5 Tips to Make Your Offer Stand Out in a Competitive Market

Buying a home should be a fun and exciting time. To help avoid the frustration that may happen as a buyer in a seller’s market I put together my Top 5 Tips for Making Your Offer Stand Out in a Competitive Market. Hopefully these tips will give you the competitive advantage you need to get an accepted offer and allow you to finally buy your dream home.


Get Pre-Approved for a Mortgage

I cannot stress this enough. Although, the State of Wisconsin does not require pre-approvals to be attached with an Offer to Purchase, buyers should talk to a lender and get pre-approved for a mortgage prior to seriously looking at homes for a couple reasons. Here’s why:

  1. Pre-approvals provide you with what the maximum dollar amount a lender can borrow you. If you are only pre-approved up to $225,000, it wouldn’t be wise to look at houses that have an asking price that is much higher, such as $275,000. Why? Well if you are in a competitive market, it is likely a highly desirable house will go for at or over asking. If your pre-approval is only up to $225,000 you would be responsible for coming up with the difference of $50,000 (which cannot come in the form of another loan). My best recommendation: determine what you feel comfortable paying for a mortgage payment each month and see what that equates to as far as a purchase price. Try to stick around that price range and if that is lower than your pre-approval you always know you could offer a little more and have the confidence you could still get the loan in the end.
  2. Many sellers will take pre-approvals into consideration when determining whether or not to accept an offer, especially if they have received multiple offers. An offer with an attached pre-approval, gives the seller peace of mind, that if they chose to accept this offer (essentially, discontinuing marketing efforts to sell the home) that the sale will go through and they would not miss out on potential buyers.

In summary, just get the pre-approval before you decide to seriously look at homes. It may be the difference between the sellers accepting your offer or another buyer’s. Make sure it is yours!

Work with a Licensed REALTOR

CoCo headshot

It may seem biased that I recommend this, but working with a real estate agent really does have its advantages. A real estate agent who is established within the community you want to live in may have information about upcoming listings that are not yet available to other buyers, they will also be able to recommend properties you have overlooked for one reason or another. And most importantly, they can get you inside the house and help you write the offer.

Know Your Neighborhoods


Establish ahead of time where your desired neighborhoods are. Drive around areas you know have homes for sale, attend a few open houses, talk to neighbors if they are outside, get a feel for if that area is right for you. That way your real estate agent can establish a search in which you can get notified as soon as something in those neighborhoods become available on the market. Sometimes being one of the first people through the property can be your competitive advantage, take my home buying story for example. We were the second showing on the property and got an accepted offer before another 8 showings were scheduled the next day. We knew where we wanted to be, so when our home hit the market we got in the first day and wrote the offer immediately following.

Submit Your Highest and Best Offer

Although the days of the buyer’s market of 2008-2011 are long gone, some buyers still believe sellers will accept an offer significantly lower than asking. And while there are still some properties that allow for negotiation, something that has been on the market less than 1 week, probably won’t equate to an accepted offer if you submit a lowball offer in a competitive market. If you know you are going to be up against other buyers, my best recommendation is to submit your highest and best offer. The purchase price you feel is the highest you can justify, won’t put you over the edge of your comfortable spending range, and is fair. That way, if the sellers decide to go in a different direction at least you wont have second thoughts about if you should have offered more, etc.

Write a Letter

This last tip may not work for every house but in my case, and the case for a lot of the buyers I recommend this for, it does. Most homes have a lot of sentimental value to their owners. This being said, your competitive advantage may be a letter that allows the sellers to get to know you the buyers. Especially, if the sellers have lived in the home for many years, raised a family, or had an other memorable life event occur there, it will be more important that they know the person who lives there next will love it as much as they did. The sellers of my home had been in the house for 23 years prior to Daniel and I buying it. So when we knew we may be up against other offers, we wrote them a letter about our favorite features of their home, why we love the area, what it would mean to live there, and that we see ourselves spending a long time there. When the listing agent called to tell me that we had an accepted offer she stated, “I don’t know what that letter said, but they don’t want to work with any other buyers.” We said exactly what the sellers needed to hear in order to feel comfortable handing over the keys to someone else after all those years.


