Figuring out how to make an offer on a house that’ll turn you into a homeowner is no small task. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to make your offer as strong as possible. From down payments to contingencies, escrow accounts to counter offers, here’s a guide to understanding the process, enlisting expert help, and determining how to make an offer on a house you could someday call home.
How to make an offer on a house
Learn how the home offer process works.
Before you get your offer ready (more on that below), you’ll want to know what to expect. Here’s how the basic home offer process typically goes:
- Your agent sends your offer to the seller.
- The seller could:
- Accept the offer.
- Decline the offer. This happens if the seller doesn’t think your offer was close enough to their expectations to negotiate.
- Counter-offer. The seller offers you different terms.
- If the seller counter-offers, you can then accept, counter, or decline as well. You can negotiate back and forth as many times as you’d like until you reach an agreement or someone decides to walk away.
- Once your offer is accepted (or you accept a counter-offer), you sign the purchase agreement. You’re now under contract. This period of time is called the contingency period, and any inspections, appraisals, or anything else built into your purchase agreement will take place.
Pick a starting price (with your agent’s help).
A lot goes into the number you start with when making an offer on a house: your budget, the local market, the seller’s situation, the condition of the house, and more. This is when you’ll thank yourself for finding a good real estate agent. Knowing your needs, the local market, and the right strategy for each property is your agent’s job. Feel free to ask lots of questions and do your own research, but also trust your agent’s expertise.
Set your contingencies and other offer details.
Contingencies are things you expect to happen between the signing of the purchase agreement and closing that could change or end your contract. Standard contingencies include home inspections and appraisals. These protect you by allowing you to walk away or renegotiate your offer if the house has hidden issues or isn’t worth as much as you thought.
You can also include non-financial things to sweeten the deal. If you know the seller is in a rush to move, you could offer to close quickly. If you know they are house hunting themselves, you could offer to rent the home to them after you close so they can take their time moving out. Your agent can help you get a read on the situation and recommend what items to include.
Decide how much money to put in escrow.
Your purchase agreement will include how much money you’re putting down as an earnest money deposit. This money shows the seller you’re serious about your offer because if you walk away from the deal in any way not allowed by your contract, the seller keeps the money. In a competitive market, offering a bigger earnest money deposit than the competition can help your offer stand out.
Earnest money deposits are often 1 to 3 percent of the purchase price of the house. If your offer is accepted, you’ll put your deposit in an escrow account, which is a special bank account where neither you nor the seller can access it until the agreement is over. If all goes well, your deposit will often be deducted from what you owe the seller when closing on the house.
Consider including a house offer letter.
In competitive housing markets, sellers often get multiple offers. One way to make yours stand out is with a house offer letter. If you know the seller has an emotional attachment to the home and you think they’d appreciate knowing how much you love their home, go ahead and tell them in a letter that will be delivered with your offer.
Send your offer.
When you’re ready, have your agent deliver the offer to the seller or the seller’s real estate agent. Now, it’s up to them to respond. And while you wait, congratulate yourself. No matter how things go from here, you’ve taken a big step toward homeownership by learning how to make an offer on a house.
Want to make that offer even stronger? Here’s how to write a house offer letter that could win a seller’s heart.
By Larissa Runkle, Realtor.com
Mention that your in-laws are coming to town, and you're likely to be met with groans of sympathy. But as unpleasant as your spouse's family might be, it turns out there's another group of houseguests who can make life even more miserable: your friends.
According to a recent survey by the furniture company Joybird, 37% of respondents reported having had a "bad houseguest" to stay at some point. And a majority of those surveyed said the worst offenders were their friends—even more so than relatives.
“Friends often feel more comfortable and relaxed in the company of one another, so it didn’t come [as] too much of a surprise that they made the ‘worst’ houseguests, over family and in-laws,” explains Devon Cameron, a representative for Joybird.
Are you unwittingly the one your friends are hoping will vacate the guest room? We dug into these survey results to bring you the most egregious houseguest behaviors reported—and tips on how to avoid alienating your hosts.
1. Being messy
Cleanliness was the No. 1 gripe about bad houseguests, and it's not hard to understand why. Chances are that unless your friends live in a sprawling mansion, your hosts may need to access the space you’re occupying—even if it’s only to get into a closet briefly.
