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How to prepare a strong home offer

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It may sound simple: Make a strong offer and you’ll get the home you’re hoping to buy. But that advice is more complex than it seems. A strong offer doesn’t necessarily need to be well beyond asking price.

But it does need to include a few important components that will show the seller you’re serious and ready. A strong offer considers the following factors:

  1. Price range
  2. Pre-approval
  3. Down payment
  4. Available earnest money
  5. Contingency

Know your price range

Identifying your price range is the first step in preparing a strong offer. Don’t confuse your price range with the maximum loan amount you can afford. Your price range should be a comfortable number. When looking at your price range be sure to consider your down payment as it plays a significant role in your what future monthly payments will be. Considering these factors, your price range should reflect a monthly payment that you could make without struggling to address other needs, wants and giving goals.

Use a mortgage calculator to estimate your monthly mortgage payment. Most calculators factor in other costs like property tax, loan interest rate, homeowner’s insurance and down payment. You should have room on your offer to increase it if necessary. Knowing (and sticking to) your price range will help you feel confident in your home offer when you’re ready to make one.

Get pre-approved

For the seller to take you seriously, you need to show that you’re pre-approved to pay the amount you’re offering. Your pre-approval verifies that you’re ready to buy and that you’re a credible buyer.

A pre-approval is different than a pre-qualification. Getting pre-qualified is a simple process that usually takes place over the phone. The lender asks a few questions about your income and current debts and, after a brief assessment, will provide a pre-qualification letter. The letter validates your price range and allows you to start searching for a home with a price tag that matches what your loan amount may be.

Getting pre-approved is a more in-depth process where a lender will run your credit report and gather other financial documents like paystubs and bills. In a strong market, you should get pre-approved before you find your new home. That way, you’ll be ready to make an offer immediately. Ultimately, your pre-approval letter shows how much the lender is willing to give you for a new house.

Plan for a down payment

Many homebuyers want to know: How much should I put down? In general, if you have a bigger down payment, you’ll benefit from lower monthly payments and lower loan interest rates. Plus, you’ll be more favorable to lenders if you can put down a larger percent of the total home cost. Easier said, than done. Take time to establish down payment goals ahead of your home search, and dedicate dollars to a separate savings account to ensure that you’re putting enough money away to reach your goal.

Offer earnest money

When you make an offer on a home, you want the seller to know you’re serious. One way to show your true intentions is to deposit earnest money. Earnest money is generally a percentage of the sale ranging between 0.5% to 1%. Fluctuation in the actual amount is driven by market demand. When you close on the home, this money will go toward your down payment. Be careful: most purchase agreements state that if you drop out of the contract, you’ll lose your earnest money in the process.

Try to buy without contingency

Many buyers need to sell their home before they can purchase a new one. For that reason, buying a home with a contingent offer often protects the buyer from paying two mortgages at once. However, a contingent offer is risky for the seller, especially if the buyer’s home has been on the market for a while. If you can make an offer without contingencies, the chances of the seller accepting it are much stronger.