Hopefully with these 5 tips, you will have the competitive advantage you need to get an accepted offer in a competitive market. Best of luck all you home shoppers! If these tips worked for you let me know! I’d love to hear from you!



** Full disclosure, I am not a licensed mortgage lender or attorney. These tips are my own opinion based off my experience in the real estate market in the Greater Milwaukee Area. Although I hope these tips work for you, I cannot make any guarantees nor warranties following these tips will result in an accepted offer. **

72 Comments on 5 Tips to Make Your Offer Stand Out in a Competitive Market

  1. amber
    February 7, 2017 at 12:00 am (1 year ago)

    We are house hunting right now so this was a great read for this time in my life. The letter part always has me so nervous but I do know it can make or break you!

  2. Kerri
    February 6, 2017 at 10:00 pm (1 year ago)

    The letter sounds like such wonderful advice. With so many people looking for homes, it seems like the perfect touch to make your offer stand out.

  3. Chelsea Damon
    February 5, 2017 at 9:19 pm (1 year ago)

    These are great tips! My husband and I are looking into possibly buying our first home this year and I’m going to save your site for future reference!

  4. Rachel
    February 5, 2017 at 8:48 pm (1 year ago)

    I like the idea of writing a letter. That seems to give it all a personal touch. Sometimes home buying can be sticky so this is a nice way to make it more personal.

  5. Carolyn
    February 5, 2017 at 6:22 pm (1 year ago)

    So glad I have never been in a bidding war for a house. Too stressful. These are great tips.

  6. HilLesha O'Nan
    February 5, 2017 at 11:46 am (1 year ago)

    I’ll have to keep these tips in mind for the future since they’ll really come in handy. Thank you for sharing!

  7. Amanda Love
    February 4, 2017 at 1:10 pm (1 year ago)

    I’ve been going back and forth about selling my house and buying a new one in a different state. I think this could really help me. It pays to have a good real estate agent as well.

  8. Toughcookiemommy
    February 4, 2017 at 10:00 am (1 year ago)

    Knowing your neighborhood or community is great advice. You need to know details about the people you will be servicing before forging ahead with any initiative.

  9. Jennifer (JenuineMom)
    February 4, 2017 at 9:44 am (1 year ago)

    I love this! Going above and beyond to make yourself stand out is one of the best things you can do, for nearly everything in life. I particularly like your letter idea!

  10. Blythe Alpern
    February 3, 2017 at 3:31 pm (1 year ago)

    Interesting tips. I had no idea you could write a letter to go along with your offer. It’s a great idea especially if you know the sellers have lived in the house a long time and want to make sure it goes to the right new owners.

  11. Kori
    February 3, 2017 at 11:04 am (1 year ago)

    This is really great to know. We’re going to be selling our house within the next few years.

  12. Teresa
    February 3, 2017 at 12:04 am (1 year ago)

    These are all amazing tips for any individual looking to purchase a new home right now. Interest rates are only going up – so now is the time.

  13. Angela Ricardo
    February 2, 2017 at 10:59 pm (1 year ago)

    As a military wife who could barely handle her busy schedule I am truly glad I came across your post. These are really cool and helpful tips especially the letter part. Thank you so much!

  14. CourtneyLynne
    February 2, 2017 at 7:02 pm (1 year ago)

    These are some great tips!!!! Making an offer and knowing what kind of offer to even make can be rather stressful

  15. Janel
    February 2, 2017 at 6:41 pm (1 year ago)

    What great tips. I’ve lived in our same house for 17 years now. I can’t imagine how the market is now!

  16. swenson
    February 2, 2017 at 5:25 pm (1 year ago)

    These are such great tips! It can be so daunting to both buy and sell a home and requires lots of research. Thanks for breaking things down so well!