“As a real estate agent, I get to show all types of homes, and many of them have guest suites,” says Bucks County, PA, real estate agent Russell Volk. “I can always tell if the guest suite is occupied: It's usually not as organized as the rest of the house. I’ve seen toiletries thrown around in the bathroom, suitcases on the bed, clothes on the floor, etc.—and that's all during a house showing.”
Whether you’re crashing on the couch or sleeping in a private room, it’s important as a guest to keep your space neat and to show that you respect your host's home.
2. Not helping out
If you’re on vacation or visiting a new place, it’s easy to want to kick back and relax. And you should—but not at the expense of your friends. That's why pitching in was a close second in terms of host complaints about guests.
“I've noticed as friends have stayed over the past few years, it's very daunting,” says Joe Murphy, interior design specialist at The Shower Head Store. “You’re hosting by prepping meals and making sure they’re comfortable, and although many friends act like they don't want special treatment, it’s not often I have friends who are willing to help along the way.”
Whether you're staying for one night or 10, make sure to extend a helping hand. Wash dishes after a meal or even offer to cook. And try to avoid contributing to a mess that you won’t be cleaning up.
Nobody wants to wonder if their privacy is safe while a friend is visiting, or to walk in on a friend who’s combing through their drawers.
The women surveyed were the most miffed by snooping, with 32% of respondents deeming it the "worst possible way a houseguest can act." Men don't care for nosiness too much, either—25% of males surveyed said it topped their list of egregious behavior.
If you need something and aren’t sure where to find it, just ask. Anything in the house that’s closed should stay closed, unless your host says otherwise.
4. Expecting (or asking) your friends to change their lifestyle
Ever hear someone say “The world doesn’t revolve around you"? As a guest in someone’s home, you’ll want to keep that expression in mind and avoid requesting special accommodations.
Meaning, don't ask your host to stock up on gluten-free everything or kale for your morning smoothies. And certainly don't ask your hosts to put their dog or cat in a kennel; 41% of people asked were unwilling to do this, even if their guests had an allergy.
“Most people consider their furry friend to be a family member, so making sure their pet stays comfortable in what can be a stressful situation for them is really important to hosts,” Cameron explains. “In all likelihood, guests have been warned about the pet and chose to stay, in which case, they accepted the pet was going to be around."
You should be able to adapt to your host’s lifestyle—not the other way around.
5. Overstaying your welcome
One of the biggest issues people had with their guests was that they dramatically overstayed their welcome.
But how long is too long? According to the survey findings, 64% of people said that four days was the comfortable limit for having friends to stay over. Far fewer people were OK with guests who stayed longer—especially those who tried to stay more than 10 days.
So if you only planned on sleeping at your friend’s house for three nights and then getting an Airbnb, we’d advise you to stick with that plan. Even if the rental isn’t cheap, it’s a whole lot better than ending up with friends who hate you.
By Cristina Jisa, Point2Homes
Canada’s new First-Time Home Buyer Incentive (FTHBI) program is now up and running, created to assist first-time homebuyers in purchasing property.
First-time homebuyers – millennials, in particular – will benefit from the program through reduced monthly mortgage payments that won’t increase the required down payment for a home.
The program is part of the federal government’s plan to encourage homeownership and reduce steeply increased home prices across the country. It works as a sort of shared equity between homeowners and the federal government through mortgage insurance providers, such as Canada Guaranty, the CMHC (Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation) or Genworth.
The FTHBI program could save families as much as $286 per month – or more than $3,430 per year – if they were to purchase a $500,000 home with a $25,000 down payment, for example. The amount saved for each qualifying family is dependent upon where the home is purchased and what type of home it is.
Applications for the program are being accepted now through November 1, 2019.
Who Qualifies for the Program?
As many as 100,000 Canadian families are expected to benefit from the $1.25-billion, three-year program. However, there are a few requirements for first-time homebuyers to qualify for the program:
- First-time homebuyers can receive up to 5% of the cost of an existing home, or up to 10% of the cost of a new home, as long as they have a household income of less than $120,000.
- Buyers will be required to pay back the incentive within 25 years or whenever they sell the home, whichever comes first.
- The government will share in the profits if the property is sold for more than its original purchase price; but, it will also share in the losses if the property decreases in value and is sold for less than its original purchase price.
What Types of Property Can Be Purchased?
The type of property that first-time homebuyers can purchase through the program depends upon the market in which they’re looking. For example, those wanting to purchase property in Vancouver or real estate in Toronto likely won’t qualify for the program.
