Los Altos Real Estate Blog


Top 5 Things You Must Have To Write An Offer On A Home


How do you prepare to write an offer on a home?  It takes quite a bit of work and planning to be fully prepared to write an offer.  There are five things every buyer should have done before writing their offer.  They are:

  1. A CMA (market analysis) for the desired property
  2. Proof of funds for the deposit (or full purchase price of cash offers)
  3. A completely signed disclosure package
  4. An offer strategy (particular important with multiple offers)
  5. A pre-approval letter (for borrowers)

The CMA is important because that's what tells you how much is a reasonable offer for the property.  You can lowball it or pay full price but whatever you offer should be based on the comparable sales.

Proof of funds is critical because it assures the seller you have the money to make the transaction happen.  This is really important with multiple offers because the more confident the seller is of your ability to pay, the more likely they'll accept your offer.

The completely signed disclosure package means you've done all your basic research on the home.  Doing this tells the seller you're serious and means you know what you're buying.  If you want to get more inspections, go ahead.

An offer strategy is all about knowing what you'll offer and understanding what the seller is likely to respond with.  They may accept your offer or counter it or ignore it.  You have to think it through in advance.  It's like playing chess - only more important.

A pre-approval letter is an absolute "must" for buyers with financing.  It shows you can afford the home and a lender sees you as credit-worthy. 

There are always additions to this list and exceptions.  Cash buyers don't need a pre-approval letter but they do need proof of funds for the entire balance of the transaction.  Another "must" for buyers with an existing home is a plan to sell that property.  Contingent offers will work in some markets but not all so be prepared by either getting the home on the market (and requiring a rent-back) or some other means of getting from one home to another.



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 Bryan Robertson, CEO | T: 650.799.9951 | Email: bryan@catarra-re.com | Website: http://www.BryanRobertsonHomes.com |CA BRE# 01191946 | Catarra Real Estate, Inc  | 171 Main St #220 | Los Altos, CA 94022



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Comment balloon 44 commentsBryan Robertson • August 19 2012 05:22PM


Bryan, I'm happy to say I wrote one for a big 3MM plus offer yesterday and followed all your check points, now I just want to here ACCEPTED and my buyers are set to go.

Posted by Ellen Caruso (Daniel Gale Sotheby's International Realty) over 6 years ago

I hope you get that offer accepted!  Haven't written one quite that big lately - seem stuck in $1-2M range.  I'll cross my fingers you get acceptance :)

Posted by Bryan Robertson over 6 years ago

Bryan, being organize is so important for buyers to follow a step by step process. 

Posted by Frank Rubi, FrankRubiRealEstate.com (Frank Rubi Real Estate, LLC) over 6 years ago
Great information. There's nothing worse than getting an offer on a listing and it's missing the critical components.
Posted by Lisa Ackerson, CRS - Dallas Fort Worth Area Expert (Fathom Realty DFW) over 6 years ago

A good clean, precise, organized, complete offer for less money will often get accepted in multiple offer situations when dealing with a foreclosed property and an asset manager. Great "back to the basics" post!

Posted by Troy Seelhammer (Meier Realty - The Smart Choice!) over 6 years ago

Bryan. Here in Northern VA EMD is important. I know markets are different...would love to complain about being stuck in the $1-2M range:)

Posted by Cheryl Thomson REALTOR Army Ret, Associate Broker in Northern Virginia ( United Real Estate (703.216.5635) cheryltee47@gmail.com) over 6 years ago
Great list for buyer's to follow. Perhaps adding a contingency plan for temporary housing in the event the mortgage lender requires an extension due to ever increasing underwriting requirements!
Posted by Jane & Garry Smith, ABR, GRI, Realtors - Portland, ME - (207) 253-3195 (Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage) over 6 years ago

Great Information. Clear concise and to the point. The is nothing worse than not dotting your i s or crossing your t s and something this important

Posted by Philip Hoblin, Founder of The Hoblin Institute, a firm that speci (Petrie International) over 6 years ago

All good legitimate points Brian. Thanks and have a great day!

