What is a Seller’s Market?
A seller’s market is when there are more homebuyers in a particular area looking to purchase a home than actual houses listed for sale. A seller’s market usually results in rising home prices and stiffer competition among homebuyers. Also, home sellers will have the upper hand when it comes time to negotiate. However, even if the U.S. housing market is indicating a seller’s market and the competition is fierce, rest assure that you can still buy a house. Here are nine of the best tactics out there so when it comes time for you to make an offer, yours will rise above the rest.
Be Ready to Act Instantly in a Seller’s Market
1) Get Pre-Approved for a Home Loan
One of the smartest things you can do to ensure your chances of buying the home you want is to apply for a pre-approval on a mortgage. Applying for a mortgage after making an offer on a home tells home sellers you may not be as motivated to buy as others. An underwritten pre-approval for a mortgage usually takes about 24 hours and is strongly recommended for those looking to buy and want to be competitive in a seller’s market.
Furthermore, you’ll receive a pre-approval letter from your lender indicating how much of a mortgage you’ve been approved for. Sharing this letter with home sellers shows them you won’t be wasting their time and that you’re motivated to buy their home.
2) Get a Great Real Estate Agent
The home buying process can be stressful and sometimes overwhelming. Having a great real estate agent by your side throughout this process can help make everything go more smoothly and aid you in making an offer quickly when the time comes. This is particularly true if you are moving to a new area or a larger housing market like Atlanta or New York. Your buyer’s agent can provide you with keen insights into specific neighborhoods, such as walkability, schools, and other local amenities. They will also help you when it comes time to make an offer, since they know what’s happening in the local markets and will use that knowledge to negotiate effectively on your behalf.
How to Make Your Best Offer
Once you have gone through the pre-approval process, connected with a real estate agent, and found the home you want to buy, you’re ready to make an offer. The following are some things to make your offer stand out among the competition.
3) Write an Offer Letter Catered to Each Home Seller
Letters to home sellers have become more and more common among homebuyers in a seller’s market and especially true with competitive neighborhoods. So, how do you write a real estate offer letter that will grab the home seller’s attention? First of all, don’t just tell the home sellers you want to buy their house, tell them why you want it. Home sellers are people too and will be appreciative to hear what you love about their home. Additionally, if you notice that you share something in common with the home sellers, mention it in your offer letter. If you both have kids or dogs, referencing this in your letter is a great way to make yourself more relatable, and will also show you wrote it specifically for them.
4) Make an Offer in Cash if You Can
For sellers, an all-cash offer is very appealing and can lead to a higher likelihood of you winning the house. If you don’t have to use a lender, there’s no financing contingency, which shows the sellers that you will most likely not pull out of the deal due to financial issues. If you pay in cash the sale can also happen quickly and, overall, lead to a smoother home sale. Of course, many of us can’t afford an all-cash offer and will need to rely on other tactics.
5) Put More Earnest Money Down
Earnest money is the amount of money you put down to show how serious you are in purchasing a home, also known as good faith money. Earnest money protects the home seller in case a homebuyer backs out of a home sale after the offer was accepted by the home seller. Unless a homebuyer backs out due to something coming up in a home inspection or appraisal, the home seller will get to keep the earnest money. Earnest money can also be a great tactic to use if you’re shopping in a seller’s market or competitive neighborhood. Home sellers tend to favor buyers who put down a larger installment of earnest money because it shows that you are serious about your offer and giving you a leg up on the competition.
6) Add an Escalation Clause
An escalation clause is inserted into your purchase offer for a home and is intended to make sure you get the chance to be the highest bidder. This clause states that if the seller receives another offer that is higher than your initial bid, you are willing to increase your offer to a higher price, usually a predetermined amount. Want to give yourself the best chance at calling home in a hot neighborhood your own, then add an escalation clause to your offer.
7) Don’t Have Any Extra Contingencies
In a seller’s market, you may want to submit an offer without certain contingencies as a way to stand out among competing offers. Though it is still advised to keep the home inspection contingency, there are other contingencies you can certainly pass on. You most likely won’t need a mortgage contingency since you’ll already be pre-approved for a home loan and don’t ask for high-maintenance contingencies such as only buying the house if your current one sells or that you can knock down a wall. Essentially, keep your contingencies to a minimum so the home seller has fewer hurdles to complete in selling their home.
8) Don’t Restrict the Sellers to a Timeline
Limiting the home seller to a timeline can bring them extra stress during an already very stressful time. Give the home seller the gift of time, allowing them the flexibility to move out whenever it is best for them. Something as simple as time might give your competitive offer the edge it needs to win the home.
9) Be willing to make concessions during negotiations
During the negotiation process, you may have a better chance of closing the deal if you are willing to make compromises. There may be some things that you are not willing to budge on such as a home inspection, but maybe you don’t ask the home seller to redo the back deck or paint the house before you move in. This will allow for a smoother closing process and for you to move into your new home more quickly.
Buying a home can be difficult, especially if you are buying in a seller’s market. Use any or all of the recommended tips to stand out from the competition to help you purchase your next home.
10. Write A Letter To The Sellers With Your Offer
I recommend including a personal letter with your offer to introduce yourself to the seller and let them know what you love about the home. A letter can help the sellers form a personal connection rather than just seeing the numbers, and will help your offer stand out against any other offers.
Selling homes is an emotional and financial decision, and some sellers can be swayed by compliments. Let them know why you love the house, the neighborhood and how you plan to take care of it to make a good impression. Sometimes, flattery does get you in the door.
A well-crafted offer (in both price and terms) gives the listing agent and seller confidence in you as a buyer. The listing agent and sellers need to feel confident that everyone is on the same page to move forward with the transaction and that the buyers can close the deal. It's not uncommon to place bids on a few properties before getting an offer accepted, but don't let it get you discouraged. By being educated and well prepared to submit the strongest offer you can, you will know you gave it your best shot!
11. Offer a quick closing.
The best part about having a Verified Pre-Approval letter is that once your offer is accepted and you’re ready to apply for a loan, our underwriters have already done most of the work verifying your financial details. That means we can usually close your loan weeks faster than the industry average, many times within 21 days from locking your rate.2 (The industry average is as much as 50 days.3)
12. Be Faster Than Everyone Else
What about Zillow and Trulia and Realtor.com? As fun and useful as they are, these sites aren’t going to cut it when you want to buy a home in a competitive market. You need a local agent to notify you as soon as a new home is on the market, via email or some other method.
Zillow, Trulia, Realtor.com and other sites all get their data from the local MLS. They pull data multiple times a day, but your local agent will have data instantaneously, meaning you could see a new house before anyone else.
Once you’ve found your home, put in an offer right away. Have your negotiating strategies at the ready (an agent will be happy to help you figure these out in advance).
Know how high you’re willing to go in a multiple offer situation. An escalation clause can automatically put your bid at $1,000 higher than any other bids—but make sure you know when to stop.
13. Be a Nice Buyer
Show the seller that you’re going to make life easier for them. They don’t want this home-selling thing to drag on any longer than it has to. Make sure you:
Schedule a home inspection right away
Offer to rent the house back to the seller once you own it (called a rent-back agreement, these can be tricky, so make sure you know what you’re doing). The seller doesn’t want to be homeless and is likely going to have to buy a competitive market also
Don’t be afraid to write a letter to the seller if you feel like it will make a difference, which it can to some sellers
Last, a good agent will call the listing agent and find out what’s really important to the seller so you can put together a great offer