When you find the home you want, everything hinges on making an offer that stands out. If your best offer isn’t good enough, then the seller will choose another bid — and it’s back to square one for you. If the seller accepts your bid, then you’re one giant step closer to owning a new home.
That makes it important to know how to make your offer stand out. While the price you offer is the main factor that a seller will consider, there are ways to make your bid stand out besides offering more money.
Here are 17 creative ways to make your home offer stand out.
1. Be Friendly
One of the easiest ways you can make an offer on a house that stands out is to be friendly. Home purchases are emotional transactions for the seller, too, and being warm and friendly can sometimes be a deciding factor for a seller with similar bids.
“Being friendly can certainly help create a positive relationship with the seller and their agent, but it is not a guarantee that your offer will be accepted,” says Toni Gambill, a Realtor and broker associate at LPT Realty in North Port, Florida. “While being friendly and building a rapport with the seller can make them more inclined to work with you, the decision to accept an offer ultimately comes down to the seller’s needs and circumstances.”
2. Gather Information
Understanding a seller’s priorities can help you tailor your offer to fit their needs. Ask questions about their situation and how you can help make the closing process as smooth as possible. If you’ve already started off by being friendly, they may be more inclined to share some of their needs or concerns.
“Show them you are interested and ask what reservations you have about their offer,” says Doug Greene, owner and operator at Signature Properties, a real estate investment company based in Philadelphia. “You’d be surprised how many times it may have nothing to do with price.”
3. Be Flexible With Your Timeline
A seller may be turned off by a demanding timeline for closing. Some sellers need more time to close and move out.
On the other hand, efficiently taking care of your homebuying responsibilities — known as due diligence — shows the seller that you are on top of the process and can be trusted to follow through. These responsibilities include getting a home appraisal and inspection.
Asking for five to 10 days of due diligence can let the seller know that if the home purchase falls through, they can get it back on the market without losing traction, Greene says.
4. Offer a Use and Occupancy Agreement
Building on the idea of a flexible timeline, a use and occupancy agreement allows the seller to live rent-free in the home for a while after closing. This can give the seller the time they need to get their next home ready and to move out with less stress.
5. Start With Your Best Offer
You never get a second chance to make a first impression, and this is especially true when making an offer on a house. You shouldn’t assume you’ll have an opportunity to make a second offer, so your first offer should contain as many incentives as you’re comfortable with.
6. Offer a Higher Down Payment
A larger down payment helps show the seller that you have sufficient resources to close a sale. In general, putting 20% down is beneficial.
7. Offer More Earnest Money
Earnest money is a deposit paid to the seller upfront that shows you’re serious about buying the home. It usually is 1% to 3% of the home’s purchase price. If you back out of a real estate contract before closing for a reason not covered by an agreed-to contingency, you typically forfeit the deposit.
While offering more earnest money can make your offer more appealing to the seller, you should only offer as much as you can afford to lose if you’re not sure you can close the sale.
8. Designate Some of Your Earnest Money as Nonrefundable
This can be a risky move, but if you’re set on buying a particular home, allocating some of your earnest money deposit as nonrefundable shows the seller that you mean business. This would allow the seller to keep the funds even if you back out of the sale under a contingency in the purchase and sale agreement.
9. Include Your Preapproval Letter
Mortgage preapproval shows the seller that you’re financially capable of borrowing enough money to buy the home. It also helps you set a budget so you know how much of a mortgage you can afford, and can confidently set aside enough for an earnest money deposit, a down payment, and closing costs.
10. Make a Cash Offer
While this might not be possible for every buyer, making a cash offer is a great way to stand out. A cash offer can close more quickly because the buyer doesn’t require a mortgage. That also lets the buyer waive the financing contingency in the purchase and sale agreement.
This tactic is a popular one in competitive markets: In 2022, 20% of home sales were completed with a cash offer.
11. Minimize Contingencies
Contingencies are conditions that must be met for the home purchase to close. Because contingencies essentially allow buyers to walk away from a sale, sellers prefer fewer contingencies. Greene says that waiving contingencies like the financing contingency and inspection contingency can go a long way to show that you’re eager and ready to move forward.
12. Offer To Pay Some or All of the Seller’s Closing Costs
Another answer to how to make your offer more attractive is to offer to pay the seller’s closing costs — though how much you offer to pay shouldn’t hamper your finances.
The buyer’s share of closing costs usually is 2% to 5% of the purchase price. The major closing cost that sellers pay is the commission for both real estate agents, which usually is 5% to 6% of the sale price. Offering to pay some or all of that amount can favorably position your offer.
13. Avoid Asking For Personal Property
Remember when you’re working on how to make your home offer stand out that you’re buying a home, not what’s inside or around it. Trying to include items such as furniture, appliances, sheds, curtains, or even the mailbox in the sale can weigh down your offer enough that an easier one will win out. If the seller leaves these things behind, consider it a plus.
14. Accept an As-Is Home Inspection Contingency
An as-is home inspection contingency relieves the seller of the responsibility for making repairs — even if the home inspection reveals flaws. This contingency also usually gives the buyer 15 days to complete the home inspection, so skipping it can make getting to closing day a little easier.
15. Use an Escalation Clause
An escalation clause essentially raises your offer if another buyer outbids you. It can be an effective tool to beat out competition when bidding is tight, but there are risks that come with using this clause.
“Make sure your escalation clause requires a bona fide higher offer. The last thing you want is for an agent to run up the price using your escalation clause as a tool when there (are no) other bidders,” says Cam Dowski, founder of We Buy Houses Chicago. “It may also reveal your maximum budget to the seller.”
16. Write a Personal Letter To the Seller
Writing a personal letter can help you connect with the seller on an emotional level, but it’s not without risks.
Explaining why you love the house can let the seller know you’ll treat the home with the same care that they did, and could sway them in your favor if the bidding is tight. However, some real estate agents advise against the practice because such a letter may disclose information that could raise red flags as fair housing violations. Also, some sellers may refuse to even read such letters.
17. Use an Appraisal Guarantee
If the appraisal comes back lower than the purchase price, you have an appraisal gap. This can be a problem because lenders won’t finance a loan for more than a house is appraised for.
An appraisal guarantee says that if there is an appraisal gap, the buyer will be responsible for paying the difference — usually with a larger down payment.
Here are the answers to a couple of frequently asked questions about how to make your house offer stand out.