  17. Kristin
    February 2, 2017 at 3:26 pm (1 year ago)

    These are great tips as we prepare to sell our first home! We’ll be looking for the dream house soon too!

  18. Reesa Lewandowski
    February 2, 2017 at 1:32 pm (1 year ago)

    Really going above and beyond with these tips can be the difference in selling right away or having your house go stale. Great tips.

  19. Rachel @ Kitchen Cents
    February 2, 2017 at 12:01 pm (1 year ago)

    Great information. Thanks for sharing. I’m going to pass this on to my sister who is selling her house and will be buying another shortly.

  20. Sheila Schweiger-Rhodes
    February 2, 2017 at 10:32 am (1 year ago)

    These are wonderful tips, and I agree about being pre-approved making a difference especially in the D.C. area. The buyer wants someone who they know has been pre-approved because many times they are moving soon.

  21. Robin Rue
    February 2, 2017 at 8:36 am (1 year ago)

    I have never had to put anything out on the market like this but these are great tips. If I am ever here I will know what to do.

  22. Jocelyn Cañasa Brown
    February 2, 2017 at 1:39 am (1 year ago)

    These are such great tips! It is definitely a super competitive market out there!

  23. Angie Scheie
    February 2, 2017 at 12:40 am (1 year ago)

    The housing market here in Seattle is insane and I need all the tips I can get! The letter is a nice touch 🙂

  24. Joanna
    February 1, 2017 at 7:45 pm (1 year ago)

    These are all great tips! I agree with them all, especially the working with a realtor.

  25. Barbara Ritzman
    February 1, 2017 at 6:57 pm (1 year ago)

    Great tips for a buyer. I am going to be a seller soon, love to know how to sell a condo, when there are many for sale in the same complex.

  26. Di
    February 1, 2017 at 6:51 pm (1 year ago)

    Great tips! We’ve been in our house for 15+ years now and I can remember the headache of the home buying process like it was yesterday!

  27. Vera Sweeney
    February 1, 2017 at 3:00 pm (1 year ago)

    These are great tips!! It can be so hard to have your house stand out in the market right now, important to have something to stand out with potential buyers.

  28. Jacqui @FlightsFancyMom
    February 1, 2017 at 2:35 pm (1 year ago)

    I currently live in PA, but in DE, you did have to have a pre-approval. I sold my house in a short-sale last year, thankfully I didn’t have to worry about it. The investor paid in Cash. Thanks for sharing!

  29. Kristin Cook
    February 1, 2017 at 2:03 pm (1 year ago)

    The letter is such a good idea! I never would have thought of that but I will definitely be keeping that in mind for when my hubby and I start house shopping!

  30. Charlotte
    February 1, 2017 at 1:54 pm (1 year ago)

    This is such incredible advice! I love especially the tip about writing a letter to the current homeowners. My bf and I are hoping to get a head start on the moving process over the next few months, and I’ve been feeling very overwhelmed, truthfully. That said, I’d like to think my language can be very persuasive and that I could use my writing if it’ll help! Thanks so much for this 🙂

    • CoCo
      February 1, 2017 at 5:05 pm (1 year ago)

      Let me know if it actually works for you! I want to hear a success story!

  31. Courteney Noonan
    February 1, 2017 at 1:53 pm (1 year ago)

    This is a really helpful post! I can’t wait to buy my first home when I finish university 🙂

  32. Brandi Puga
    February 1, 2017 at 1:16 pm (1 year ago)

    We are hoping to upgrade to a larger withing the y=next 2 years so I will definitely keep these tips in mind! thanks for you expertise

  33. Tereza
    February 1, 2017 at 10:37 am (1 year ago)

    This is so useful – absolutely love your real estate themed blog posts, it’s so refreshing to read especially because it’s such a rare niche to blog about! Thank you for sharing these x

  34. Angela Tolsma
    February 1, 2017 at 9:42 am (1 year ago)

    I didn’t know Wisconsin doesn’t require pre-approval. I just have always assumed you needed it and I definitely won’t go looking without one! I love the letter idea, because when I am ready to buy a house, that’s how I foresee it going.

