Cash is, and probably always will be, king when it comes to moving your offer for a home to the top of the list.
But there are some other strategies, as well.
In a survey of Zillow Premier Agents, more than four in 10 reported that an all-cash offer was the best strategy to break out of the pack. However, cash offers are not feasible for most buyers in the market, and agents use an assortment of strategies to win offers.
About 21 percent of buyers’ agents offered a higher down payment or more earnest money to get their client’s offer to stand out, and about one-quarter always submitted before the review date.
(More unconventional strategies that agents are using include offering leaseback, throwing a pizza party and sending flowers to the sellers.)
With the market moving so fast, the best and easiest way to get a speed advantage is to get tech-savvy. Agents surveyed say 31 percent of clients always or usually tour a home “virtually” before visiting in person.
“Being able to tour a home virtually is a big time-saver for buyers,” said Josephine Sabatino, broker-manager at RE/MAX Edge in New York City. “This saves buyers from going to see a bunch of homes that just don’t work, and help narrow down their choices early.”
In the survey, agents voiced concern about some efforts to have an offer accepted that may prove costly down the road, including waiving contingencies for inspections or financing:
• Waiving an inspection puts buyers at risk of unknown structural, mechanical or safety defects, which can be incredibly costly to the buyer.
• If a buyer waives financing and their loan is not approved, or the home doesn’t appraise at the offer price, it’s the buyer’s responsibility to make up the difference in cash or walk away from their earnest-money deposit – both potentially costly consequences.
Cautions also are given about so-called “love letters,” intended to tug on a seller’s heartstrings, because they can put buyers and agents at risk of fair-housing violations.
These letters can include personal demographic information about the buyer, unlawfully swaying a seller’s decision, which can violate the Fair Housing Act. (This is also not a successful strategy for buyers – according to the agents surveyed, love letters are the least important factor for sellers in the current market.)
Sabatino’s overall advice? “Buyers need to remember the ‘why’ and the priorities that have to come first,” she said. “Don’t worry about the set-up that is already in the house. Bring in a friend with vision, and you could end up utilizing spaces for things you never thought possible!”
Survey data came from 376 Zillow Premier Agents who answered questions between March 26 and April 1.