Making an Offer 101

House keys and signature line

You picked the perfect neighborhood. You spent a month of weekends attending open houses and being guided by your intrepid realtor.

And you’ve found the perfect home!

After a first-time home buyer takes a moment to enjoy the relief of finding their dream home, there’s still a lot more work to do. An experienced realtor will be able to guide you through much of the process to come, but an informed buyer is a happy buyer, especially when you make a purchase that can affect every other part of your life.

Making an Offer 101:


Before you start viewing homes, we recommend you get pre-approved for a loan. Different lenders will offer a variety of terms, interest rates, and required down-payments. Conventional loans are available from most banks, and FHA loans and other loans might be available through alternative resources. No matter the route you choose, it’s a good idea to be ready to buy before you start shopping.


You probably didn’t accept the first house you saw without familiarizing yourself with the rest of the market, so you shouldn’t just accept the purchase price either. Your realtor should provide you with background information on comparable recent home sales, known in the industry as “comps,” so you can ensure that the offer you’re about to make is a reasonable one, both for you and the seller.


An offer only counts once it is put into writing. This is a legally binding contract that will have to comply with the regulations of the city and state. 

The offer will often include the following items:

  • The legal address and a description of the home.
  • The purchase price and terms. This is an area where a realtor’s advice is crucial. Their knowledge of the market’s factors and relationship with the seller’s agent can help determine the offer price. Offer too little, and you risk insulting the seller. If the market is competitive and you offer too much it can put you in a stressful financial situation and ultimately lead to you resenting your home, or, even worse, forfeiting it.
  • Earnest money. An accepted offer usually requires a deposit that ranges from 1 to 3% of the total purchase price.
  • An explanation of anticipated closing fees, costs, taxes, and details for how those costs will be divided between buyer and seller.
  • Expiration date – an offer doesn’t last forever.
  • Any state-mandated disclosures, like the presence of lead-based paint or other environmental factors.
  • Contingencies. If the buyer doesn’t secure financing then the offer may be voided. Is it contingent on a home inspection? Is it contingent upon the bank’s appraisal matching the purchase price? All of these contingencies offer some protection to either the buyer or seller, but they can also function as roadblocks. In a competitive market or a situation where a seller is looking to expedite the process, they may choose to accept the offer they evaluate as the simplest method for transferring ownership. In order to give yourself the best chance at having an offer accepted, your contingencies should be limited to the absolutely necessary.
  • Expected date of loan completion. This would not be necessary when a seller is making a cash offer.

After the written offer is submitted, the seller has the option to accept, decline or propose a counteroffer. At every step of the process, you must be prepared to negotiate. This is one of the areas an experienced realtor can be most helpful. Their understanding of the market conditions and insights into the mindset of the seller can inform when to push hard for your needs, and when that push might knock a seller out of the deal. Some buyers will write a personal letter to the seller, forging an emotional connection that will help nudge the seller towards an offer’s ultimate acceptance. 

Once the offer is accepted it usually takes between thirty and sixty days to complete the process, from offer to inspections and financing, to the final closing. And then you have the home of your dreams!

If you’re looking for an experienced realtor that can guide the process, contact Jessica & Sarah today. They handle the business of buying and selling homes so you can focus on what’s important – turning your new house into a home.

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