Creative strategies to gain an edge on an offer (aside from the most obvious element - price)?

Asked by Home Buyer, Mountain View, CA Wed Jul 11, 2012

What level of readiness with financials/ mortgage is attractive to sellers? Will a pre-approval letter do? Does it help if my mortgage broker contacts the listing agent? Does writing a letter to the seller really help? Any other creative strategies you have used in the buying process that have worked to win the bid?

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Robert Lei, Agent, Cupertino, CA
Thu Jul 12, 2012
To answer your questions:

1. The more ready and safe your financials/mortgage are the more attractive you look as a buyer to the sellers.

2. Pre-approval letter is a must.

3. Whether your mortgage broker calling the listing agent helps or hurts depends on what your mortgage broker says to the listing agent.

4. A letter to the seller can help if you write the right things.

5. "Creative" somehow connotes "tricks" to some degree. Sometimes it's actually the opposite. For me, I think what helps me is that after I chat with the listing agent, that agent probably knows and feels that I will work extremely hard to keep everything moving and solve all the inevitable bumps along the way. Several times the listing agent said they picked me and my buyers offer instead of a higher offer from another agent because they just felt more comfortable with me. (Someone criticized me for saying this before, but it's true that the sellers and listing agent want to work with buyers agent that they feel they can count on. Sometimes will give up a little bit of price in exchange for working with someone they feel they know what they are going to get.)

Of course, there are limits to the comfort factor. If the other buyers offer is $80,000 higher, I can't help you there :-)
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Avi Urban, Agent, Palo Alto, CA
Mon Oct 8, 2012
The truth is that it’s very difficult to compete in our Silicon Valley highly competitive market with so many well qualified buyers and limited inventory.

Saying that, it’s doing the obvious, be well prepared, with your documents and mortgage, read and sign all disclosures, have a good understanding what the seller is looking for, if you have doubts and questions, get them resolved before making the offer.

Make your best offer the first time, you may not get a second chance.
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Home Buyer, Home Buyer, Mountain View, CA
Wed Aug 1, 2012
Thanks everyone for your helpful tips and insights.
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Stu Carson, Agent, San Jose, CA
Wed Jul 11, 2012

Are you already working with an agent? If so, best of luck. I'm sorry, but I'm not going to share the essence of why my clients love working with me here.

If you haven't hired and agent yet. In other words, if you haven't signed a "Buyer Broker Exclusive Representation Agreement", then check out my website, resume, client testimonials, etc... Anyone can show houses, but negotiating & representing the Buyer is the essence of why only 1 in 100 agents is worth hiring.

If after learning more about me there's a possibility of us working together, call me. We can talk about how to position you so that your offer is a strong as it possibly can be.

For your convenience here are quick links (note: within this document is a link to my resume)

Stu Carson
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Monica Goyal…, , Cupertino, CA
Wed Jul 11, 2012
As many sellers and agents will tell you, highest offer is not always the best offer. Even then you should be highest or the second best. Have all documents in order, preapproval, earnest deposit, down payment (proof of funds). A strong offer is with a strong price and financing, that means reputable lender who will make sure the transaction goes thru.

You can make it more attractive by:
- short contingency period
- less contingencies (ofcourse must do your due dilligence to protect yourself)
- short close, not the typical 30days.
- Open and fair dealing, too much back and forth in the negotiations kills the deal

Yes you can write a letter, doesn't hurt to try. Ask your agent to present the offer in person, with all the supporting documents. A neat and tidy file makes a good impression.

Best of luck!
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Elena Talis, Broker, Palo Alto, CA
Wed Jul 11, 2012
You are right - the offer price is the most important factor. But given that there will be a number of offers within $5-10K range of each other, you can win on conditions.

You have to have the pre-approval letter from the reputable lender, you have to have the verification of funds documentation - just like everyone else. What will set you apart is a non-contingent offer. Depending on your financial situation and the property, some of my clients were able to make a non-contingent offer even when they needed a loan. You will need a right mortgage broker to support you if you decide to take this route.