    • CoCo
      February 1, 2017 at 12:54 pm (1 year ago)

      Yes, not required attached but have to submit one within 3 days of acceptance

  35. Karen
    February 1, 2017 at 9:23 am (1 year ago)

    Love the idea of writing the sellers a letter. I would totally take that into major consideration if there were similar offer amounts!

  36. Bill S
    February 1, 2017 at 9:22 am (1 year ago)

    These are great tips!! We have gone back and forth on selling and moving but haven’t decided, it can be a lot of work to sell your home!

    • CoCo
      February 1, 2017 at 12:55 pm (1 year ago)

      Definitely a lot of work, so wouldn’t recommend doing it, unless it provides a lot of benefit or it is a need!

  37. Tara
    February 1, 2017 at 8:49 am (1 year ago)

    I never thought to write a letter, but it makes sense. We did show a pre-approval note the first time we bought and fortunately the next time we paid in cash, which really helped us win out over 13 other bids!

    • CoCo
      February 1, 2017 at 12:56 pm (1 year ago)

      Wow thats awesome! Cash for sure wins against multiple offers. And saves you LOTS of money in terms of interest on a loan! Way to go!

  38. Margaret
    February 1, 2017 at 8:26 am (1 year ago)

    All great ideas if you are in the market for a new house.

  39. Jessi
    February 1, 2017 at 8:24 am (1 year ago)

    I love this! We bought our current home about 3 years ago now, but we know it isn’t our forever home. This will come in handy one day when we decided to sell and buy again.

  40. Miss Thrifty
    February 1, 2017 at 8:16 am (1 year ago)

    It’s interesting reading this and comparing the guidelines to my experiences here in the UK. Here, lenders have really clamped down on borrowing rules and eligibility, and our estate agents won’t even talk to you if you don’t have a mortgage-in-principle (our equivalent of a pre-approval) in place.

    • CoCo
      February 1, 2017 at 12:58 pm (1 year ago)

      Definitely interesting to see the difference! I try to make a point not to work with anyone without one, but if it is someone I know I make a few exceptions. Sometimes it takes missing out on something to light their fires!

  41. Divya
    February 1, 2017 at 7:08 am (1 year ago)

    These are all great suggestions! I can’t wait until we reach the point in our life where we think about buying a home <3

  42. robin
    February 1, 2017 at 5:30 am (1 year ago)

    Great tips, but here in Massachusetts, houses seem to be going same day – no matter what state they are in 🙂

    • CoCo
      February 1, 2017 at 8:10 am (1 year ago)

      Well then these tips would be perfect, sounds like there is a lot of competition and you will need make your offer stand out!

  43. Debra
    January 31, 2017 at 10:19 pm (1 year ago)

    I wish I had known these things when I was buying a house, these are great tips. Thanks so much!

  44. Shelby
    January 31, 2017 at 9:25 pm (1 year ago)

    I love this! I’m nowhere near ready to buy a house, but this was still fascinating to read. I’d never thought about writing a letter. I think it’s genius!

  45. Belle
    January 31, 2017 at 9:23 pm (1 year ago)

    These are such great tips! A lot of people will find these very useful. I am bookmarking this for future use!


  46. Rachel
    January 31, 2017 at 7:53 pm (1 year ago)

    All great tips! I really think the letter writing helps a ton!

  47. Heather
    January 31, 2017 at 7:48 pm (1 year ago)

    These are great tips! Our realator made our loves so much easier when we bought our home! Thanks to him it was less stressful than buying a car!

  48. Jeanine
    January 31, 2017 at 7:09 pm (1 year ago)

    This is great to know. We are hoping to buy sooner rather than later, but I haven’t even the slightest clue where to start! Writing a letter is a great idea!

  49. Terri Steffes
    January 31, 2017 at 7:04 pm (1 year ago)

    I love the letter idea. I think that it adds the personal touch that is needed in negotiations. Thanks for the great tips.

