Across the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast, homes are selling faster and for higher prices than they were the same time last year. Meanwhile, inventory remains tight. The National Association of Realtors reported there was 6.6 percent less inventory at the end of March than the year prior. With these conditions, homebuyers face stiff competition when making an offer on a property this spring.
But there are ways to get ahead. Here are tips from agents and leaders at Long & Foster | Christie’s to make your offer stand out in a competitive market.
Make sure you’ve done your financial homework. A preliminary approval from a lender carries more weight than a pre-qualification. That’s because your lender verifies all your financial information. It’s a more thorough process that positions you as a stronger, less risky buyer. “Money, timing and risk are what matters to the sellers, and whatever you can do that minimizes risk to the seller makes you more appealing,” said Kate Ryan, a Realtor in Long & Foster’s McLean, Virginia, office.
Ask your loan officer to call the seller’s agent as well, advises Cindy Ariosa, senior vice president and regional manager of Long & Foster in Baltimore, Western Maryland and the Eastern Shore. That phone call further assures the sellers that you have the financial resources to close.
Accommodate the sellers’ preferred closing date. The easier you can make the process for the sellers, the better your offer will appear. Rae Nunnally, a real estate agent in Long & Foster’s Bellgrade office in Midlothian, Virginia, received an offer for a home she’s selling that allowed the sellers to choose the closing date and gave them the option to rent the property back after closing. “Those conditions made their offer stand out,” Nunnally said.
Even offering the sellers just a few days after closing to rent back their home—often at no cost—can make a buyers’ offer more attractive, Ryan added.
Get creative with the home inspection requirements. You might not want to waive the home inspection, but you could limit the amount of repairs the seller would need to cover. In Nunnally’s recent sale, the prospective buyers asked for up to $1,000 worth of repairs resulting from the home inspection. They also requested a home warranty to cover longer-term items.
Put down a little extra for your earnest money deposit. If $1,000 is the norm in your area for an earnest money deposit (also called a good faith deposit), consider bumping yours to $5,000. The added amount shows the sellers you’re serious about purchasing their home, says Bob Albanese, senior vice president and regional manager of Long & Foster in New Jersey.
Write a personal letter to the sellers. What do you love about the home? Why do you want to live in the neighborhood? Show the sellers who you are and why you want to make their home your home. In fact, when Ariosa’s son and daughter-in-law were shopping for homes last year, she encouraged them to write a letter to the sellers of the home they wanted. They won the home—even with an offer that wasn’t the highest.
While there are many tips to stand out in a competitive market, the most important is this: rely on your real estate agent throughout the process. They know the market, the conditions and exactly what it takes to find that place you can call home.