How to Make an Offer on a Home

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A house with a "sold" sign in front.
A house with a "sold" sign in front. (Image: Feverpitched/iStock/Getty Images)

Making an offer a seller can't refuse requires that you come up with more than just the right price. Make your offer as attractive as possible by using the right presentation, drafting appropriate terms and showing flexibility. An offer to purchase isn't legally binding until both buyer and seller agree to all transaction details and conditions. Oral promises to purchase and verbal promises to sell, for that matter, aren't legally binding, so always put your offer and any resulting sales agreement in writing.

Using Good Form

The real estate industry has standard forms for writing an offer. Real estate brokers and real estate attorneys are best suited to help you interpret and incorporate forms into your offer. Agents who are members of the National Association of Realtors, a real estate trade organization, can provide a Residential Purchase Agreement, which adheres to your area's real estate laws. Should you choose to download legal real estate forms or attempt to draft your own offer from scratch, consult with a real estate attorney to understand your responsibilities, if any, and ensure the offer conforms to state and local laws.

Supplying Supporting Documents

In addition to the offer proposal itself, you may want to back up the terms of your offer to show the seller you're willing and able to follow through. The need for supporting documents and the depth of evidence you provide depends on local market customs and rules. It also depends on your sensitivity to disclosing private information. For example, in some areas, sellers and their brokers may want offers to include evidence of a buyer's mortgage eligibility. A pre-qualification or pre-approval letter may suffice. These letters show that you either meet preliminary income and asset requirements, or you have undergone the mortgage application process and have been conditionally approved for a loan. The letters should include a loan amount and lender signatures and contact information for sellers to verify.

Contingencies and Other Conditions to Consider

In general, the fewer conditions you place in your offer, the more appealing it is to a seller. However, since you also have to protect your interests when making an offer, you should include a few key conditions known as contingencies. These protect you from having to buy the home if certain circumstances aren't met. For example, a loan contingency gives you a specific amount of time to obtain mortgage approval. An inspection contingency gives you time to inspect the home's various components and if the home doesn't measure up, you have a way out. An appraisal contingency states that the home must pass an appraisal inspection for value and property condition. Another contingency protects you if you need to sell your current residence before your buy another property.

Be Ready to Respond

Give the seller an appropriate time to respond to your offer, advises Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate. Three days from receiving your offer is a typical time frame for seller response. Be prepared to negotiate one or more terms. In addition to price, contingencies and time frames, a seller may change or counteroffer terms such as the amount of your earnest money deposit and the appliances that are included in the sale. Your willingness to bend during the counter-offer stage can go a long way, giving the seller the impression you are flexible, reasonable and serious about buying the home.

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