First-Time Home Buyer Tips: How to Make an Offer on a Home

You found the home of your dreams. You’re ready to make an offer. Heck, you’re ready to move in.

You’re a first-time homebuyer, and you’re excited.

Now how do you turn your dream of owning your first home into a reality? How do you protect your excitement from the disappointment that could arise if the owner rejects your offer? How do you make an offer on a home?

Read on for tips on making an offer on a house that the seller can’t refuse.

1. Understand the Home Buying Process: How to Make an Offer on a Home

You can make the process of preparing an offer and waiting for a response more effective and less stressful if you know what to expect from the process.

Every experience is different, of course. In general, however, the process starts when your agent sends the owner your offer.

The owner has three options:

  • Accept the offer
  • Reject the offer
  • Send a counter-offer

Ideally, the owner accepts your initial offer. If this is the case, you’ll sign a purchase agreement. Signing this agreement means you’re entering a legally binding contract.

However, the deal may remain contingent on the outcome of inspections, appraisals, or any other conditions you and the seller agreed to.

If the owner sends a counter-offer, you have the same options the owner had when responding to your original offer. You can:

  • Accept
  • Reject
  • Send another counter-offer

You and the owner are free to engage in as many back-and-forth negotiations as you’d like.

In the event that the owner rejects your first offer outright, you also remain free to send a new offer. If you do, though, keep in mind that the owner rejected your offer and did not send a counter-offer. This suggests that, in the owner’s mind, your original offer was too low to make negotiations with you worthwhile.

A new offer, therefore, will need significant adjustments. As the buyer, you’ll need to decide if those adjustments—and the added cost—are worth it. You’ll also need to decide if your budget can accommodate the added cost.


Negotiating with a seller when you’re the only interested buyer can be stressful enough. If the owner has received multiple offers on the house, however, you might find yourself in a bidding war.

Making a strong initial offer can position you for success in these negotiations. As you move through the negotiation process, you can reiterate and even reinforce the strong points of a solid first offer.

If you really want to make your offer stand out in a bidding war and protect yourself from being outbid, consider offering to top the highest bid by $1,000 up to a certain amount.

2. Settle on a Starting Price

Once you understand the process, it’s time to get started working through it. This means working with your agent to select a starting price.

As you settle on a starting price, you and your agent should consider the following factors:

As you assess these factors and arrive at a price, your real estate agent can offer valuable expertise and advice. However, it’s important that you are active in the process. This means being informed and asking questions. Consider exploring the following:

  • Why are the sellers moving?
  • How long has the house been on the market?
  • If the house has been on the market for a long time, what might that say about the asking price or the house’s condition?
  • Are other buyers currently interested?
  • What kind of work will you need to put into the house before or soon after you move in?

A good offer takes these factors into account and leaves room for negotiation.

3. Set Contingencies

If you make an offer and the seller accepts, you’ll sign a purchase agreement. At this point, you’ll be legally bound by the terms of the contract.

However, you’ll likely sign the contract before you know the full story of the house. Of course, that doesn’t mean you’re sending an offer on a house that’s sight unseen.

By the time you make an offer, you will have visited the house and seen it for yourself. Perhaps you’ll have seen it multiple times. You’ll know what the owner and his agent say about the house. You’ll also rely on your agent’s expertise.

Nevertheless, the fullest picture of a house’s history—and your potential future in it—is revealed in inspections and appraisals. These generally happen after you sign your contract.

It’s generally wise, therefore, to include contingencies. Contingencies are contract terms that protect you in the event that inspections or appraisals turn up hidden issues.

If an inspection reveals water damage, you’ll want the freedom to walk away. If an appraisal suggests that a home isn’t worth the asking price, you may want to renegotiate your offer.

As you consider contingencies, balance your need for protection against the appeal of your offer. Too many contingencies can sour a seller on the deal.

4. Sweeten the Deal with Details

One of the factors you considered in selecting your starting price was the seller’s situation. If you know the owner is in a hurry to sell, you might be hoping they’ll accept a lower offer. If they do, this is a win for you.

There are other ways, though, to make the contract—and your understanding of a seller’s situation—work for both of you. If the seller is in a hurry to move, for example, you could offer to close the deal quickly.

On the other hand, if the seller is still looking for a new home too, they may not want to exit their current home quite as fast. In this case, you might consider including terms in the contract allowing them to rent the home from you after you close the deal.

You can also make your offer more appealing to a seller by letting them know if you’ve been pre-approved for financing or if you’re paying cash.

Finally, in the world of real estate, the buyer typically covers the closing costs. Noting this in the contract can make your offer more appealing by conveying your conscientiousness. On the flip side, you might consider using closing costs as a negotiating tool if the seller counters.

Of course, as you draw up the contract’s terms and consider including any “sweeteners,” consult with your real estate agent and consider her advice.

5. Decide on an Earnest Money Deposit

In securing financing for your new house, you’ll make a down payment to your lender. This down payment shows the lender that you’re entering the agreement in good faith.

