Home · September 09, 2021

What to Know About Buying a Home in a Competitive Market

You may not have planned to jump into a red-hot real estate market as a first-time homebuyer, but if you're ready to make the move from renting to owning, a competitive offer can boost your chance of success. Even when increasing your bidding price isn't possible, there are still ways to strengthen your offer.

When you're buying a home in a competitive market, it's essential that you have a few different arrows in your quiver. Certain strategies may work better than others, depending on the local market and your current finances, and you may need to try several tactics before you find a homebuying offer strategy that works. Here are a few techniques that could give you an edge.


Set your price point

Before you look at what's for sale, it's always a good idea to calculate how much you can afford. Having a set budget will help you resist the temptation to consider properties listed above a certain price. Sitting down with a mortgage banker to discuss a preapproval amount can help you determine your homebuying budget and increase your confidence when bidding on a home.

Work with a real estate agent

A real estate agent will narrow down homes available for sale in your price range. If you don't have an agent in mind, ask around for referrals or research agents online. You should always feel comfortable asking your agent for advice. They should be familiar with the local market and show an understanding of buying activity in your preferred neighborhoods.

That said, as a first-time buyer, you are your own best advocate. While working with an agent, you can still use your personal network to find homes before they go on the market. If you're comfortable sharing information, you could post about your home search on social media, put letters in mailboxes or join online community forums near your top-pick neighborhoods to get a sense of the local market. Then, if you do find a good lead, your agent can help you with next steps.

Compete on factors other than price

Price isn't the sole deciding factor in a multi-bid situation. Sellers don't want to accept a high offer only to have a deal fall through, which requires them to start the entire process again. If your bid isn't the highest, you can still remain competitive by relying on non-pricing strategies. Each of these strategies involves its own risks, though, so make sure you understand the implications and feel comfortable before moving forward.

Limit contingencies

Contingencies are items written into an offer that allow the buyer to exit the purchase under certain conditions and receive their initial deposit back. Sellers may accept an offer with limited contingencies, even when the buyer is offering a lower price. Depending on your circumstances, you may consider limiting some contingencies in your offer.

  • Sales contingency: As a first-time buyer, you won't need a sales contingency because you don't have to sell another home. This might give you a leg up if you're competing with buyers who are selling other homes.
  • Mortgage contingency: If you're pre-approved or paying cash, removing the mortgage contingency can make your offer more attractive to sellers.
  • Home inspection: Consider limiting inspection contingencies only when you feel confident and knowledgeable enough to handle potential issues that may arise. You should also leave room in your budget for possible repairs.
  • Appraisal contingency: This contingency allows buyers to exit the purchase if the home is not appraised for a certain amount, usually the sales price. If you're paying cash, an appraisal contingency may not be needed. But if the appraisal is lower than the sales price, your ability to secure the proper amount of financing may be affected.

Increased cash down

One way to strengthen your bid without increasing the price is to offer a higher initial deposit. However, if the seller accepts your bid, and the sale falls through, they may be entitled to keep this deposit money. You can also strengthen your buying position with a larger down payment along with a mortgage preapproval.

A personal touch

Sending a letter to homeowners in preferred neighborhoods may work if the timing is right and sellers are looking for a quick offer. But in the most desirable neighborhoods, homeowners may receive these appeals frequently, making it difficult for a first-time buyer to stand out. Although this is a popular homebuying offer strategy, you should discuss it with your agent first. Depending on what information is included in the letter, you may unwittingly open yourself up to liability or discrimination.

Fixer-upper options

As home prices continue to rise, a fixer-upper may be another strategy for buying into a neighborhood with heavy price competition. Homes in need of cosmetic work or additional repairs may not sell as quickly. They may also sell closer to asking price, giving first-time buyers more of an opportunity to compete. If you do choose to buy a fixer-upper, be sure to allocate a portion of your homebuying budget for renovations and repairs.

Bringing it all back home

Still have questions about buying a home in a competitive market? Sit down with a knowledgeable mortgage banker in your area for more clarity about preapprovals, the homebuying process and putting together a strategy that makes your offer stand out.

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