Linda Landon, 68, purchased this home located just outside of Asheville, North Carolina. Landon says she included a personal letter in her bid detailing what she loved about the property.
Sellers have the upper hand in today’s housing market. But that doesn’t mean buyers are helpless to improve their odds.
With demand far exceeding the number of homes for sale, buyers have become all too familiar with the disappointment of getting an offer rejected. “I’ve recently gotten over 22 offers on a house after just two and a half days of being on the market. So it’s highly competitive,” says Scott Sanchez, a licensed Realtor with Keller Williams Clients Choice Realty in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
But even in a heated market, there are some creative ways to catch the interest of sellers and get your offer to the top of their pile — without necessarily increasing your bid or paying more, according to a range of real estate experts.
The highest offer isn’t always the one that’s accepted, these experts say. But you’ve got to at least match the listing price. “If you’re going to get multiple offers, anything below [the listing price] doesn’t even get looked at,” says Shaheedah Hill, licensed Realtor with Maximum One Realty in the Atlanta area.
Beyond that, sellers value certainty over anything else, and this is where you can make your mark. “If a seller’s going to accept your offer, they want to make sure that it’s going to go through,” Hill says.
Linda Landon, 68, sold her L.A. home last year and accepted a lower offer over other bids because it was all-cash versus financing.
Getting into the mind of a seller in today’s market can help buyers craft an offer that will stand out — such as creating a personal connection. For example, one thing Landon appreciated about the offer she accepted was the heartfelt letter the buyers included. “They really got the essence of my home. They really appreciated what I know to be true about the home,” Landon says.
When multiple buyers are close on the price and payment structure, sellers need to narrow down their choices. If you’re up against other comparable offers — as is often the case these days — and a seller needs a tie-breaker, experts say there are ways you can stand out and pitfalls to avoid.
A home is a big financial investment. It’s also where we make memories and mark many of life’s big milestones. So it’s easy for homeowners to develop a personal connection with the property that doesn’t break just because the house goes on the market.
Being considerate about how you speak about the house goes beyond sparing the seller’s feelings. Some buyers make negative comments about a property thinking that it will result in a better price for them somehow, says Tamar Asken, CFP and licensed Realtor with Avenue 8, a real estate brokerage in the Los Angeles area. “And that’s extremely unhelpful. You need to do the opposite. Tell people that you love their house. They’re more likely to want to sell it to you if they think that you appreciate it.”
And with the proliferation of smart home devices, such as Google Home products, Amazon Alexa, nanny cams, security cameras, and baby monitors, pay attention to what you say even when the homeowners aren’t around. “[Don’t] discuss the offer in the house, and also, don’t say anything negative about the person’s home while you’re there, because they probably are listening,” Hill says. Many homes also have security devices and smart doorbells at their door, so Hill says this is important to keep in mind even as you approach a house. A flippant comment about some imperfection with a property can be received poorly by a seller — who in turn could hold it against you in considering offers.
One way to improve the offer is to include an appraisal gap clause. With this clause, you’re committing to cover some or all of an appraisal shortfall. And in some situations, this is an essential part of crafting a winning bid. “The biggest divider I’m seeing is the appraisal gap,” Sanchez says. “I’ve had some sellers recently who took a little bit of a smaller offer because it was a guaranteed [full] appraisal gap.”
For the buyer, it’s very important to only commit to covering 100% of the appraisal gap if you have the cash to pay for it, which can be challenging to estimate. If the appraisal comes in $20,000 or $30,000 below what you offered, then you’d need to pay that out of pocket. An agent can help you anticipate costs depending on the appraisal scenario.