harder to come by these days. Someone may be offering to pay more, but if they are not pre-approved, you will have the leg up, even at a slightly lower price.
Closing is generally 30, 45, 60, or 90 days. Customizing the length to suit the seller’s needs can often seal the deal over a higher priced offer. A seller generally wants a fast closing. If you have all your ducks in a row, you may be able to pull off 30 days. But what if the house they are moving to won’t be ready for 60 days? They’ll need more time. Find out what they need, and then give it to them. I’ve seen many lower offers win using this tactic.
The “Please Let Me Buy Your House” Letter
I know, I know, you are thinking this is soooo cheesy. However, a friend of mine had three similar offers on the table when he was selling his house. Two of the offers came with very heartfelt letters.
He was actually put off by the buyer who didn’t send a letter because the others did and it made a huge impact—and he sold to one of the letter-writers, even though it was a slightly lower-priced offer than the non-letter writer. Writing a letter may not get you the deal, but if you are the one offer that doesn’t put pen to paper, it could lose it.
Don’t Overload On Contingencies
Contingencies are negotiating tools that give you an opportunity to walk away without consequence. The most common: the inspection, the financing, and the appraisal. However, every contingency you add makes your offer weaker, because it makes it that much harder to close the deal. Make sure you really need them before building them into your offer.
Here are’s some more details on specific contingencies and how to handle each:
- Contingent Upon Inspection – I have heard other experts give you the “tip” to forgo the inspection contingency to make your offer more attractive. Here’s my advice: NEVER give up this one. After your inspection, you give the seller your list of problems, current and potential, along with the opportunity to fix them, adjust the price, or give you a credit back. If the seller does not agree to any of your requests, you can walk. You take a huge risk if you waive this. A much better option: offer to do the inspection in the first few days after opening escrow and to give a response to the inspection results within a few days.
- Contingent Upon Financing – Don't omit this one either, unless of course you are paying all cash. With most 30-to-45 day closings, you will usually have 17-to-21 days to get your mortgage approval. Having that pre-approval letter will make this finance contingency less of an issue for your seller.
- Contingent Upon Appraisal – It’s very possible that the house may not appraise for what you have offered to pay. However, if you have done your homework, analyzed the comps of the neighborhood, and are comfortable with the price you have offered, then consider waiving this one. The risk is that you will have to come up with any difference between the appraised value and the negotiated sales price. Waiving this contingency really gives you a leg up over the competition, especially in a hot market where the seller is trying to get top dollar.