Other ways to sweeten your offer is to increase earnest money deposit to 5% or more, release the initial deposit to the seller at earlier stages of the process, shorten the escrow period, increase the deposit above customary 20%, etc., etc., etc. I know a good creative agent that can help you put an attractive package together...
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Greg & Sheila…, Agent, Los Altos, CA
Wed Jul 11, 2012
As a strong listing agent in the 94087 area code, I can tell you I see everything. I will tell you to start with a very good agent. Period. Excellent agents know exactly what to do to get your offer accepted.
It starts with the agent having a reputation of following through on their promises, working with the buyer to eliminate fears and concerns before you get into contract. This way the listing agent knows that their offer is a done deal, and doesn't need to nurse it through the escrow process. The 2nd thing is to ensure that the agent has a good working relationship with the lender. Nothing can derail a good deal like a bad loan. Go with proven winners, the mortgage lender who follows through on their promises, and eliminates all potential snags in the loan process before you get into contract. This way the listing agent knows that their offer is a done deal, and doesn't need to nurse it through the escrow process. Do I sound like I'm repeating myself? It is surprising to me, that agents present offers in which they have no knowledge of the loan broker they're working with, and many tell me the buyer picked them off the internet. It is also surprising how the offers are put together, how they're presented, and all the little nuances that tip the hat towards the best agent with the best buyer. Sure, a nice letter really helps, but I have represented Buyers where my offer wasn't the top, but because I had a solid reputation for closings (agents can look that up), I often get the nod. I always ask for the BANK preapproval letter, a mortgage broker letter means little to me unless I know the individual mortgage broker. Knowing that the mortgage broker had run it through the lender helps me know they've done their job. Preapprovals unfortunately don't mean much anymore. I always ask for BANK preapprovals and source of funds. If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to call me.
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Andrea Wince…, Agent, Milpitas, CA
Wed Jul 11, 2012
Number one would be cash. If not then at least a 20% down payment conventional loan is best over other loans. A strong good faith deposit (usually 3% of the purchase offer price), fewer contingencies, a preapproval letter is ALWAYS required with any offer (preapproved as in the lender has seen all your financials and verified them along with bank statements, source of down payment and that they have run your credit report. All of these things COMBINED with PRICE is best !
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Aileen La Bo…, Agent, Los Altos, CA
Wed Jul 11, 2012
Hi First Timer,
A Pre-Approval letter is usually pretty much required before your offer will be taken seriously. I would not so much say that its creative - more necessary.
When you're competing in a multiple offer situation, the stronger and more certain your offer terms are, the better your offer looks to the sellers. Do you have a chunk of downpayment that you can offer? Are you flush enough to cover any shortfall if you choose not to have an appraisal contingency? Have you looked at all disclosures and reports, and are therefore able to have a short contingency period?
Can your lender close earlier? There are many options to make your offer more attractive. You should seek the advice of a professional full-service realtor who can discuss these options with you in detail, and advise you of the implications of each of the terms, so that you can make a fully informed decision.
Are there creative ways? Yes, there are. My clients can attest to that. Once again, you should talk through your options with a realtor who has a proven record of success - they'll advise what suits your specific circumstances. :)
Good luck,
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Grace Hanamo…, Agent, Cupertino, CA
Wed Jul 11, 2012
Hi First and thanks for your post.

In today's market, with lower than normal inventory, and a larger number of ready buyers, here's what really makes the difference to the seller...ready?


I wish I could tell you that a great letter from the buyer with pictures and comments about how much everyone loves the home would be the reason for the seller selecting one offer over the other, but, in truth, it's all about money.

To really get a home, your offer must be the highest (or in second place), have secured financing with a loan preapproval (not prequal) letter and a good sized down payment so that, if the home is sold for an amount higher than the seller feels will stand up to scrutiny by the appraiser, the seller will not have to lower the price for the buyer to obtain financing. As a result, a "good" or "winning" offer will be one that is for the most amount of money, with the best financing, and the highest down payment.

Again, I wish I had creative strategies for you at this time, but there is so little inventory on the market today that homes are going to those who can make the highest offers.

By the way, working with a great agent who can help you determine what "good" or "high enough" price is for the home--that would be your BEST strategy today!!

Grace Morioka
Area Pro Realty-People's Choice
Tel (408)426-1616
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Lance King, Agent, San Francisco, CA
Wed Jul 11, 2012
All else being equal, what gets offers accepted is the sellers' belief the deal they choose will close, and sometimes there is an emotional component as well - for example, it was their family home and they would like to see another family move in.

The letter from the buyers will help the sellers believe your deal will close because you took the time to write it, and if your agent/broker can get any inside info on any emotional components or special needs - rentback, longer close, etc... - you can write those into the deal on the front end and make yours more attractive.

On one occasion I learned that the sellers for the house our buyers wanted really wanted another family to move in. I found out that the sellers were going to be at a showing and had my clients bring their newborn twins with them and gush about the house. There were 5 offers, ours was accepted almost solely because of that extra effort with inside info
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