Posted by Michael Murphy (Bienvenidos Real Estate) over 6 years ago

Hi, Bryan...Nice blog post for all buyers. I especially like your comment in the Offer Strategy section...they have to think it through in advance. This is where an experienced Realtor is especially helpful. Buyers sometimes forget that a negotiation is a "conversation" with another party involved.

Posted by Nina Rogoff, Sells Real Estate! (RE/MAX Executive Realty) over 6 years ago

I am intrigued by your item # 3. It is the seller who gives the buyer all the disclosures (usually within 10 days of acceptance). How do you have your buyers submit this package signed to the seller along with an offer?

Posted by Sylvia Jonathan, Broker Associate, SFR (Coldwell Banker Platinum Properties) over 6 years ago

Bryan- Great advice for your buyers. A clean offer with all the details covered is so much more likely to be accepted. In the Northern Va market I don't know of an agent who will present an offer without a pre-approval.

Posted by Amanda S. Davidson, Alexandria Virginia Homes For Sale (Amanda Davidson Real Estate Group) over 6 years ago

Bryan, nice post. The lender approval is critical

Posted by Ron Aguilar, Mortgage & Real Estate Advisor since 1995 (Continental Mortgage) over 6 years ago

Bryan, the CMA or other guidance from the agent is important here as well.  We have very little inventory so it may not tell the whole story.  We tend to look more at how fast a comparable house went under contract and/or the quality and prices of the homes currently in competition.  Usually we are lucky enough to know ahead if there are multiple offers, which means all bets are off and then buyers really ARE ready, willing and able to pay as much for the home as their budget will allow.

For Sylvia @11, our contract in the DC area says disclosures must be reviewed prior to contract, so the agents who list a lot PDF them into the MLS where a buyer's agent can download them and have the buyer review and sign as part of the offer proces.  If they are not online, we will call the listing agent and get them before sitting down to write the offer.  The listing agents will provide them because the buyer can exit the contract until they do, based no not being able to review them beforehand.

Posted by Valerie M. Blake (RLAH Real Estate) over 6 years ago

Yep, that is what we do at J. Philip Real Estate LLC.

Posted by Barbara Bartell-Kamp, Westchester County NY Rentals, Condos, Coops, Home (Keller Williams NY Realty) over 6 years ago

Hi Bryan, great list and we wish all buyer's agents would use it!

Posted by Bob Miller, The Ocala Dream Team (Keller Williams Cornerstone Realty) over 6 years ago


Another thing about which Buyers should be aware.  The agent they choose matters, sometimes alot.  In my market the agents that are actually selling houses all know, or know of, each other.  I sell a lot of foreclosures and short sales.  The REO and Short Sale agents know me, they know I know what I am doing and that my Buyer clients are educated and prepared for the process.  Regular resale agents also know me for all the same reasons.  They also know I don't deal with questionable buyers/borrowers.  So I bring something intangible (or maybe tangible) to the deal.  I've been told more than  once that my Buyer's offer was accepted over another because it was MY offer.  

Keep your reputation sterling and it will pay off.  


Posted by Alesia Rapkin (Berkshire Hathaway Georgia Properties) over 6 years ago

Bryan ~ this is an awesome post for Buyers to see. You do a great job at bullet pointing just what they need & why! If I have any referrals for Los Altos, CA ... you're the Realtor I'll be sending them to ;)

Posted by Samantha Smith, Sam I Am Houses, Simply Texas Real Estate (214.422.0729 www.SamIAmHouses.com) over 6 years ago

What about providing the buyers with a list of inspectors, a list of websites for sex offenders, radon, lead based paint, asbestos, mold, etc., an estimate of buyer's closing costs, a list of utility companies, and so on.  I have a much longer list of things I provide my buyers with when writing up an offer than just these 5 things.  Maybe it is the difference between state laws as in Kansas we are required to provide a lot of things things.

