How do you make an offer on a property that is not for sale?

With information on why the house is not currently for sale, prepare an offer letter adapted to the landlord's situation. Be flexible and work with landlords on a possible move-in date, or offer to rent to you while they find a new home. And get pre-approved for the mortgage before making the offer. Another casual way to make an offer without being too official is to use a letter of intent.

A letter of intent is a simple document that lists the terms of purchase and sale, usually on one page, and does not use all the legal jargon. It is not a legal document, just a way for both parties to see the summary of what is being offered. Often, the official purchase and sale document can be dozens of pages long, just to explain some important facts. Write down the most important characteristics of your potential new location.

Schools, commuting, noise, traffic and the potential for future price revaluation are often important considerations. Create a list of the features you need in your new home and label each one as a must-have or favorite. If you have characteristics that would automatically disqualify a property, add it to your list and tag it with Must Not. For example, here in California, where the ground shakes a lot, I'm not comfortable with hillside houses built on stilts and I would label stilts “You shouldn't.

Share your selection criteria with your agent and identify neighborhoods that could meet your needs. Discuss the current value of homes in those areas and any other costs that may be associated with owning a home there, such as homeowners association fees, excise taxes, appraisals, etc. Review recent sales activity in the area. Create a family budget and set financial limits for the purchase and long-term costs of owning a home.

Meet with a financial planner if needed. Then, contact at least three different mortgage lenders to determine the purchasing power of your budget and look for financing that best suits your needs. If you have the resources to buy cash, skip this step. Meet with your broker again and create a list of target properties.

Refine your search criteria and start driving to neighborhoods to identify homes and add them to your target list. Send candidates to your broker regularly so that each one can be researched regarding current market value, size, characteristics and most recent sales activity. Make sure your proposal contains an offer to pay the settlement fees that are common in your neighborhood and, perhaps, some that the seller would normally pay. And don't offer the full amount of your pre-approval, even if you think you can comfortably afford it, because doing so leaves no room for negotiation or the possibility of improvements or repairs.

A good way to handle this situation, then, is to write an offer on Friday and give the seller until Sunday night to respond to the offer. The seller may even be tempted to accept your offer on the spot and, if so, much better. If the seller has already accepted another offer on the home, you can use many of these same strategies to consider making a backup offer. When preparing your offer, you may also want to ask the seller to make repairs or other concessions.

That's why sites like Zillow offer the “Make Me Move” option, where homeowners can set a dream offer price for buyers like you who see your home and actually want to buy it. Once you've closed your pre-approval letter and your real estate agent and found your dream home, the next thing you need to worry about is the actual process of making an offer. One of the most challenging aspects of trying to buy a home off the market is determining what type of offer you want to make. Obviously, you don't want to offer more than you have to offer, but you also don't want to make an offer that stops impressing the homeowner.

Ideally, your offer should take into account the reality of what the house is worth, which means that you need to research. There's no guarantee that you'll be lucky to approach the right person at the right time with the right offer, but you should expect rejection when you call someone to want their home. Unsolicited offers are on the rise, as homehunters struggle to find affordable properties in a market plagued by rising prices, low supply and bitter competition, according to agents. You may have been pre-approved for a surprising mortgage amount, but don't let that dictate how much you offer.

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