  50. Heather @ Country Life, City Wife
    January 31, 2017 at 6:46 pm (1 year ago)

    Very good tips. We are lucky that where we live it is a buyer’s market, but not too competitive!

  51. Lydia Monson
    January 31, 2017 at 5:35 pm (1 year ago)

    These are all such great tips! I’ve never purchased a home, and probably won’t for quite some time, but I’ll have to remember these tips!

  52. Dawn McAlexander
    January 31, 2017 at 5:23 pm (1 year ago)

    When my husband was buying his first home, he came across a nice house that was taking offers, however they wanted a pre-approval form submitted with the offer. Unfortunately, his pre-approval form was not yet ready. Had it been, he would have most likely gotten the house.

  53. Brooke
    January 31, 2017 at 10:50 am (1 year ago)

    In your experience, is it better to have your preapproval state the full amount your approved for even if you’re buying well under that? We’ve had the bank re-write the letter to match the offer amount. If you are approved for $300,000 but are only purchasing a house at $250,000, the seller may counter knowing you would be approved for more.

    • CoCo
      January 31, 2017 at 1:38 pm (1 year ago)

      Not at all, I would have the pre approval reflect the offer price so that you don’t reveal all your cards. It helps with negotiating!

  54. Keren Charles
    January 31, 2017 at 10:23 am (1 year ago)

    Thanks for sharing these wonderful tips. I especially love the last tip about writing a letter to the owner. What a genius idea. I will certainly pull that one out of the bag, if needed.

  55. candy
    January 31, 2017 at 8:35 am (1 year ago)

    Working with a realtor is a must in my opinion. Give them a list of what you need which includes neighborhood, schools, churches, miles to work etc. Find one you really connect with and they will save you money.

    • CoCo
      January 31, 2017 at 9:08 am (1 year ago)

      Save money, definitely! And if you are the buyer you don’t pay the commission!

  56. Sarah Jean Althouse
    January 31, 2017 at 8:20 am (1 year ago)

    Coco – I love your blog and your helpful tips. My husband and I are currently looking for a house in the DC area (OUCH – prices!) We are going to get pre-approved here soon in case we stumble upon one we love. I also loved your tip about writing a letter to the seller!

    • CoCo
      January 31, 2017 at 9:10 am (1 year ago)

      Thanks for the love! D.C. is a tough market! Hope these tips help you buy your dream home!

  57. Lindsey Paris
    January 31, 2017 at 7:45 am (1 year ago)

    Pre approvals are a great tip. We also made sure we have plenty of cash down and it was proportionate to the house we were putting an offer on.

  58. Mandy Carter
    January 31, 2017 at 7:36 am (1 year ago)

    When we bought our current house, I wrote a letter o the owners because I found out they had a special place in their heart for kids since they never had any. So I told them how excited we were to get to raise our 2 young kids there and mentioned all the great things we would do from parties to playdates, etc. I truly believe it made us stand out from the other offers on the table!

    • CoCo
      January 31, 2017 at 7:42 am (1 year ago)

      Letters make a huge difference! So glad you were able to get the home you wanted!

  59. Cecilia Cannon
    January 31, 2017 at 6:37 am (1 year ago)

    These are all great tips!! I will be sharing it with my staging clients and remind them the importance of getting pre-approved as well as highest offer plus, give it all you got and write a letter to.

    • CoCo
      January 31, 2017 at 7:43 am (1 year ago)

      Thanks for sharing!!

  60. Dana
    January 31, 2017 at 2:17 am (1 year ago)

    Very interesting tip about the letter! I would have never thought about doing that but I’ll be doing that when we go to purchase our first home. It’s so true that people want to give their homes to someone who will appreciate it.

    • CoCo
      January 31, 2017 at 7:44 am (1 year ago)

      Don’t under estimate the power of the letter! Doesn’t work for every seller, but if they have been in the home 10+ years it likely will!


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