First impressions are everything. Whether you’re buying a home, an apartment or some other type of property, presenting your initial offer in a positive light paves the way for a productive negotiation process and smooth transaction.
Typically, formal offers are sent by the buyer’s broker to the seller’s broker in writing via email. In some cases, a buyer will also write a personal note to the seller to send along with it.
In this case, the buyer’s broker will often include a short profile about the buyers and express their love for the property, and keep it brief enough so the buyers’ personal letter remains impactful and is not redundant. If the buyer is not working with a real estate broker and does not have representation, the offer would come directly from the buyer.
So, if you truly love a home or want to acquire an investment property, how do you write the perfect offer letter that combines your personal touch with a formal offer?
Keep it simple, and focus on three things: State your intentions, show that you have the financial means to make the purchase and make a personal appeal to the seller.
Here’s how to write your letter to the seller:
— Start with the details.
— Paint a picture.
— Romance the seller.
— Don’t overdo it: recommended length.
— Go the extra mile.
— Sample letters.
Start With the Details
At the beginning of your offer letter, express your appreciation for having the opportunity to visit the property, and state your terms upfront.
Next, include information about how you plan to pay for the purchase (all cash or financing), your requests for contingencies ( financing contingency and inspection contingency, for example), your desired closing time frame and any other special conditions. If you’re financing the purchase, a preapproval letter from your bank should be provided along with the offer letter.
It is important to make it clear that you’re a serious buyer and you’re prepared to sign a contract upon completion of the due diligence process. You should also be in touch with a real estate attorney to help with the transaction.
If you’re making an offer that’s substantially lower than the seller’s asking price, you might consider including your reasoning for the low offer. To help build your case, consider contextualizing current market conditions and recent sales of comparable properties in the same neighborhood or building to put things into perspective. If the property is older or in need of repairs and renovations, outlining what specific updates need to be done and the approximate renovation costs can also help justify your offer.
Paint a Picture
Presenting yourself as a human being, rather than a simple dollar amount, is key to establishing a successful negotiation position. Provide the sellers with a brief personal background and tell them about your spouse or family, if applicable.
Include career details, such as your current job and a description of your professional industry, as well as a quick summary of your career path leading up to your current position. This could also include where you grew up and which schools you’ve attended. You can even tell them about any pets you have.
Now, you’re a person with a story — you’ve painted a picture about who you are, which is harder for a seller to ignore. The seller will think of you as a human being, not just another buyer who offered a certain price for the property.
Romance the Seller
Once you’ve shared a bit about who you are, shift your focus to romancing the seller when it comes to his or her home. Flatter the seller by highlighting all the things you love about the house or apartment, and explaining why it is the place you want to call home. Be enthusiastic, but don’t go overboard.
While a real estate negotiation is a business transaction, if the sellers identify with you on a personal level, they can develop an affinity toward you — particularly in a competitive bidding situation — which may mean that they offer some flexibility during a negotiation. The sellers can feel pleased that they are passing their home on to someone who will love and appreciate it as much as they have.
It’s happened before where a buyer submitted an offer on an apartment that eventually ended up in a bidding war. All of the potential buyers were asked to submit their best and final offer, and at the end of the process, the seller decided to move forward with the one who had presented an offer and had a financial situation that was nearly identical to another buyer.
So, what made the difference? The seller was swayed by the fact that he and the buyer had attended the same school. Sometimes it’s something small, like that, that ends up closing a deal.
Don’t Overdo It: Recommended Length
Keep the letter short and sweet. It’s important to include just enough information and flatter the seller the right amount without overdoing it, since the latter can also have the opposite effect and turn off a seller. In terms of recommended length, anything between one and three paragraphs is ideal but do not exceed one page, typed (font size 11-12).
Go the Extra Mile
In a competitive bidding situation, buyers can send flowers or cookies to the seller, along with a handwritten note. A small gesture like this indicates your thoughtfulness and authentic love for the property. Just be sure to keep it simple and tasteful, as you never want a seller to feel uncomfortable by being overly aggressive.
In the end, the important thing to remember is that you want to make sure your offer letter clearly states your intent to purchase a home, that you are in a sound financial position to make the purchase and that you’re providing a personal appeal to the sellers so they know their home will be in caring and responsible hands.
Example One: Formal
Thank you for allowing me to visit [ADDRESS]. I love [ADDRESS] and I’m eager to make it my new home. I’m pleased to present my offer of [OFFER PRICE]. I am prepared to sign a contract right away upon completion of due diligence and close [DESIRED CLOSING TIME FRAME — typically you want to appear to be as flexible as possible so you might say that you can close at the seller’s convenience].
To tell you a little bit about myself, [INFORMATION ABOUT YOURSELF. You can include where you grew up, what you do for work, how long you’ve been with your company and the same information about your immediate family (spouse, children, etc.)].
From the moment I stepped foot in your home, I immediately knew it was a place I could envision myself living for many years to come. [EXPLAIN WHY that is and how the home suits your lifestyle needs].
I plan to [PAY CASH OR FINANCE THE PURCHASE. Explain how you will structure the financials of the purchase. If you plan to pay cash, include proof of funds, and if you plan to take out a mortgage, provide a copy of your pre-approval letter from the bank].
Example Two: Informal
Here is an example of an informal letter a buyer recently wrote.
We are [NAMES]. We are lifetime New Yorkers who raised our children in [PLACE]. We met in college at [SCHOOL] University and have been married for 40 years. We moved to Los Angeles almost X years ago when [NAME] became a partner at [COMPANY] firm. After 30 years at [COMPANY] firm, [NAME] has decided to retire so we can focus on our next chapter. For [NAME], part of the next chapter is to pursue [PERSONAL OR PROFESSIONAL] opportunities here in New York City.
We’re super excited to return to NYC, the city we love, full-time! We have been renting in the neighborhood for the past two years. We truly love the area and can’t wait to make it our full-time home!
From the moment we stepped into the apartment, we knew it was a place where we can enjoy this next phase of our lives and have space for our children and friends from the West Coast to visit. We love the open format of the living spaces in the apartment and the amenities in the building, including the private wine lockers (which we will put to very good use with our collection of California wines!).
We plan to pay cash for the purchase (please see enclosed proof of funds) and we can close at your convenience.
We hope to hear from you with good news in response to our offer.
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Update 10/19/21: This story was published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.