Earnest money is similar to a down payment. However, you’ll offer earnest money to the seller. Earnest money shows the seller you’re serious about your offer and are willing to back it up with a financial investment.

If you and the seller agree on an offer and sign a contract, the earnest money protects the seller. If you back out of a contract that you’ve already signed for reasons other than those spelled out in the contract contingencies, the seller keeps the earnest money.

Most homebuyers make an earnest money deposit equal to 1-3% of the purchase price. If your negotiations with a seller are successful, you’ll put this money in an escrow account. Until the sale goes through, neither you nor the seller can access this account.

When the sale goes through, the seller collects the money from the escrow account. The amount is usually deducted from your purchase price. If you break the contract, the seller collects the earnest money from the escrow account.

6. Send a Personal Letter with Your Offer

Buying a new home is, in many ways, a numbers game. It’s a matter for your head, but your heart—and the seller’s heart—is also a significant factor.

For the seller, especially, a home is often worth more than any asking price. A home has emotional value, including the memories the seller and his family made there. As the buyer, you can make your offer stand out by acknowledging this emotional value.

A home offer letter is an ideal place to speak to the seller’s emotions. Use it to tell the seller why you love their home and how you plan to continue that home’s story with your family’s new chapter in it. A seller will feel more comfortable entrusting their beloved home to a new family that loves it just as much.

They may also be more inclined to accept your offer if they know more about you and your family than your offer. Knowing the people who are moving into their home can help the sellers deal with their own complicated emotions as they leave.

As you write your letter, be personal and sincere. Flattery can be effective, but it can be overdone. Also, remember to be respectful and polite. Thank the owner for considering your offer regardless of how they choose to respond.

7. Deliver Your Offer

You’ve settled on a starting price. You’ve carefully considered contingencies. You’ve decided how much to put in escrow. Maybe you’ve even addressed the seller in a home offer letter.

Now it’s time to give them what you’ve got. Your real estate agent will deliver your offer and any supporting documents, like a personal letter, to the seller or his agent.

Moving quickly—while still doing your due diligence and protecting yourself—can increase the likelihood that a seller will accept your offer. Especially in a busy housing market, you’re likely not the only one interested in a house. Getting your offer in first increases your chances. This is particularly true as real estate agents advise sellers to give serious consideration to a first offer.

No matter how the seller responds, making an offer is a significant step in the process of buying a new home.

The Waiting Game

As you wait for a seller’s response, you’ll likely experience a mixture of emotions. One of the best ways to deal with nervous energy is to do something with it.

Use the time while you’re waiting for a seller’s response to get ready for your impending move. Doing so can take your mind off the offer. It can also make the process of moving quicker and easier if and when your offer is successful.


As you prepare to become a homeowner, take time to finalize responsibilities for your current living arrangements. If you’re renting, this means notifying your landlord. Ideally, your lease may be coming to an end, and you won’t need to pay a penalty to break it. Some leases also include buyout options. Some landlords are also more accommodating than others.

If you do need to pay to get out of a lease agreement, proper planning and timing can lessen the negative impact on you and your landlord.


Also consider the logistics of your move:

  • How will you pack your household items, especially valuable heirlooms, to ensure their safe transport?
  • Which pieces of furniture and large appliances will you take with you, and which will you leave behind?
  • If you’re leaving furniture or appliances behind, will you include them in the sale of your house, sell them separately, donate them, or throw them away?
  • Will you contract with a moving company or hire a moving van?

If you’re moving out of state or across long distances, you’ll need to consider other questions too. In addition to household items, furniture, and appliances, you’ll also need to transport your family’s vehicles.

Driving them yourself is one option. However, it’s time-consuming. It’s one more responsibility you have to deal with during an already stressful time. When you’re driving long distances under stress and on limited sleep, it can also be dangerous. Plus, if your family has multiple cars, it can mean that you and a spouse—or even older children—will need to navigate the road to your new home by yourselves.

Thus, many families moving cross-country work with auto transport companies to ship their vehicles. These services, which are convenient and secure, are among those to consider while waiting for a seller’s response to your offer.

Of course, shipping a vehicle involves its own costs. Thus, some families consider selling their vehicles and purchasing new ones when they arrive at their new home. While this is an option, in most cases, shipping a car remains the most cost-effective choice.

While waiting for the seller’s response, gather estimates from auto transport and moving companies. Investigate the reputations of the companies you’re considering. Check reviews and ask questions.

Doing this work now means that you’ll be ready to move once your offer is accepted.

How to Make an Offer on a House: Closing the Deal and Opening the Door to the Home of Your Dreams

With the right approach, you will, in time, successfully complete the homebuying process. Knowing how to make an offer on a home increases the likelihood that a seller will accept. If a seller counters, knowing how to negotiate a house offer becomes important.

Finally, preparing for your move during downtime in negotiations can make the road to your new home easier to navigate. After closing on a home, you’ll need to get yourself, your family, and your belongings there safely.

Count on Nexus Auto Transport to take the utmost care when shipping your vehicles. Contact us today for a quote.