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18 Ways To Get Your Offer Accepted & Win a Bidding War

18 ways to get your offer accepted in a competitive real estate market

How do you get an offer accepted on a house in the most competitive real estate market the United States has ever seen? It’s the number one question for homebuyers in 2021. Real estate agents scramble to figure out how to win against multiple offers and get their clients that dream home. The pressure is building as housing inventory levels have never been this low.

This chart from the Federal Reserve shows that the lowest housing inventory levels since the 1960s occurred in October 2020.

FED Housing Inventory Chart

This type of competitive market is exhausting for home buyers. Waiting to win a bidding war on a home takes patience. I have owned and operated a real estate brokerage in Colorado Springs for many years. My agents tell me crazy stories of how this market affects their clients. I’ve looked over hundreds of sales contracts and have a good grasp of Realtors’ most prevalent tactics to get their offers accepted.

Below is a list of the top strategies for crafting a substantial offer when buying a house in a seller’s market. You can use any combination of these methods to strengthen your contract when purchasing a home. Some tactics are more aggressive than others. Consult with your real estate agent to get the best results.

Table of Contents

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1. Offer An Escalation Clause

An escalation clause is a provision added to a contract stating that the buyer will escalate their offer above the highest sales price submitted. The buyer’s contract price is automatically escalated without the need to resubmit a new contract or amend an existing one. This clause usually has a maximum escalation amount. When a bidding war takes place, this tactic keeps your offer at the top of the list.

include and escalation clause to get your offer acceptedHere’s an example:

  • → Homebuyer A has offered $500,000 on a $490,000 home, with an escalation clause to $3,000 above the highest bid.
  • →The house gets 30 offer contracts, and the highest bid is from Buyer B at $550,0000.
  • →As a result, buyer A’s contract sales price is automatically escalated to $553,000.

This method is one of the most common tactics used to outbid the competition in a highly competitive market.

You should only use an escalation clause when you can afford to escalate your offer far above the list price. The pros of an escalation clause are that they immediately put your bid at the top of the list. The cons are that they can be manipulated by the listing agent and cause you to pay much more than your initial contract price.

If a seller’s agent receives an escalation clause, they can solicit the other buyers to keep pushing the price up. Once they have maxed out the price, you’re stuck paying a specific dollar amount over that price.

Escalation clauses became popular in 2018 and have since become the norm in many real estate markets near the average to lower price ranges. However, they can be a legal nightmare to navigate if they are not appropriately structured. Make sure that your Realtor has a good grasp of this concept before using this aggressive method.

2. Offer A Leaseback

A leaseback allows the seller to lease the property from the buyer after closing. Since some deals fall through before closing, it can be risky to move out of a primary residence before the transaction has been funded and completed. This method allows the seller to sell their home and then move out afterward, eliminating this risk. In addition, leasebacks offer security to the seller that they do not need to move until the deal is finalized.

There are multiple ways to structure a leaseback. For example, you may ask for a security deposit and charge a certain amount per day to pay your mortgage while the seller maintains occupancy. In a competitive market, you can waive these details to make your offer even more attractive.

Make sure your real estate agent writes all the terms clearly into the contract or provisional lease agreement. Leasebacks can be a nightmare if they’re not handled properly.

3. Include an Appraisal Gap Clause

Appraisal gaps are among the most common strategies used by home buyers to get their offer accepted in a competitive real estate market. An appraiser will likely value a home for less than its contract price when homes appreciate faster than appraisers can justify. The low appraised value can cause a deal to fall apart entirely.

Include an appraisal gap to get your contract acceptedIf a home is listed at $500,000 and ends up going under contract at $550,000, it can be challenging. If the appraised value comes back at $500,000, the buyers may need to bring an extra $50,000 cash to the table. The seller may need to drop the contract price to $500,000 to close the deal. Sometimes, the contract falls apart because no resolution can be found.

When buyers offer an appraisal gap, they state that they have extra funds to fill in the gap between the appraised value and the contract price. They also waive their appraisal contingency. This perk gives the seller extra assurance that they won’t be in a situation to drop their home price.

If you’re a seller and accept an appraisal gap, be sure to ask for proof of funds that the buyers have the extra cash. Some buyers will offer the appraisal gap out of desperation to get their contract accepted, but they have no actual plans of going through with it.

If you’re a buyer offering an appraisal gap, take some time to understand this method’s ramifications. First, you are essentially paying much more than fair market value. Second, if you happen to do this right before the real estate market tanks, you may be stuck with an overpriced house.

4. Offer More Earnest Money

Earnest money is offered with a sales contract to help the seller justify taking their house off the market. It’s a way of proving that the buyer “earnestly” wants to purchase the property beyond the contract alone. Different states have different terms for earnest money deposits, but it’s typically between 1% to 2% of the sales price.

Contact contingencies allow the buyer to retrieve their earnest money if the deal falls apart for different reasons. These reasons may include home inspection issues or financing problems. In addition, earnest money disputes are a common issue in real estate.

