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Make an Offer Like a Boss

Ah, the offer!


Cinematically speaking, this is the iconic moment — we’d forgive you if you imagined, say, putting a hand on your agent’s shoulder and whispering (in your best Vito Corleone) that you’re going to make them an offer they can’t refuse.


In reality, it’s not that simple (or dramatic). Your offer marks the beginning of a back-and-forth between you and the seller, typically with real estate agents advising you both.

The more intentional you are about your offer, the better your chances of making a successful bid. Follow these nine steps, and you’ll be well prepared — that’s a true story. (“The Godfather” again. We couldn’t resist.)


#1 Know Your Limits

Your agent will help you craft a winning offer. You can trust your agent’s advice on price, contingencies, and other terms of the deal: It’s a mutually beneficial relationship. The more collaborative you are with your agent, the more quickly you’ll be able to move.


But ultimately, it’s you who decides what the offer will be — and you who knows what your financial and lifestyle limits are. Buying a home means mixing strong emotions with business savvy, so now is also a good time to reflect on your “musts.”

  • Have a top limit to your offer price because you’re also saving for retirement and love beach vacations? Stick to it.

  • Want a vegetable garden or to paint your home’s exterior purple? Make sure your homeowners association rules permit it.

  • Besides reading HOA rules, find out how much the HOA has in reserves to cover common area repairs. You don’t want to be slapped unexpectedly with a special assessment.

  • Want a dog-friendly community? Make sure there are no pet weight limits preventing you from sharing space with your (extra-large) canine bestie.

#2 Learn to Speak “Contract”

Essentially, an offer is a contract. The documents and wording vary across the country.

In the spirit of due diligence, take time to review sample offer forms before you’ve found a house. (LawDepot.com has purchase agreements for each state.) If you’re high-maintenance, a real estate attorney can explain the documents to you so you’re familiar with their vocabulary when you’re ready to pull the trigger on an offer with your agent. Your agent will have offer forms for your state.

#3 Set Your Price

Homes always have a listing price. Think of it as the seller’s opening bid in your negotiation to buy a home.


As the buyer, your offer will include an offer price. This is the first thing home sellers look at when they receive a bid.


Your agent will help you determine whether the seller’s listing price is fair by running comps (or comparables), a process that involves comparing the house you’re bidding on to similar properties that recently sold in the neighborhood.


Several factors can also affect your bargaining position and offer price. For example, if the home has been sitting on the market for a while or you’re in a buyer’s market where supply exceeds demand, the seller may be willing to accept an offer that’s below the list price. Or if the seller has already received another offer on the home, that may impact the price you’re willing to offer. Your agent will help you understand the context here.


#4 Figure Out Your Down Payment

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