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For Sale by Owner Guide

Guide for Buyers

See all Buyer Guide topics

Decide on the Price and Terms

Writing the offer is to put the transaction you want on paper. You will need to determine what price you are willing to pay for the house, the contingencies you want the contract to contain, and the timetable you would like the transaction to follow.

When both the buyer and the seller have signed the agreement, it becomes a contract and dictates the timetables and the costs involved for all parties to the transaction. This outline is not inclusive of all you may need to know to write a solid contract that protects you. If you are a not using a real estate agent, a good strategy is to hire a real estate contract attorney to help you with the purchase agreement.


Don't negotiate verbally with the seller. Oral negotiations are not enforceable.


To move the process along quickly, start with your best reasonable offer. Use our home comparable report to determine an offer amount.


Be prepared to provide evidence that you qualify to buy the home, especially if you are working without a real estate agent. Best strategy: be pre-approved or at least pre-qualified for your mortgage prior to making an offer.

  • Be aware of the market - in a buyer's market, you can negotiate hard to get the price and terms you want; but in a seller's market, you may have to pay close to, or even over, list price.
  • Make the offer good for a certain timeframe (not less than 24 hours) so you get a fast response from the seller.
  • Give a reasonable earnest money deposit - no seller should take a house off the market without a financial commitment from the buyer.

Competing with Other Offers

In really hot markets, competitive offers are not unusual. To make your bid as strong as possible, have your mortgage pre-approved, be prepared to settle fast if that benefits the seller, and offer close to or at list price. Many times, buyers in competition even bid prices up, and the house ends up selling for more than the original asking price. Be careful about getting caught up in an auction atmosphere. Pay more only if the properties currently on the market justify a higher price and you really love the house.

Placing a Low Bid

If you are making a very low offer on a fairly priced house, expect tense negotiations and be prepared to have the seller decline the offer. Best strategy - have your mortgage pre-approved. Agree to adhere to the seller's preferred timeframe and be prepared to settle quickly. If you are in a slow market or have a desperate seller, it might work.

If you are making a low offer because the comparables do not support the asking price but you still love the house, use the same tactics real estate agents use when they are presenting low offers to sellers. Best strategy: provide a home comparable report and your own assessment of competing houses on the market to convince the sellers they are overpriced. Have your mortgage pre-approved so the sellers know you can perform on the contract, and agree to adhere to the seller's preferred timelines.

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