Updated May 28, 2018: My husband and I bought our house last year. The process was illuminating. Turns out, Northern New Jersey is a seller's market. A nice house listed at a reasonable price was a guaranteed bidding war — and buyers were game. We offered $15,000 over ask the first time we bid. That home went to someone offering an extra $51,000 (yes, $51,000).
We came thisclose to getting it, though. I know because — weird thing — sellers rank bids and tell your realtor where you fell after they chose one. We were the backup offer, even though other bids (seven in total) were higher. Why? The couple really, really liked our offer letter.
So did the couple who sold us the next house we bid on, the little slice of heaven we now call home. It came down to us and another buyer who went in at the same price, but with a higher down payment. The couple — I met the wife at closing — picked us because of our offer letter.
Weeks later, my friend, who was trying to buy a house in an even tougher market, used my letter as a template. She and her husband got their now-home over an investor.
I'm not showing off (OK, maybe just a little — I'm proud of those letters). I'm more trying to point out — because this surprised me — people care about who moves into their home. A good offer letter won't always tug at their heart strings enough to make up for a price gap, but it can make a difference, especially when bids are close.
So, because I know writing solid offer letters in the middle of a stressful house hunt is hard enough, here's mine (with a few redactions and notes in brackets for clarity) to use as a template:
Dear [Seller’s Name],
Thank you for considering our offer on your beautiful home. We were hoping to get this letter over to you sooner, but got stuck trying to find the right words to convey how much we really loved it.
It’s probably simplest to say we thought [home address] was truly special. Right away, we could really see all the love and care you put into building your home — from the beautiful bamboo floors to the wonderful open living space to the smart doorbell and lovely fenced-in yard. There were just so many features of your home that called out to us.
We’re getting married this October, so we couldn’t help but notice your beautiful wedding and engagement photos on the walls. We’re hoping to host the holidays this year — the first one our families will celebrate together — and we couldn’t help but imagine how wonderful it would be to have our loved ones over in such a bright, open living space. (We envisioned talking to our families gathered in the living room as we finished preparing a holiday feast in the impeccable kitchen.) We also really loved the idea of inviting friends over for a barbecue, gathering everyone around the fire pit in your beautiful backyard.
I’m the Executive Editor of a personal finance website called Credit.com [my job at the time]. (We have an editorial component, but also partner with financial services companies. People can come to our site, get free financial advice, their free credit scores and apply for a credit card or personal loan, if so inclined.) My fiancé Teddy is a substitute teacher and jiu-jitsu instructor. Together, we make a solid living [i.e. we won't have trouble getting a home loan]. And, as the Executive Editor of Credit.com, I’m very familiar with the mortgage process, so I know what steps to take to ensure smooth sailing, should you decide to take us up on our offer. (I also have really good credit. Nice job perk.)
We understand how stressful moving can be, so we’re flexible as to a closing date. [We knew this was important to the seller who needed time to find their new home once in contract.] We’re on a month-to-month lease right now, so there are no issues logistically for us.
In closing, the home we purchase will be the one we start our family in. We would be so honored to have that home be [address].
Thank you so much for your time and consideration,
Jeanine & Teddy
On a house hunt? Here are a few more lessons I picked up as a first-time home buyer in 2017. And, if you're looking for a deep dive in the process, including shopping for a mortgage, we've got a full guide to buying a home right here.