When you are one of five bidding parties on a hot property listing, you are simply a dollar figure to the seller. They know nothing else about you.
In the flurry of offers splayed out on the seller’s dinner table, you might be “that $375,000 offer” to the homeowner or “the buyer who bid $377,500 and wants us to leave the refrigerator.”
You can rise to the top, but time is precious. A well-priced property in a hot Phoenix neighborhood like Arcadia or Encanto-Palmcroft will sell faster than a dry desert wash filling with flash flood rainwater in monsoon season.
Real estate is emotional and highly personal. That is why a bidding war can put you at a profound disadvantage. You need to become a rosy face to the seller instead of a dry number.
You have to bring your A-game.
Here is a tip to make your offer rise to the top of the stack, become memorable and to create a personal connection with the seller. This is based on my 19 years of experience working both sides of a multiple offer bid; with buyers and sellers.
Get out the quill and inkwell
No digital communication here. We are going analog.
Writing a personal letter to the seller is profound way to cut through the noise. Your letter should be handwritten if at all possible.
Avoid the temptation to fire off a quick email. Even your Realtor can wax eloquent over the phone to the seller’s agent about your qualifications, but it won’t move the needle like a personal letter addressed to the seller.
It doesn’t need to be a costly production. There is no need to drop serious coin on expensive monogramed stationery. In fact, there probably isn’t time. Legal paper, a ballpoint pen and a plain white #10 envelope are the sole ingredients in this recipe.
It is your words that will win the day.
Your say your cursive writing resembles encrypted chicken scratch and requires an Enigma machine to decode? Then it’s ok to type it on your laptop and print it. Be sure to sign in colored ink.
Stop dithering. The clock is ticking.
Once you discover that there are other parties making offers, you probably have a 12-hour window or less to maximize your chances and to make this your new home.
Writing a personal letter to someone who you don’t know may initially feel a little sappy, but it is not insincere. It is about earnestly communicating to the seller that their home is 1) a great fit for your needs 2) that you are the obvious choice for the winning bid and 3) that you are not a hawkish investor/flipper that is going to tear down their lovely home.
You’re invested. After all, you cared enough about your offer to sit down and compose a written note, right? The seller will intuitively know that you are not a flakey buyer. You want to be the one who will carry the torch and take care of his home for the next several years or decades.
Will the seller read every word?
Yes. Every time. They will probably even pick it up before looking at your terms or any other offers. It’s natural human curiosity.
By my back-of-the-envelope calculation, my real estate clients who have penned personal letters to the seller in a multiple offer scenario have won the bid over 70% of the time.
Include in your package with the personal letter:
- the purchase offer
- earnest deposit check
- your mortgage pre-qualification letter from the lender
Your Realtor® is responsible for its delivery to the listing agent and seller.
So…what do I put in the letter?
Your letter needs to be generous and complementary without sounding desperate. Avoid saying “If we don’t get this house, I don’t know what we will do.” Be optimistic and avoid appealing to sympathy if the motivation for your move is death, divorce, job loss or financial difficulty. Leave out any uncomfortable details.
The tone should be in the spirit of:
- we enjoy your home
- it solves our needs
- we are prepared and organized borrowers
- we know that we are competing with other bids so we made a strong offer
- like you, we want a smooth and efficient transaction
- it will be fun living in this neighborhood
- and..if it doesn’t work out, it won’t be the end of the world
Here is a sample letter to get you started. It is only a template to aid you in getting your letter out fast and cementing your place at the top of the offer stack. Don’t copy it verbatim, but build on it to make it your own:
A sample letter
Mr. and Mrs. Johnson:
We found your home last night online and knew that it was one worthy of an immediate visit.
The bedroom sizes, remodeled master bath (exquisite!) and shaded northern exposure of the pool area all address shortcomings in many of the homes that we have visited since starting our search 3 months ago. Your home is nearly complete for us. I would also have a place to move my tomatoes and hydrangeas in the garden space that you have created.
Tom likes the garage for his tools (he has a weekend bicycle repair business). The mudroom cabinets off of the kitchen will solve the “lost backpack and shoes” dilemma that we have faced every morning in our cramped rental.
Your house would be a decades-long home for our family. We are not investors, landlords or flippers. Tom and I have owned and operated the floral shop at Shea Blvd. and 92nd St. for 12 years. Our son, Mason, is enrolled in first grade at the Pima Elementary School on Osborn Rd.
Our attached letter of mortgage pre-qualification should ease concerns that you may have about a buyer’s ability to perform. Stacie Williams with Wells Fargo Mortgage (at the Scottsdale Kierland branch (602)-555-1212 or email@example.com) has taken our full mortgage application.
Stacie has completed all initial phases including credit check, income verification and proof of funds. We only needed to find the house and have the appraisal performed. This is exciting for us.
It is our understanding that you have multiple offers at this time. We are not surprised. Your home is both functional and elegant. It clearly appeals to many people. In this environment, we wanted to make a our best possible offer. It is included with this letter along with our earnest money deposit check.
We have flexibility on the closing date if you should need to move it backward or forward by up to 20 days. Wells Fargo will only require 28 calendar days from acceptance to get the funds to the table.
Additionally, while we have requested the refrigerator and washer/dryer be included, we could forego those items at a different house price and purchase our own appliances after closing.
If chosen, we look forward to working with you and getting settled this autumn. Our Realtor, Harry Najarian, will be in contact with your agent in the morning to discuss next steps.
Thank you very much for considering our offer.
Have your Realtor® cross-reference your attached personal letter in the “other conditions” section of the written offer. That way the seller knows what to look for in the event that the listing agent forgets to present it or doesn’t consider it germane to the negotiations at hand.
Is a letter required with every offer?
If you aren’t bidding against others, the letter is still useful but its impact is diminished. Multiple offer scenarios require a “gloves off” approach to winning. In my opinion, personal letters should not be written on every offer where there is only a single bid. It may weaken your negotiation position.
By contrast, in a multiple offer scenario, the seller knows that he is holding most of the cards, you are just helping him pick the brightest diamond.
Letter won’t help if your offer is weak
Clearly, the seller won’t sign and accept a low offer with a personal letter when all other offers are $10,000 higher and do not include correspondence. But chances are that if you know that you are walking in to a multiple offer scenario, all parties are near or over asking price in their bids. The personalized letter could be the difference between your offer making it to the closing table or the trash can.
Here’s another bonus. If your offer is not the winning bid, your letter will still be top-of-mind a few weeks later if the first deal goes south.
One more note about personal letters. They won’t work on bank foreclosures and rarely on investor-owned properties. Banks and investors have no personal connection to a foreclosed or income property. Only big, round dollar figures and speed of closing count here. Strong cash offers with few or no contingencies work best with investor-owned homes and bank foreclosures a.k.a “real-estate-owned” properties (REOs).
New celebrities on the block
Because of your letter, your new neighbors will likely already be “in the know” about your interests and will be eager to welcome you to the new neighborhood.
Contact me if you would like representation and help in a multiple offer scenario on your new Phoenix home. Good luck with your offer and keep me posted with your success stories!
A funny thing happens in real estate. When it comes back, it comes back up like gangbusters. – Barbara Corcoran, Founder of The Corcoran Group. Largest real estate firm in New York City.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]