Published by: G. Kelly | 12/21/2018

Checklist: How to Make an Offer on a House

7 essential to-dos on your way to submitting your strongest offer

Check your list, twice

You've found the house. Now, let's seal the deal. Use this checklist to get your ducks in a row and make an offer your seller can't refuse.

Get prequalified.

If you're not already holding that letter, work with your loan officer to get prequalified — STAT! See why crowning your offer with a prequal letter gives you a leg up on the competition. 

Talk to your real estate agent (or attorney).

Your offer or purchase agreement must abide by state and local laws and disclosure rules, which vary by state and may change over time. Your agent will likely maintain an updated purchase agreement template to keep things easy and legit.

  • Need a real estate agent? A UHM loan officer can help you find one. Contact your loan officer or use the Find a Loan Officer search.

Determine a fair price for the home.

Take into account local comparable sales and other market analyses. While your agent is the #1 resource for determining your offer price, websites, like Zillow and Redfin, offer pricing tools to weigh criteria and market factors. You can also check local auditor sites to find sales prices in the area.

Get your finances in order — and your cash accessible.

  • Down payment: Refer to that prequalification letter or check with your lender to verify the down payment required for your loan. If your down payment requires investment sell-offs or gifts from family, leave time for that money to hit your account.
  • Closing costs: Check with your real estate agent, lender or title agency to get an estimate of closing costs, which are often roughly 3% of the purchase price. You might also negotiate with the seller to cover some closing costs in your offer.
  • Earnest money: This is your good faith deposit that you put down with your offer. Be sure to be explicit, in your offer, what happens to earnest money should the seller accept or decline your offer.

List contingencies you'll require in your offer.

Some contingencies to consider:

  • Property passes inspection
  • Repairs or violations discovered during inspection
  • Verification of value via official appraisal
  • Your final loan approval

Your lender, state and local laws may require additional make-or-break clauses to be included in your offer. Talk to your agent about those requirements.

Set timelines for all parties involved.

The home-buying process can get bogged down with delays. Including timelines for certain steps to be completed is a great way to keep the ball rolling. Consider establishing these deadlines in your purchase agreement:

  • When the owner will disclose improvements or condition of the property — as well as the number of days you have to review disclosures and determine the fate of your offer (I.e., if you'll change the offer, accept or withdraw).
  • Expiration date and time for your offer. Depending on the market, this timeframe might range from a few hours to several days. Consult with your agent for best practices in your area — or for this particular house.
  • Loan closing date. Most loans close within 30-60 days, but check with your lender to secure a date for your specific mortgage.
  • Occupancy date (a.k.a moving day). You'll want to give an owner-occupied property time to be vacated, but also be fair to your own living situation. Keep this date in mind when finalizing your own moving details, like terminating your apartment lease or day you need to vacate.

Make it personal.

If you're in a hot market (or just the house everyone wants), competition might be tough. You may be able to win points with the seller with a personal note attached to your offer.

  • In a personal-appeal letter, tell them about yourself, your family, what you love about the house and why you've dreamed of living in this neighborhood. Tap into these 10 tips for more inspiration.
  • If you're making a low offer, you can also use this letter to give your rationale. Be sure to work with an agent to determine a reasonable price to save you and the seller time.

What to do if you walk into THE house this weekend.

Imagine it: you've found the house. Now, it's time to seal the deal. We've built a checklist to help you get your ducks in a row and make an offer that the seller can't refuse. Get your Make An Offer checklist.