Real Estate Today

Five things to know to make your first offer

The prices have gone up a bit since these homes were built Photo: telstar logistics / flickr

As we move toward spring and the busiest real estate season, it is a good time to awake from your winter slumber and begin making a game plan to buy a home in 2014. 

Location, price, con-dition, contingencies, loan preapproval, mortgage payments, and moving: Ahhhhh, the mind reels.  Oops, I forgot to mention work. How do you fit all of the pieces together and find time to search for a home and make a winning offer?

The key word here is “pieces.” Between books written about buying a home and articles online, there is little left to the imagination. The questions are:  What’s important, what’s not, and what do you really need to know to buy a home?  In the beginning most buyers find themselves in a state of information overload.

Buyers find that if they break the process into pieces, the whole project of buying a home becomes manageable.

Unless you are one of the lucky cash buyers, the first piece in your plan must be talking to a lender and completing your loan application for loan pre-approval. No matter how organized you are with your finances, it is not possible to make a realistic plan to buy a home until you know how much money you can borrow and the amount of your monthly payments.

Once your loan pre-approval is in place, the search for your home can begin. Today the market moves quickly, and it is not unusual for a seller to accept offers 10 days or less after their home comes on the market. Finding a home and writing an offer with little time to collect your thoughts, figure out an offer price and how to handle contingencies can be a stressful time for buyers.

Understanding what you need to know to make an offer is often left to the last minute. Here are five things you need to know that will help you get ready to make your first offer.

• Make sure your down payment is available and can easily be transferred to escrow.   Expect sellers to ask for verification that your deposit is immediately available.

•  Ask your lend-er how many days it will take to complete your appraisal and fully app-rove your loan with no conditions. Some lenders can close escrow in as little as 21 days, and 25 days is not unusual.

• Ask your agent how many days it will take to have a contractors and pest inspection. It is not unusual for a serious buyers to have inspections completed before they make an offer. Sellers prefer offers that do not include inspection contingencies.

• Remember that in real estate, time is of the essence. Anything that can be done more quickly will make your offer more desirable to sellers.

• Have your agent find out as much as possible about the seller’s needs, and do your best to accommodate the seller. Some sellers want a short escrow, others a high offer price, and others may want to rent back for a month after escrow closes — and some sellers want it all.

Just remember that the more information you have in advance, the whole process of buying a home will be less stressful and your chance of success higher.

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Carole Isaacs is a Realtor with McGuire Real Estate. Visit her online at or call 415-608-1267.