Armed & Ready: 5 Winning Home Buyer Tips

In today’s competitive market, home buyers ready to start house hunting often find themselves competing against each other over and over again. This is certainly the case in the $150K-$250K price range.

So, before you start house hunting, there are certain strategies and tips you can employ that will put you ahead of the pack.

Armed & Ready

Before you begin your house hunting in earnest, get all of your preliminary due diligence with a lender completed ahead of time. A word of caution here, be careful, there are so many internet lenders out there ready and willing to spit out a pre-approval to first time home buyers.

What often happens is you get a house under contract and then the lender begins to dig through your finances only to find that there’s a glitch or some kind of restriction that prevents them from funding your purchase. Now you’ve wasted valuable time and likely paid for a home inspection on a house you suddenly have no financing for.

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Don’t fall prey to these guys! Make sure your lender has all the required paperwork, taxes, etc., ahead of time so that when you find the house of your dreams, your lender can assure the seller that your financing is rock solid and quickly move you forward towards closing.

Work with a local lender that is well known and has a solid reputation within the industry. Realtors are a valuable asset in that they’ve seen the good, bad and ugly of lenders. Your Realtor can direct you to reputable lenders that will get the job done.

Up the Earnest Money (EMD)

Earnest money is also referred to as “Good Faith” money. It’s money a home buyer is willing to put up front and it’s held by their Realtor’s brokerage in an escrow account. At closing, that money is then credited to you, the home buyer.

How much earnest money you are willing to put down is a good indication to the seller of your serious commitment to the purchase and your ability to pay for it. When in a multiple offer situation, you’ll want to make a better impression, so consider including a $3,000 to $5,000 EMD in your purchase offer.

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If you lose the bid or something really bad shows up during the home inspection period, the money is returned to you. That’s already law in most states. However, before you sign a Mutual Release, make sure your Realtor has stipulated that 100% EMD is returned to the purchaser for good measure.

Skip The Competition

One of the biggest mistakes I see home buyers make is to get caught up in the heat of the moment when in a multiple offer situation.  I go into some more detail regarding multiple bids in my blog, “Cat Fight! Buyers Forced To Bid On Multiple Homes“. 

It’s tempting to go in well above asking price just to “win” the competition, but you’ll soon regret that choice down the road when your lender refuses to fund the purchase well after you’ve paid $300+ for a home inspection. Now you’ve wasted valuable time and money.

Put aside your emotions and think logically. This is likely the biggest purchase of ones life and one that will revisit you daily for the next ten or more years to come. Struggling to make your mortgage payments will quickly drain you of your “moment of victory”.

Your first criteria when searching for a new home should be to look for the one that meets nearly all of your basic criteria including the number of rooms, layout, exterior features and most of all…location.

Shop Older Listings

The first two weeks of any listing are the hottest. It’s during that time that home buyers will descend on the property and if it’s a new remodel and/or  in a great location, the seller will receive multiple offers.  The longer the house is on the market, the better your chances.  

A Common Scenario that plays out is a buyer will go in high and win the day. However, after inspection, something goes wrong or the buyer has a change of heart (most likely saw another property he/she likes better). If the Realtor is diligent, he/she will contact the other buyers who submitted offers previously.

However, this is often not the case. I write about just such a scenario experienced by one of my clients and how I secured his purchase in spite of the listing agent. Read “He Lost The Bid, But Still Won The House!“.

When the house goes on the market again and the initial frenzy is gone. Some sell again quickly but many do not experience another multiple offer scenario again.

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Expect compromises along the way, it’s unavoidable! Why pay through the nose for a shiny remodel when you can save thousands and replace the carpet and paint the rooms yourself?

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Eliminate Contingencies

Don’t shoot your offer in the foot right out of the gate. The last thing you’ll want to do when competing for a property is to make a bunch of demands from the seller.

Contingencies are basically demanded of the seller. For instance, asking the seller to pitch in towards your closing costs, pay for a home warranty, cover six month’s worth of HOA fees, etc. In a competitive situation, a purchase offer with no contingencies places you in a stronger position.

Patience & Timing Can Win The Day

Last Summer, I was working with a lovely young couple trying to juggle their wedding and find a home to purchase on a limited budget in Livonia and Westland, MI. The competition was just too fierce and they lost bid after bid.

By the end of August, I suggested they take a break, concentrate on their upcoming wedding and begin again in early winter months when the home buying frenzy is most likely to slow down.

In November we were at it again and this time we quickly found a wonderful starter home just 15 minutes from their jobs. They secured it without any competition and closed on it in January.

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One Final Tip

The best way to approach a seller is to demonstrate your willingness to work with them. In other words, be flexible! This is often overlooked by home buyers.

