Real estate pros talk creative ways for buyers to win in multiple-offer deals

If ever there’s been a time for buyers to pull out all the stops, it’s now. Agents are used to telling buyers to come with their highest-and-best offers, but “highest-and-best” has taken on a whole new definition in today’s record low inventory market. To help your buyers win in multiple-offer, all-cash negotiations, “high” can mean as many as six figures over asking, and “best” often means all cash.

So, how can you help your buyer clients get creative with their financed offers in a hot, hot climate where all-cash, no-contingency contracts are making it hard to get noticed? RealTrends talked with several agents from across the country to get some ideas for writing impossible-to-ignore offers. 

Waiving home inspection? Maybe don’t.

First, let’s address inspections. There are reports from all over the U.S. of desperate buyers waiving inspections. While that’s an option, the agents RealTrends spoke with advised against it.

“I am completely against that,” said Diana Matichyn, a real estate broker with Coldwell Banker Residential in Arlington Heights, Illinois. “I think it’s such a bad thing to advise someone to do because there are so many things that can be uncovered in these inspections—like mold in the attic, which we just found yesterday with one of my buyers.”

Just a few of the issues typically found in home inspections include: poor drainage, grade sloping, foundation or crawl space problems, roof damage, septic and sewer clogs or leaks, electrical malfunctions, rotting wood and HVAC issues. These are all some of the more expensive components in a home to fix.

How to get creative when your buyers don’t have cash

Insead of forgoing the inspection, Matichyn and other agents do recommend getting creative to help buyers win in multiple-offer transactions.

“Recently, we had sellers who wanted to close in 30 days and then they wanted to stay in the house for two months,” she said. “It cost the buyers about $4,000, but it’s still less money than if they would have kept bidding and overpaid by $20,000.”

Matichyn said most of her clientele aren’t cash buyers, and finding unique ways to help her buyers win in multiple-offer situations, sometimes with all-cash buyers in the queue, means networking with as many agents in her area as she can.

“I go to lunch and coffee with agents, and when I have a buyer, I email or call them and tell them what my buyer is looking for and ask them to tell me if they have something coming to market soon,” she said. “[For] a couple of my sales this year, the house never went to market; it was a private sale and the seller was thrilled not to have to show the house to 20 people. [They got] everything they were looking for.”

Pulling out all the stops

Gary Dolch, broker-owner at Compass-affiliated Austin Luxury Group in Austin, Texas, sells homes in the $2 million to $50 million range. Dolch said his high-net-worth buyers are also waiving inspection contingencies and honoring what would usually be outlandish requests—such as allowing sellers to stay after close, rent free. 

“The market is just moving so quickly here that getting a quick close with at least a 60-day leaseback for free isn’t unheard of,” Dolch said. “It’s an option for some clients instead of doing a bridge loan.”

Some of Dolch’s financially able clients have pulled out all the stops. 

“I call it the ‘nuclear option,’” Dolch said. “But we’re getting between seven and 20 offers on a listing, so when a place is in nice enough condition and looks good enough, buyers figure whatever repairs they’re going to have to make will be less than the amount of earnest money they’d put up.”

Dolch said he hasn’t had many clients take advantage of a Compass Bridge loan to increase their buying power in the current market, but the option exists. In fact Knock Home Swap has expanded the idea of a bridge loan—short-term capital that can be used to purchase a new home, then quickly paid back with the proceeds from the sale of the borrower’s previous home—into a whole business: The Knock Home Swap program will pay the seller’s mortgage for as long as six months, as well as offer up to $200,000 in an interest-free bridge loan to cover the down payment on a new home and for-sale home prep. Buyers immediately take possession of the new property while their old property is prepped and listed. Knock has an approved contractor network and manages bill payment of all project work. Knock even guarantees a backup offer on the old house if doesn’t sell within six months. 

Offering perks

Kevin Hill, a broker associate at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices in Mission Viejo, California, works most often as a listing agent. He said to help buyers win in multiple-offer situations, agents coming to him with buyers who need financing are throwing in all sorts of perks.

“I’m seeing buyers [pay] seller costs like termite inspections, title insurance, escrow fees—all sorts of seller-side closing costs, and sometimes that’s been the winning advantage,” he said. “I had one buyer come in with a $10,000 seller credit. So if the seller had, say, $5,000 in closing costs, the closing costs and the other $5,000 added into their net.”   

Dan Miller, a broker with RE/MAX Mad City Dream Homes in Madison, Wisconsin, echoes the other agents RealTrends spoke to by cautioning agents against telling buyers to waive inspections, stressing that it’s not a responsible technique to help buyers win in multiple-offer situations, but he has a plethora of ideas to get a financed offer noticed. 

“Make your offer stronger by making it a cash offer—even if you end up purchasing with a mortgage,” Miller advises. “If you have accounts which demonstrate sufficient cash to close, you can use these accounts as proof of funds and submit a cash offer. Once your offer is accepted you can choose to finance with a mortgage instead.”

15 more ideas to help your buyers win

Here’s a summary of Miller’s additional ideas to help your buyers win in multiple-offer situations:

  • Submit a mortgage pre-approval from a reputable, local lender. A pre-approval from an out-of-town or big box lender can create doubt in the mind of a seller. Sellers who have a lot of options have been known to disregard offers from buyers who are pre-approved by an internet lender. Give the seller solid evidence the pre-approval is a sure thing by working with a local bank or credit union. Try to work with a local lender who can deliver a loan commitment in a week or less. Yes, that’s quick, but some lenders can get the job done.  
  • Call the listing agent when submitting clients’ offers. This simple touch gives the seller an extra boost of confidence that you’ll close without any problems. 
  • Write the seller’s preferred closing date into the offer. Giving the seller their preferred closing date is an easy way to tip the scales in your favor. 
  • Suggest that clients could write an above average amount of earnest money into their offers to make a stronger impression. 
  • If finances allow, suggest that clients increase their down payment amount to at least 20 to 25%.
  • Give sellers the right to cure defects in home inspections. 
  • Consider removing radon testing contingencies in offers. 
  • Don’t ask the seller to pay for a home warranty. Don’t ask the seller to pay for any other extra fees or cover any closing costs. 
  • Offer to pay some or all of the seller’s closing costs to appeal to the seller’s financial interests without causing the appraised value of the home to come in under the contract price.
  • Don’t make offers contingent upon reviewing deed restrictions and covenants. Review these documents before you submit your clients’ offer. 
  • If your clients include any contingencies, shorten the deadline to the fewest number of days possible.
  • Hand deliver clients’ offers to establish a face-to-face opportunity to clarify their interests in the property and establish rapport with the seller’s agent. 
  • Pick up the phone. Too many agents rely too heavily on texts and emails when communicating with other agents. Call the listing agent and explain the merits of your clients’ offer. When you’re up against other offers, your communication style can make or break your clients’ chances of getting their offer accepted. 
  • Write clients’ offers before showings are allowed—yes, that means sight unseen—and make the offer contingent upon a walk-through after acceptance. 
  • Offer to pay some or all of the seller’s property tax at closing. This strategy is recommended for very competitive offers only.