The big picture answer that shows up for me is a shift into more of a seller's market. I showed Milpitas homes to another client this weekend, and there was so much activity with a lot of homes going pending.
I would say to write a very appealing offer, I can recommend a few steps:
1: Find out what is driving the seller. It is not always money. Or, find out what drives the seller's agent. Is it short contingency days? Is it an opportunity to rent back? Is it a quick close?
2: Write a very careful offer. The word we use is "clean." Don't leave a bunch of unclear questions that have to be cleared up on a counter offer. If your agent has trouble explaining this to you, find an agent who can explain this to you!
3: Include all of the information you can possibly enclose. What happened in the age of "foreclosed" homes is that buyers started enclosing proof of funds to close, pay stubs, and even copies of their fico report. When I enclose these things, the sellers are VERY HAPPY. And if I'm going against you in Milpitas, I'll win if my client's proof of funds, FICO score and such are stronger than another offer. I'm disclosing so much, the seller can see that we can do this.
4: In short sales, personality matters. The seller and listing agent are going to have to hang out with you for several months. They want to like the agent and the buyer. It's not only your money but your personality, sometimes, that will "win" in the multiple offer short sale scenario I'm seeing a lot of here in MIlpitas and Berryessa.
5: Early. The early bird is getting the worm right now. You want to be quick to offer. It sounds like you are being pretty quick!
As far as does the agent respond to the offer, agents sometimes do not. Especially with foreclosures, they just don't always have the bandwidth or propensity to be communicative. It may depend on the quality of the assistant or the culture of the office. If your offer isn't particularly unique and your agent isn't building relationships with the listing agents, you're likely not to hear unless you hit it just right (clean offer, right terms, right amount of proof provided).
I hope this helps. I wouldn't give up, homeownership has so many benefits and Milpitas is not that hard to get into.
Erica Glessing Nelson