Competition for homes in my area (Gig Harbor, Tacoma, WA area) has been fierce! Historically low housing supply and record high demand has created quite the frenzy! Sellers have been receiving multiple, over-asking offers. Some homes receiving up to twenty-something offers! What do the winning offers have in common?
1. Show me the money! Almost all of the offers lately are above asking. Cash offers are of course some of the strongest offers. Cash offers mean a quicker closing, no appraisal, and no chance of failed financing! If cash is not an option, be fully pre-approved and if possible, take it one step further and be fully underwritten with an experienced lender (preferably local who can email you that updated pre-approval letter on Sunday night, when you desperately need it). Being fully underwritten is better than being pre-approved. Being fully underwritten and guaranteed, gives the seller a lot more certainty that your home financing will go through. It also allows you to compete better against those cash offers.
2. Fewer contingencies. Some buyers are electing to waive inspections in order to get the home. Another option is to schedule a pre-inspection and do all of your property research before you submit an offer, so that you don't have to include an inspection contingency in your offer. If you can't do a pre-inspection, make your inspection contingency a short time frame, like 3 days.
3. Additional cash down in the event of a low appraisal. This is where buyers are offering to make up the difference if the home appraises for less than the contract price. It doesn't help the seller if you offer $50,000 above asking, but you’re getting a loan and it won't appraise for that much. Include an increased down payment clause in the event of a low appraisal. This would mean you would need extra cash in the bank on top of your money saved up for your down payment. If the home appraises for less than the contract price. The last offer one of my sellers accepted, had an increased down payment amount of $75,000! That offered a lot of peace of mind to my sellers.
4. Earnest Money. The larger the amount you offer in earnest money, shows how serious you are about the house. Before this crazy seller’s market, I would say the average was to put about 1% of the purchase price down for earnest money. Now, I've seen it as much as 10% on some. Earnest money gets deposited into escrow within 2 days of mutual acceptance, it is a credit to your down payment at closing. Some buyers are making their offers even stronger by making a portion of their earnest money non-refundable and released to the sellers up front.
5. Do the sellers have a preferred closing date? Have your agent find out what they prefer. For example, do they prefer a quick closing with a rent back agreement? If your loan is fully underwritten, you have a greater chance of closing sooner than the typical 35 days.
One last tip: Be the first one in "back up position". If something happens to fall through on that first offer that was accepted, you'll be the next one in line to go Pending on the house.