When you find a home you'd like to buy, you'll need to write an offer for it. Follow these steps to create a successful offer.
To write an offer, you need to know how much to offer for the home. To decide on a price, you need to know about two things: the local market and the seller.
You can get information on both from Trulia (by looking up the ZIP code's Stats & Trends and by searching the home's address) and from your real estate agent.
Research local selling prices for homes comparable to the one you're looking to buy. This will give you an idea of the fair market price for the home.
Also check the history of the property -- when the seller purchased it and for how much. A seller who bought a home several years ago and has seen some appreciation in its value may be more willing to negotiate on price than a homeowner who purchased a home fairly recently and has seen little appreciation.
If you are working with a real estate agent, ask for his or her input on what you should offer for the home.
Unless you'll be offering to pay cash for a home (and few of us can), you'll need to take out a mortgage. Arrange to be pre-approved by a lender before submitting an offer. When you are pre-approved, you have a guarantee from a lender that they are willing to lend you a certain amount under specific terms and conditions. A seller will take an offer from a buyer who's been pre-approved more seriously than one who wasn't.
You could go it on your own and navigate the process yourself, but you'd be smart to get the assistance of a real estate agent and a real estate attorney to ensure that your interests are protected. You also want to make sure that your written offer meets legal requirements. These requirements vary state from state, as there is no universal contract that's used.
An offer can be presented in what's called a "Purchase Agreement." Among the information that the document should include are: the date of the offer, the address and description of the property, the price being offered for the home, finance terms (loan details, how much of a deposit/down payment will be made, etc.), escrow details, closing date, possession date and any contingencies (clauses that allow a buyer to cancel a contract without penalty).
Among the contingencies you may want to include are: the right to get the home appraised and inspected and making the offer contingent on the buyer obtaining financing and acceptable results of a home inspection.
You should fully understand your offer before signing it, so have your lawyer discuss with you any questions or concerns you may have about your contract.
With your offer, note how much you'll be offering in a down payment.
Arrange to have the deposit held in an escrow account (not with the seller) so your money can be returned to you should the offer fall through. If the offer is accepted, the deposit will be deducted from what you'll owe the seller at closing -- when the sale is finalized.
Deliver the offer to the seller or to the seller's real estate agent.
Once your offer is submitted, all you can do is wait. The seller may be decide to accept the offer, reject it outright, or offer a counteroffer.
If the seller offers a counteroffer, she will suggest changes such as the sale price or the possession date. You can accept the counteroffer, or submit one of your own.
This process will continue until the seller and the buyer mutually agree, or until the offer is rescinded. Once an offer is accepted by both parties and signed, it becomes a binding contract, so it's imperative that you work with your lawyer throughout the process and understand the offer's contents fully before it is signed.