The best time of year to shop for a house is a personal decision.
There are benefits to buying and selling during the “off season,” which would be fall and winter; however, it’s pretty clear from industry data that springtime is the season when home buying starts to ramp up.
As temperatures get warmer, the desire to move somewhere new causes renters and growing families to visit open houses in their quest for a new home.
No matter when you conduct your home search, once you’re lucky enough to find your dream home, you might be wondering: What’s the best way to make a competitive offer that will stand out to sellers? These tips will help.
Getting preapproved before you start house hunting is important. First, it’s the best way to understand your financial limits and determine a budget that you can use to refine your home search. The last thing you want is to fall in love with a home you can’t afford — or make an offer on it only to find out that you’re denied for the loan.
Preapprovals also give your offer an edge over offers from buyers who are not preapproved. It adds weight to your offer — as long as it’s competitive — and shows the seller just how serious you are about buying.
Remember, getting prequalified for a loan is not as meaningful as getting preapproved. Some use these terms interchangeably, but unlike a prequal, a preapproval is granted only after verifying the information on your application. It means a lender will be able to approve your loan and is backing your offer.
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 is more available inventory than buyers, you might 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 might get you into a multiple offer scenario, or a situation where you must bid over the asking price.
As a good starting point, have your Realtor assess the property value then look at the value of homes in the surrounding neighborhood. If you love the house and your pre-approval budget allows, make a strong offer, then ask your Realtor to bump it further if competitive bids come in — but have a cap limit.
Other ways are to increase the amount of your down payment or earnest money deposit, which cements the seriousness of your offer. Counteroffers and negotiations happen fast, so be prepared.
Find a personal connection
It might feel awkward telling a stranger how much you love their house, but at one time, they loved that house, too. 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 other potential buyers.
Make a connection by commenting on some of the home’s personality, like a framed photo or the homey feeling in the kitchen and dining room. Thinking of raising a family and creating memories there? Let them know.
Speed up the inspection
Home sales contracts can be written to allow buyers the option of backing out of an offer during the inspection period. Longer inspection 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 might have missed out on other offers.
Skipping the inspection entirely is risky; however, you can shorten the inspection due diligence period by asking for a shorter timeframe. This takes more of the uncertainty off the seller, which will help your offer stand out, especially when there are multiple offers. That said, it also puts pressure on you to get the inspection done ASAP, so only use this tactic if you are 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 removable things like appliances, window coverings, 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 more. Maybe some patio furniture caught their eye, or they want the lawn mower left in the garage. Under normal circumstances, you might be able to ask to include these items. In a low-inventory market, like we are in, you could risk losing your dream home over something you could potentially buy yourself. Worst case scenario? You’ll appear greedy and the seller will pass you by, especially if they have other offers on the table.
If you do ask for inclusions, be specific.
Be flexible on the closing date
Most sellers want to close on a home sale fast. Contingencies — like needing to sell your home first — can irritate a seller who wants to quickly complete things. Removing these roadblocks can help your offer stand out from others, especially in a seller’s market where there might be many interested buyers.
On the other hand, some sellers need more time because they’re buying a new house simultaneously and want to align both closing dates. In this case, it might help to ask how much time the seller needs and to be flexible with your closing date. If nothing else, offer that the sellers can stay in the home for a short time after closing (rent-free) so that they can get things in order with their move. That can go a long way toward helping your offer stand out.
Putting in an offer on your dream home is exciting. The faster you move the process forward, the faster the seller gets their money and the faster you move into your new home.