5 Things You Need to Make a Successful Offer on a Chicago House

The best way to up your chances of snagging your dream home in a market as competitive as Chicago's is to make an offer that a seller can't refuse. To do that, you need to make sure you're well-informed about the process and have your finances in order.

To help Windy City buyers seal the deal, U.S. News asked some of Chicago's top real estate agents, as identified by OpenHouse Realty, a real estate technology company (and a U.S. News partner), for some advice. Here's what they say you need.

A great team

Completing the sale of a home can be a complex process. In the interest of selling their property as quickly as possible, Chicago sellers want to work with buyers who have their ducks in a row.

[Read: A First-Time Buyer's Guide to Chicago.]

That's where hiring experts in the field can be key, says Amanda McMillan, CEO and real estate adviser with Chicago Home Partner and @properties. "Working with people [who] are known to be successful can set buyers on the right path before they even find the property that they're looking for," she explains. A great team can help you understand the market, focus your search and negotiate a deal.

McMillan also encourages buyers to work with recognizable lenders that have a high success rate, as well as home inspectors and attorneys who have a track record of working effectively and efficiently.

A preapproval letter

Having a preapproval letter in place of a prequalification letter is one way to prove to home sellers that you're the real deal, as a preapproval often involves a deeper background check. Homebuyers whose preapproval amount is well above the asking price are likely to be taken more seriously by sellers.

"If it's tight and they're barely qualifying for it, then I think it's risky," says Jennifer Ames, president of Jennifer Ames Chicago Inc. and real estate agent with Coldwell Banker.

[Read: How to Avoid Getting Burned (and Burned Out) When House Hunting in Chicago.]

Another way to increase the probability of a seller accepting your offer is to increase the percentage of your down payment, says Emily Sachs Wong, a real estate broker with @properties. "Once [sellers] get into a contract with a buyer, they want to make sure that that offer gets to the closing table," she explains. "So you're better off getting into a deal with a loan that has a more substantial down payment."

More earnest money

Most Chicago homebuyers will put up a certain amount of refundable earnest money before the seller takes his or her property off the market to prove they are serious about purchasing the home.

Because she knows her clients can always get the money back, Ames tells them to go above and beyond with the amount they allot. "If I want to make my buyer look more qualified, I will do $5,000 or $10,000 as our first check," she says. "It doesn't actually cost you more, it's just putting your money where your mouth is."

A personal letter

Buyers who come up short of an asking price, or who find themselves in a multiple-bid situation, may need to find other ways to make their offer stand out. In these cases, tugging at the seller's heartstrings could do the trick.

Sachs Wong and Ames have both seen success with this technique, particularly when the letters are not focused on the home itself, but instead on the homebuyer and his or her family.

"It's a personal thing. I can tell you that when a buyer takes the time to create that emotional relationship with the seller, it can be very effective," Ames says. "If your price is in the ballpark of where it should be, these will help you win the deal."

[Read: 4 Questions Every Chicago Homebuyer Should Ask Their Potential Real Estate Agent.]

A better understanding of the seller

Learning as much as possible about the home seller can help you create a more flexible offer to meet the seller's needs. For example, if you know the seller needs time to find a new home, you can include that extra time between closing the deal and taking ownership in your offer. The more you can tailor an offer to all aspects of what's important to the seller, the better, McMillan says.

Ames has even gone one step further by identifying aspects of a home that a seller might not want to leave behind, such as an appliance or a decorative accent, and proposing that those items not be part of the deal. She adds, "If there are personal property items, an offer might be considered more attractive if they [allow sellers to] take it to their next home."

Looking for a real estate agent in Chicago? U.S. News' Find an Agent tool can match you with the person who's most qualified for the job.

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