Posted by Rob Lang, Local Expert in Lawrence Kansas Real Estate Homes (At Home Kansas Team Powered by Keller Williams Partners Inc / www.AskRobLang.com) over 6 years ago

All great points! I feel as if some buyer's agents do not take the CMA process for their buyer seriously enough. I always want my buyer to know the approximate home's value before writing an offer as this will give us direction and guidance on a starting bid.

Posted by Sean Williams, Your Louisville Realtor (AcklesWilliams of Semonin Realtors) over 6 years ago

These are great guidelines!  I always try to do all of these.  To me one of the most important ones is an "An offer strategy" with or without multiple offersPreparing a client for what may or may not happen with a counter offer is critical in moving things forward and putting a deal together so your client can get the home they want.  You are are doing your clients a disservice if you don't educate them on the process and the "what if's..."

Posted by David Kerr -Sonoma Real Estate Agent (winecountrylistings.net - Terra Firma Global Partners) over 6 years ago


All of the components of an offer are essential to getting your offer accepted.  Not everyone includes proof of funds.  I think it is important to ensure the sellers that your buyers can really perform.

Posted by Evelyn Kennedy, Alameda, Real Estate, Alameda, CA (Alain Pinel Realtors) over 6 years ago

Nice post- sometimes we forget to convey the basics. They are all equally as important.

Posted by Ellie McIntire, Luxury service in Howard County & Catonsville (Ellicott City Clarksville Howard County Maryland Real Estate) over 6 years ago

Great post, Bryan. My current agent is SO good when it comes to offer strategy! HE really knows his stuff and we go in fully prepared each time (yes, there have been numerous times....but also times when we have decided NOT to make an offer after discussing the likely strategy/response. I've worked with a lot of agents in a number of different states, and this agent has been the only one who has advised on strategy pre-offer!


Posted by Caroline Fitzgerald - BestPreppedListings.com (Real Estate Client Prep) over 6 years ago

Nice list birthday boy :)  Hope you have a wonderful day today!!

Posted by Kerrie La Guardia, Let it Rain! (ActiveRain, Community Manager) over 6 years ago
Is it really your birthday? What a nice treat to get featured on your birthday! Best, Kathy
Posted by Kathy Schowe, La Quinta, California 760-333-8886 (California Lifestyle Realty) over 6 years ago

Hi Bryan---Nice post, but I begin asking for proof of fico scores.  I had 2 separate transactions that had credit issues during the escrow period even though they submitted a pre-approval letter with their offer. 

Posted by Sharon Sanchez, Your Number "1" Source For Real Estate. (Ace Home Realty) over 6 years ago

Bryan, I would add fortitude to that list. At least here, there are multiple offers on just about every property worth putting an offer on.

Posted by Eric Michael, Metro Detroit Real Estate Professional 734.564.1519 (Remerica Integrity, Realtors®, Northville, MI) over 6 years ago

Bryan in this market when I prepare CMA's it does not reflect the current surge in prices, or what people have to pay to get in contract, as we do not have the "solds" yet.  

Posted by Gene Riemenschneider, Turning Houses into Homes (Home Point Real Estate) over 6 years ago

I have never seen the disclosures as an MLS attachment as described by Valerie #14, but that would really like to see that become the norm in CA. 

Posted by Suzi Sandore, North County San Diego Homes (RealtyONEGroup) over 6 years ago

Great post.......every agent should have this list or whatever is needed in their market!

Posted by Woody Edwards, A Realtor® Who Answers His Phone! (First Choice Realty, Inc) over 6 years ago

Great information!  I follow this checklist for every contract I write.  I make sure my buyer understands what could possibly happen during the negotiations so there aren't any surprises.  Thanks for sharing!