That’s because the mortgage of a property purchased through the program can’t be more than four times the maximum household income of $120,000, or $480,000. In Toronto and Vancouver – where competition is tough and home prices are steep – it can be harder to find an affordable house.
In July 2019, for example, the average home price in Toronto was $982,427, while in Vancouver it was $826,165. In comparison, the average price of a home purchased through this program will need to be between $500,000 and $600,000, depending on the size of the down payment.
What Are Some Other Things to Consider?
First-time homebuyers interested in using existing RRSP (Registered Retirement Savings Plan) funds toward the purchase of a home should note that the federal government has increased the RRSP withdrawal amount from $25,000 to $35,000.
Another option is the Shared Equity Mortgage Providers Fund (SEMP), a $100-million, five-year program that is meant to make homeownership more affordable for Canadians. The program, which launched on July 31, 2019, will assist in increasing housing supply, attracting new shared equity mortgage providers, and providing two possible funding opportunities to eligible applicants.
What is the Application Process?
First-time homebuyers will need to complete and sign the application forms and give the completed documents to their mortgage lender, who will submit the documents on the homebuyers’ behalf. The application will be processed and, if accepted, the homebuyer must contact the FTHBI at 1-833-974-0963 to provide the name and contact information for their lawyer or notary.
With the rollout of this new program, Canadians will have an opportunity to purchase their first home with some additional assistance. This will help ease the costs involved and allow more residents to enjoy the benefits of homeownership.
By Gwendolyn Purdom, Houzz Editorial Staff
Getting dressed up for Halloween is hardly limited to people and pets. Decking out your home with jack-o’-lanterns, spiderwebs and other creepy decor details can be just as fun as getting your little pirates and witches in costume this time of year — and often easier. Here’s a goody bag of our favorite tips and inspirations.
1. A Gothic Glow
Part Phantom of the Opera and part haunted house, a cluster of flickering candles sets an instantly spooky scene. To get the most wow for your wicks, combine tapered candles of varying heights and thicknesses all in the same color (white is classic, black a notch more mysterious). If you don’t have an appropriately unnerving candelabrum or individual candleholders handy, a heatproof tray or platter should do the trick as a base. Keep the candles in place with a dab of candle adhesive to bond each candle directly to the display surface.
Decorator beware: Candles packed together like this mean more heat and more danger if they aren’t monitored closely. Never leave the candle arrangement unattended, and if you have young kids or pets nearby, flameless candles will likely be a safer bet.
2. Spooky Specimens
Going for Mad Scientist Chic? A collection of classic candy dishes goes from sweet to sinister when you swap out the gumdrops for snakes and spiders.
Stock up on rubber critters in the toy aisle and show off your specimens on a mantel or as a chilling centerpiece.
Bonus points for (gently) knocking one over so it looks as if the creepy crawlies are on the move.
3. Freaky Foliage
Fall color palettes go beyond oranges and reds. Plant an unexpected jolt of black blooms or foliage in the yard or your front porch container garden to keep things feeling haunting but not over the top. Fall is a great time to plant the perennial black mondo grass (Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’) shown here, for instance. It adds visual interest, texture and a contrasting backdrop for the pumpkins.
4. Trick-or-Treat-Ready Front Door
The warm wood door that Boston design firm JS Interiors found at a Maine salvage company combined with frosted-glass star lanterns, a friendly Halloween doormat and three pretty pumpkins makes for a well-appointed, well-lit entryway to welcome candy-seeking boys and ghouls.
5. Color-Coordinated Candles
Make these cute candy-corn-inspired candles yourself or just use the iconic sugary fall treat as color inspiration. An array of glowing orange, white and yellow candles gets across the same sweet and seasonal idea.
6. Orange-Free Zone
Some design-minded homeowners may shy away from Halloween decor for fear of overdoing it on the orange. But black, gray and silver accents, like the paper skull garland, tombstone and candles on display here, feel just as holiday-ready without all the intensity of the season’s dominant shade.
7. Eerie Terrarium
You don’t have to be crafty to give planters or terrariums you already have an unsettling Halloween upgrade.
A handful of moss, faux cobwebs or a flameless candle or two can evoke a Halloween feeling without sacrificing style.
Or, if you’re up to it, you can build your own seasonal terrarium from scratch.
8. Words of Warning
There’s a way to get into the holiday spirit without turning your yard into a parade of zombies and ghosts. Why not have some fun guiding visitors to the door with a not-so-threatening warning written with vinyl decals? Similar messages could work in the window or on the front door too.