If you offer more than the standard amount of earnest money requested, you are showing strong intent. You can also make your earnest money “go hard.” This term means that you will waive all contingencies to retrieve your earnest money if the deal does not close. This tactic shows serious intent to buy, pushing your offer above others that are less serious.

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5. Use a Reputable Local Mortgage Lender

When listing agents receive offers from buyers, one of the first things they do is verify the mortgage lender and pre-approval letter. If the listing agent is a high producer, they will know many of the local lenders. Some lenders have bad reputations for sabotaging deals. If you happen to be using one of these lenders, the listing agent will likely share that information with their sellers.

If you’re working with an experienced real estate agent, ask their advice on the best lenders to use to get your offer accepted. In smaller cities, this point is even more critical when making an offer. Real estate professionals tend to notice each other more frequently in smaller towns. Your Realtor and mortgage broker’s experience and reputation can have a substantial impact on your contract’s strength.

6. Offer to Pay the Sellers Moving Expenses

If you’re making an offer on a competitive home that is occupied, consider offering a monetary value to help pay for the seller’s moving expenses. This is a unique strategy that is not very common, which makes it more effective.

The higher the contract price rises above the listing price, the more likely the transaction will experience appraisal value issues. When you offer money for moving expenses, the seller gains the financial benefits without being added to the home’s sales price. This tactic bypasses the appraisal and mortgage process, making it appealing to knowledgeable sellers.

7. No Personal Letters

Avoid using love letters to get your contract acceptedIf you read through some of the other blogs on this topic, you’ll see suggestions that you should write a personal letter to the sellers. Unfortunately, that advice is old information, as listing agents now view these letters as a problem.

As bidding wars became more common in 2018, some Realtors would encourage their buyers to write a personal letter to create an emotional bond with the seller. The buyer’s agent would include this letter in their offer on the house, along with pictures and personal details about their client. Unfortunately, this practice caused fair-housing lawsuits because buyers would assume the seller rejected their contact due to race and social class.

Once these lawsuits started popping up all over the country, agents were advised by the National Association of Realtors (NAR) to avoid these letters. NAR suggests agents only submit relevant contract details with no personal information exchanged about the buyer. As a result, real estate agents now avoid these letters. Most listing agents will not even present a personal letter to their clients in today’s legal environment.

By attaching a personal letter to your offer, you create extra tension for the listing agent, which will not help you in any way.

8. Close on Their Terms

Every seller has different circumstances that motivate them to sell. For example, one seller may be selling their primary residence through a relocation company, while another may be selling an investment property. Both of these sellers will have different terms that are appealing to them.

When buying a home in a competitive seller’s market, it’s wise to have your Realtor contact the listing agent before submitting your offer. Your agent can ask the seller’s agent precisely what their client is looking for in a contract. If your agent can get this information, you can tailor your offer to the most appealing terms for the seller. This method will put your bid at the top of the list every time.

9. Be the First to View and Submit an Offer

If you’ve submitted offers on multiple properties and have had no luck getting one under contract, consider a more aggressive showing approach. Some sellers do not want a bunch of contracts to go work through. On the other hand, if you can be the first buyer to view the home and submit your highest and best offer immediately, you may entice the seller to accept your contract.

To be the first buyer, you’ll need an aggressive real estate agent who can schedule showings within minutes of a home hitting the market. You and your Realtor will need to be on a saved search from your MLS to notify you of new listings as soon as they hit the market. Once you see a new property that looks promising, you’ll need to stop everything and get it scheduled right away.

10. Offer to Pay All Title Insurance Fees

It’s customary for sellers to pay for the buyers’ title insurance in many states around the country. However, it’s a strange custom to have sellers choose the title company and pay for the buyer’s title insurance policy. This practice has been scrutinized over the years and may change soon. Title fees are typically between $500 to $1,500, varying from state to state.

To help your offer stand out, consider paying these title fees to alleviate that burden from the seller. If you’re in a highly competitive market, the chances are high that other competing buyers will do the same thing. This is an easy strategy that is commonly used.

11. Waive the Inspection Contingency

waive your inspection contingency to get your offer acceptedOnce a home goes under contract, the deal is not done. The next step is to perform a home inspection. This process is stressful for the sellers because they have no control over the home inspector’s competency. Ten different home inspections could yield ten different results. Sellers are on pins and needles in anticipation of the results.

Some buyers will offer to waive the inspection process to increase their contract’s chances of being accepted. This method is a risky move that requires plenty of research to understand fully. However, it’s also a highly effective move that can yield positive results. Take some time to consider if this aggressive tactic may be something you should try to get a home under contract in a highly competitive market.

12. Remove the Financing Contingency

In most states, the promulgated sales contract will have provisions for the buyer to receive their earnest money back if the mortgage financing falls apart. If this happens, the seller ends up putting their house back on the market and starting the whole process over.

If the financing falls apart within the contract financing deadline, the buyers get their earnest money back. The sellers have to start over with no benefit from the process. This scenario is exhausting for sellers and listing agents.

To alleviate the sellers of this concern, you may choose to waive your financing contingencies. This step allows the seller to inherit the earnest money if something goes wrong with your financing. This strategy is very appealing to sellers and helps strengthen your reputation as a strong buyer. As a result, the method is becoming standard practice in highly competitive markets.