Posted by Sandra Hopkins, Realtor® , Associate Broker (Keller Williams American Premier Realty) over 6 years ago



THis is a great list although I am not sure by what you mean about "a completely signed disclsoure package." Yep there is the agency form, the BA and so on but what else are you referring to?

I think the other requirement, for many, is to have a qualified REALTOR who knows that market and can negotiate on their behalf.


Posted by Jeff Dowler, CRS, The Southern California Relocation Dude (Solutions Real Estate ) over 6 years ago

Bryan, this is important information for all potential buyers!

Posted by Sharon Parisi, Dallas Homes (United Real Estate Dallas ) over 6 years ago

Thanks Bryan, this is a very good checklist for getting your buyers started in a successful home purchase.

Thanks for sharing and I will pass it on to some other folks who will benefit from your wisdom.

Posted by Bob Crane, Forestland Experts! 715-204-9671 (Woodland Management Service / Woodland Real Estate, Keller Williams Fox Cities) over 6 years ago

Great basic list. Some have added comments about lists of this and that...most of which can come after an accepted offer. Nice feature!

Posted by Gary L. Waters Broker Associate, Bucci Realty, Fifteen Years Experience in Brevard County (Bucci Realty, Inc.) over 6 years ago
Great list. I would add that they should view the home. Even though this seems obvious to realtors, many buyers who search online are ready to write an offer before they go and see it.
Posted by Dana Hollish Hill, Lead Associate Broker (Hollish Hill Group, Keller William Capital Properties) over 6 years ago

Thanks for all the great comments everyone!  Sorry I couldn't reply to everyone individually but it was a busy day.  Just one clarification:

In Silicon Valley, a strong offer comes "fully documented" which means the buyer has downloaded and reviewed the seller disclosures in advance of the offer.  They sign pages to acknowledge those disclosures.  This means less time wasted during any contingency period.  Of course, it all depends on the seller providing those disclosures.

With my buyers, I have them review and sign off the disclosures in advance.  I also perform my personal inspection of the property (Agent Visual Inspection Disclosure) which they also sign with the offer.  The only remaining disclosures would be the reports the buyer requests.

This level of documentation has an added benefit - smooth transaction processing.

Posted by Bryan Robertson over 6 years ago

Bryan - Great information.  Just aside note to Dana (comment #37). Let me know about any of those buyers that want to buy before they go & see if there coming to Colorado Springs ---LOL.

Posted by Mark & Janelle Potter, Mark and Janelle Potter Realtors - Broadmoor Colo. (The Real Estate Network 719.331.4824) over 6 years ago

A great concise list Bryan. I'm often asked by buyers why they need a cma done before writing an offer...it only makes sense to have that before you start picking numbers out of the blue to put into the offer. 

Posted by Brian Kuhns, Fort Wayne Real Estate by Brian Kuhns (Coldwell Banker Roth Wehrly Graber) over 6 years ago

Bryan, thanks for sharing. Peter

Posted by Peter Banyan Broker Associate (REMAX Fortune Properties) over 6 years ago

This is a good list. If I have time I like to talk to the neighbors before I write an offer. Sometimes you can find out useful information.

Posted by Wayne B. Pruner, Tigard Oregon Homes for Sale, Realtor, GRI (Oregon First) over 6 years ago

Hello Bryan,

Good list - I missed your original post, glad I found it on Winston's reblog.

Posted by Lisa Von Domek, ....Experience Isn't Expensive.... It's Priceless! (Lisa Von Domek Team) about 6 years ago

It's a good list, but the completely signed disclosure packet, I would not include yet, because many listing agents would get upset for sending so many documents with the offer.

When I'm a listing agent I don't like getting 50 pages with the offer it makes it too complicated, especially with multiple offers, keep it simple until your offer is excepted then you can send all the extra documentation.

I do like the list though, nice post.

Posted by Thomas J. Nelson, Realtor, ePRO, CRS, RCS-D, & Host of Postcards From Success Podcast (Big Block Realty 858.232.8722) about 3 years ago

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