Want to make things even scarier? Throw in a terrifying guard dog, like the one shown here. (Just kidding, that pup’s adorable.)
9. Gourd Goals
With the autumn-tastic art above the mantel, the bold candleholders and the eclectic pile of pumpkins spilling from the fireplace, this whimsical scene gives an example of how to take your Halloween decor in a more playful direction. And by using painted pumpkins instead of carved ones, the homeowners also saved themselves a lot of time, effort and goop.
10. Taking Flight
With a little creativity, the Houzz user’s garage door shown here went from wasted space to an unexpected canvas for a colony of bats. With the help of stick-on vinyl decals, yours could too.
11. Sophisticated Scares
You might as well think about your mantel as a little art gallery for you to curate. These homeowners in Brooklyn, New York, took that concept and filtered it through a sophisticated Halloween lens. Clean white gourds, a bouquet of black ostrich feathers, a faux crow and a cloche jar filled with seasonal root veggies capture an easy-to-replicate fall feeling with a dash of grown-up Halloween scares.
12. Rethinking the Definition of Decor
Sure, candy corn is great by the handful and fall leaves signal the season in the yard, but they can make for great home accents too.
Display the colorful corn in a pretty glass vase, thread the best leaves you rake up into a festive garland, and keep an open mind when it comes to other autumn staples and how you might be able to repurpose them around the house.
Some people hate hand-me-downs; others like things with a history. When it comes to housing, new construction has a never-been-touched attraction, while existing homes have stories to tell. For every advantage of buying newly built and existing homes, there’s a flip side. For example, newly constructed homes tend to cost more than similar pre-owned homes, sometimes as much as 20 percent more. But they are initially less expensive in terms of maintenance and utilities.
As you weigh whether to buy shiny new construction or a charming pre-owned home, here are some other factors to consider.
Benefits of new construction
Floor plan: If you opt for a custom-built home, you’ll work with the contractor to create a traditional or modern layout that works for your life. If you’ve always dreamed of a formal dining room for family gatherings, it’s yours. If you’re buying pre-built new construction, chances are good the layout will lean to modern, with wide-open floor plans. Kitchens flow into family rooms so you can cook and oversee homework or watch the game. Rooms in new construction homes – especially bedrooms and bathrooms – tend to be larger and brighter, with lots of natural light.
Personalization: Even if you’re not opting for a custom home, you may be able to upgrade finishes from builder-grade materials if you connect with the builder before construction is completed. It may cost you a bit more, but adding your own personal touches may be worth it to you.
Efficiency: New appliances and home systems are more energy efficient. Plus more efficient insulation and windows create buttoned up homes that are less expensive to heat and cool than older models. All of that translates into lower utility bills.
Smart and healthy: “Smart” technology options allow you to automate internet, cable, speakers and even an alarm system. And new homes often use low- and zero-VOC (volatile organic compound) paints and building materials, improving indoor air quality.
Maintenance: A newly built home requires less maintenance since everything from appliances to the HVAC system and roof are brand new. This means you can better predict monthly homeownership costs, since you’ll likely spend less to maintain your home. Warranties can protect your new home for years before you need to undertake any major repairs.
Amenities: Buying new construction often means buying a lifestyle. Master or planned communities often include amenities like parks and community spaces that are close to schools and transit. The key is finding a builder who offers what you care about.
Timing: The median time to complete new construction – five months for single-family homes and six months for condos – lets you feel less rushed than scrambling with other buyers for an existing home.
The flip side
Location: New construction typically grows up in exurbia where land is plentiful but commutes can be longer. In cities, new construction tends to be high-rise condos or in-fill homes on smaller urban lots, with very little outdoor space.
Landscaping: Existing construction is often surrounded by mature trees that shade the home in summer, protect against wind in winter, and block out traffic noises at bedtime. Mature trees may be salvaged at new building sites but often the landscaping takes years to grow into itself.
Floor plan: Builders, especially in planned communities, tend to stick with exterior design styles and finishes that appeal to the broadest range of customers. You’ll have to count on post-purchase painting and decorating to stand out from your neighbors.
Waiting: If you’re looking at new homes that are already built, this isn’t a factor. But if you’re building a custom home, it could take several months longer than moving into an existing home. You can expect a custom home to take five to six months, but that varies by market and builder.