13. Larger Downpayment

When sellers review contracts from buyers, they consider the downpayment as a sign of financial strength. This is because buyers putting more cash down have more money in the bank to access if an issue arises. In addition, low appraisal value or expensive repair costs are less likely to sabotage a deal if the buyer has more cash.

If you have more money to contribute for a downpayment, you may consider increasing this amount to show the seller that you are a financially secure buyer. On the other hand, if you’re using a VA loan, which requires no downpayment, consider structuring your contract to show that you have extra cash to make the deal work. Sellers are likely to choose a buyer with the most money accessible to increase their chances of closing the transaction.

14. Have Your Lender Pre-Underwrite Your Loan

have your lender pre-underwrite your loan to get your offer acceptedThe mortgage loan process is always at risk of sabotaging a deal. Buyers may hide negative financial details that are later discovered during the underwriting process. This scenario is a concern for listing agents and sellers. No one wants a deal to fall apart due to discoveries about the buyer’s financial situation.

To alleviate this concern, consider using a reputable local lender who will pre-underwrite your loan. This method lets the listing agent and seller know that you have been thoroughly vetted and stand the highest chance of closing. This tactic is creative and can be very effective when mixed with other methods on this list.

15. Use an Experienced Realtor

I own and operate a real estate brokerage in Colorado Springs. To date, there are over 5,000 Realtors registered in our local MLS, but our city will only have around 1,300 closings this month. That leaves 2,600 transaction sides for 5,000 agents.

Our agent count has nearly doubled since 2014. This tension creates an environment where there are plenty of inexperienced agents actively working in one market.

If you end up stuck with a Realtor who is inexperienced with competitive offers, you may waste many months missing out on great homes. Instead, be sure to choose an agent who is closing transactions every month and knows the current market very well.

Some Realtors can even help you find homes that are not on the market yet. The agent you choose will have a direct effect on your success in buying a home. Don’t underestimate their influence and ability.

16. Keep your Offer Clean and Simple

Over the years, I’ve seen more additional information written into contracts than ever before. But, unfortunately, the practice of writing further details into a contract can keep an offer from being considered.

When listing agents review buyers’ contracts, they look for signs that convey the other agent’s competency and flexibility. When buyer agents copy and paste the boilerplate text into blank fields, it lets the listing agent know that the Realtor may be challenging to work with. Also, every word added to the contract gives attorney’s more leverage in a lawsuit if one gets filed.

Some agents will fill a contract with unnecessary jargon that does not need to there. For example, phrasing that lists all people on a real estate agent’s team makes a contract bloated. An amendment can be created dictating this information later on if the brokerage requires it. The initial offer contract needs to be clean and free of wasted text that is unnecessary for the initial offer.

Keep your contracts clean and easy for the seller to understand. It will convey signs that you and your agent are easy to work with. Only add extra words if they are necessary and help strengthen your contract.

17. Position Yourself to be Flexible

As a home buyer in a competitive market, it is essential to stay flexible to meet any unique demands that the seller may have. Every seller has different needs. If you are positioned to move fast and meet their requests, you can beat other competing buyers.

If you have a house to sell before buying another property, you may need to get creative. Sellers with multiple offers on their property will not accept contracts contingent on another home selling. Sellers are looking for the least amount of contingencies and delays as possible.

Consider selling your home and renting an Air BnB or short-term rental to give yourself flexibility. This is a risky move when there is limited inventory, but it may give you the edge you need to entice the seller to accept your contract.

Some companies offer to buy your home after finding another house, but they do charge for it. Lenders and Realtors are getting more creative as the demand for homes rises every year. Take some time to research companies in your area that offer services to buy another home before selling your property.

18. Close Extra Fast on Vacant Homes

If you're making an offer on a vacant home, the seller will want to close as soon as possible. No one wants a vacant home sitting empty for very long.

Position yourself to close as fast as possible on vacant properties. Since mortgage lenders are the ones who specify the time needed to close, you’ll need to coordinate your timeline with them. Having your mortgage pre-underwrite your loan will help with this. Hire a lender who can close fast so that you have some leverage on vacant properties.

Summary

As a homebuyer in a competitive market, you will experience stress and pressure each time your offer is rejected. Watching other buyers win homes that you wanted to buy is exhausting. I hope this list will help you feel more empowered the next time you make an offer on a home.

The tactics above range from mild to extreme. You can mix and match different variations of these tactics based on the circumstances. Send this article to your Realtor and use it as a reference point for your next offer submission.

Stay positive and continue to work on your contract drafting skills using the methods and tactics above. Eventually, you will secure a home and get it under contract.

18 ways to get your offer accepted in a competitive real estate market


Andrew Fortune

Hi! 👋 I'm Andrew Fortune, the founder of Great Colorado Homes and the creator of this website. I'm also a Realtor in Colorado Springs. Thank you for taking the time to read this blog post. I appreciate your time spent on this site and am always open to suggestions and ideas from our readers. You can connect with me on Facebook, Instagram, or contact me through this website. I'd love to hear from you. 🙂


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