In a competitive market like Austin, Texas', multiple-offer situations and over-asking sale prices can make it difficult to grab your dream home. But if you have the right elements on your side, such as a preapproval letter and a seasoned real estate agent, you can increase your chances of success.
To help you land your ideal property, U.S. News asked a few of Austin's top real estate agents what ingredients an Austin homebuyer must have to capture a seller's attention.
A seasoned agent
Always having a seasoned agent at your side to advise and protect you during the process is key to making a successful offer.
[Read: A First-Time Buyer's Guide to Austin.]
"Find the right agent because you need guidance to make clean, straight-to-the-point offers, and connect to the listing agent," says Anthony Gibson, owner and senior buyer specialist at Austin Properties Group/Keller Williams Realty. "Agents with experience will know what to do to achieve your goals and what it's going to take to win."
They can also set the right expectations for your price point and show you what offers have succeeded in that area in the past few months. As Gibson puts it, "It's easy to be successful as long as you have the right guidance."
A preapproval letter
A definite must-have, your lender preapproval letter shows you're an educated homebuyer who's done due diligence upfront and is now in a position to make an offer. If you already have access to your earnest money deposit as well as your option fee (which allows the buyer the option of dissolving the contract during the option period), the financial section of your contract looks even better.
Yvette Evans, listing agent with Redfin, recommends having a fully underwritten letter. "If you've got two offers, one has been fully underwritten and one hasn't, even if they're the same price, the fully underwritten one is more attractive because all you're waiting for is the appraisal and you're pretty guaranteed to close," she says. Evans also suggests using local lenders, which she says are more likely to close a sale on time and may have a stronger connection to the area’s real estate market compared to larger lenders.
Certain lenders will give you a 30-day guarantee to close with your preapproval letter. If you're in one of Austin's frequent multiple-offer situations, this guarantee shows you can close in a timely manner, an important consideration for any seller.
Contract term flexibility
"There are contract items, like shortening contingencies, that put the buyer more at risk, but make the seller comfortable accepting that offer due to their minimal risk," Gibson says.
Earnest money, option fees and the option period can be changed to look more appealing to a seller, too. If you increase the earnest money or option fee, you prove you have more money to risk, and if you shorten the option period, you show how serious you are about the property.
"Things in an offer that are traditionally seller costs, like title policy or [homeowners association] transfer fees, are negotiable, but if the buyer takes them on, their offer looks more attractive," Evans says. Offering free lease backs, not asking for a home warranty, and presenting your typed offer in a realistic and clean manner are other ways to sweeten the deal for sellers.
A knowledge of who you'll be negotiating with
Knowing who the listing agent is and how they like to connect, whether it's through texts, emails or calls, helps you tailor your offer and communication style. Additionally, sellers like to work with buyers they get along with, so the easier you make the process on them, the more likely you'll snag the property.
The buyer's agent should "reach out to the listing agent, introduce your clients and let them know you'll be presenting an offer," Evans says. "When you do present the offer, have the email break down the key points of the contract and combine it into one PDF so it's easy for the listing agent and the seller to review."
Evans says when she's been the listing agent, buyers have visited her at open houses to meet her, let her know about their submitted offer and remind her of who their agent is. Because she's spoken to them in person, Evans can share the buyers' personal messages and an assessment of their personality with the seller.
A personal letter with a photo
If you can't meet the listing agent, sending a personal letter with your offer about why you love the home and including a photo can tug at the seller's heartstrings. Gibson says it's not always about money, and sellers like to have that personal connection with the buyer when they're reviewing offers. Even if a buyer's price isn't the highest, a letter can humanize the transaction and help close the deal.
Looking for a real estate agent in Austin? U.S. News' Find an Agent tool can match you with the person who's most qualified for the job.
Ellis graduated cum laude with a bachelor's in English from Virginia Tech (Go Hokies!) and is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors, Texas Freelance Association, Freelance Austin, and Women Communicators of Austin. You can find her on LinkedIn and her website, or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.