How to Make an Offer on a House

Dated: December 12 2020

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Finding the right house for you can take a few weeks or a few months. But what happens when you do set your sights on the house of your dreams? How and when do you make an offer?

And what should you do to boost your chances with the seller—especially in a competitive housing market?

Don’t worry: With a few tips, you can ace your home offer. We’ve got all the answers for you below!


How Do You Make an Offer on a House?

So, you’ve just viewed a house and it looks like it could be the one. Now you’re ready to make an offer! This is when your real estate agent usually steps in to write an offer letter on your behalf and send it to the seller’s agent.

It’s important to have a good real estate agent on your team from the start of your home search because the offer letter can make or break your chances when it comes to getting the house you want. But a good agent will know their way around the whole process.

What’s the Process When Making an Offer?

Now, let’s break down exactly how the offer-making process works. Here are the steps:

  1. First, you’ll view a house and decide you want to make an offer.
  2. You’ll speak to your real estate agent and, together, you’ll decide what your offer will be.
  3. Your agent will write an offer letter and send it to the agent representing the seller.
  4. The seller will respond in one of three ways:

The seller accepts the offer.

Everyone is happy. Hooray! As soon as both sides sign the offer letter, you’re officially under contract and on your way to buying a house!

The seller makes a counteroffer.

You can either accept this counteroffer, go back with another offer of your own, or walk away.

The seller declines the offer.

You could then try to make a more appealing offer (if your budget allows) or move on to find another house.


The offer letter can make or break your chances when it comes to getting the house you want. But a good agent will know their way around the whole process.


What Should You Know Before Making an Offer?

In order to make the strongest offer possible, here are some key tips leading up to the actual offer:

  • Be as quick as you can when submitting your offer—especially if the house hasn’t been on the market long. Know what you’re looking for in advance and assume you’re not the only person looking at the house—because you probably aren’t. You want to beat other buyers to the punch!

  • Think about seller motivation. Can your agent find out why they’re selling? This could help your case. For example, if they’re moving out of town and need to make a quick sale, your offer letter could state that you’re happy to have a shorter period before closing day.

  • If the house has been on the market for a while, find out the reason. If the house has issues, this could influence your offer.   

  • Has the seller received any other offers on the house? Getting this information depends on how much the seller’s agent is willing to tell your agent, but it’s always worth a try.  

  • Your agent will also look at the local housing market and the condition of the house to decide what your offer price should be. Will you need to renovate? That could be a factor.

  • If you’re selling your current home while you’re looking for a new one, put your house on the market before you start your new home search. You don’t want to find your dream house and have the purchase fall through because you don’t have a buyer for your current house lined up in time. It may be wise to initiate the buying process, but be sure you don’t purchase a new house until you sell the other one. A good real estate agent can help you navigate the buying and selling process here.

Remember: Your offer should be a strong starting point. Don’t start too low or too high. You could get into a bidding war with other buyers or the seller could make a counteroffer. Your first offer should leave room to negotiate if necessary.

What Is Inside an Offer Letter?

This isn’t a typical letter, folks. The offer letter is a legally binding document that needs to comply with the laws of your state. That’s another good reason to have a real estate agent take care of it! In some states like New York, you’re required to have a licensed attorney approve the offer letter whether or not you’re working with an agent.


The offer letter is a legally binding document that needs to comply with the laws of your state. That’s another good reason to have a real estate agent take care of it!


And the offer letter doesn’t just contain the price you’re offering. It can also include other important information such as:

  • The amount of earnest money you’ll pay (usually between 1% and 3% of the sale price of the house)
  • Your down payment amount
  • Whether or not you’ve been preapproved for a mortgage
  • A breakdown of the closing costs and who is responsible for paying each one
  • If you’re selling your current home, details of the contract and closing date
  • Your offer’s expiration date
  • For a personal touch: A handwritten note from the buyer to help you stand out in a competitive market  

What Are Contingencies?

Contingencies are conditions in the offer letter that the seller should agree to if they accept your offer and want the deal to proceed.

You and your agent can decide what to address. Standard contingencies include making the house available for a home inspection and disclosing any hazard inspection findings or structural issues with the house.

It’s also common for the seller to agree for their home to be appraised by the buyer’s mortgage lender. It’s usually necessary to have a few contingencies, but you don’t want too many.

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Janette Friend-Harrington

"Your Legacy Begins At Home" Janette and Doug and their Friend Team have more than a real estate practice; they have a mission called "Your Legacy Begins At Home". The mission combines years of real ....

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