Before you submit your purchase offer, ask your Realtor to talk to the Seller’s agent and find out what their main concerns are.  It’s not always price but quite often timing to find and secure a new home for themselves. You can then tailor your purchase offer accordingly to demonstrate your willingness to work with them.

Also, check out “My Top 3 Home Buyer Strategies” for more great tips.

Leave A Comment

Have you started house hunting? What challenges and experiences have you had along the way? Leave a comment below. 

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58 Responses

  1. Lok Which says:

    Thanks for this information.I enjoyed reading through this is an awesome article.I told a friend before we entered this new year that this year I want to go into home buying and he was like he knew nothing about it he advised me to searched and haven’t seen any post up to what I really want until I found this.Thanks.

    • admin says:

      Hi Lok,

      Yes, now is a very good time to buy your home, interest rates are still well below what your parents paid years ago and all indications are that there will be more to choose from this year. I live and work in Southeast Michigan and cover Livingston, Oakland and Washtenaw counties as well as a few others nearby. Let me know if you’re in my neck of the woods. Also, please feel free to share this post. I really do appreciate your comments. 🙂

  2. Isobel says:

    Wow! I didn’t know there are so much things need to be aware when comes to buying a house until I read your article! I was previously struggling in selecting a strategic location as I have no idea where to start from. Thanks for your article! It’s definitely a helpful guidance to avoid mistake while searching for a house. 

    • admin says:

      Hi Isabel, Thanks for taking some time to comment. I work as a full-time Realtor in and around Livingston County, MI so if you’re in my neck of the woods, let me know. If not, I’d strongly urge you to search out an experienced Realtor who can help guide you through the whole process. Remember, the valuable services provided by a Buyer’s agent are paid for by the Seller of the property, not the buyer. Good luck in your home search. 

  3. Andrew G says:

    I guess I needed a better understanding of this topic today as I am wondering why I lost money on some of these inspections that did not pan out well in Florida. This must be the cost to do so in the state. I gladly understand better though the competitive factor in home buying under a normal market. The thing is though that the homes down here have mostly been out bid by investors creating little opportunities for home buyers

    • admin says:

      Hmm, I’m also a real estate investor. My husband and I own and operate 9 income properties in three different states. Typically, it’s the investor who loses out to the home buyer. Investors typically want to buy as low as possible to protect their ROI. Over the last 18-24 months, the lack of inventory forced homebuyers to compete against each other over and over again. We saw a lot of that here in Michigan as well. If you don’t like competing, consider buying before the Spring/Summer market hits.  Either way, the good news is, all indications are you will start seeing more houses on the market for sale this year 2019. 

  4. fyre says:

    I wish my friends would have read your armed & ready section of your article.  You are so right and it can dave a lot of hassle and heartache in the long run!

    You shouldn’t start off in a new sanctuary with a lot of miscommunications and fear looming when you don’t have all your ducks in a row, so to speak.

    Patience, kindness & timing really does win the day!

    • admin says:


      Timing is such an important factor. After all, moving all your possessions from one place to another is no small matter. It’s typically first-time home buyers who are the most impatient and can easily grow discouraged. I often tell them, “better to wait for what you really want” than to settle for anything less. After all, the purchase of a home is typically our largest purchase. Please feel free to share this blog. Much appreciated!

  5. Taetske says:

    Good afternoon,

    I find your advice in this post really good but at the moment I am thinking of selling my place. It is getting too big which includes a big garden so in total too much work. As I am a bit older, 68 to be precise, I have experienced both, the buying and selling of a home. 

    My experience is that when you are interested in buying a house you need to make a payment of at least 5% of the price. For really expensive places 3 % will do. If you then do not buy it in the end that money is lost. Call it compensation for the house owner who takes the property off the market and waits for 2 months.

    Here we have the same system for rental contracts, the norme being 1 month pay and like that you buy some time.

    I know by experience that flexibility is asked for on both sides.

    I do have a question. What is your experience. A furnished house sells better than empty? 

    Regards, Taetske

    • admin says:


      Yes, most definitely. A furnished home will always sell quicker than a vacant home, provided that the furniture is in good condition and not too old (less than 10 years). My advice would be to clean and declutter everywhere. Start with your closets then move on to each room one by one. Place boxes out of sight (in a corner of your garage, basement or other storage area). Also, fresh paint and carpet go a long way. Most buyers hate the thought to removing wall paper and won’t want to deal with it. 

      When a buyer walks into your house, they are looking for reasons “not to buy”. As a seller, your main goal is to remove as many objections in a buyers mind as possible. A clean, uncluttered and well cared for home will always sell.

      I have articles that pertain to sellers and selling, so check them out. Let me know if I can be of any help.

  6. That’s good to know that if you wait to get a house that you would have less competition. I would think that would let you get a better price for a house you love. I’ll have to consider waiting until the best opportunity arises if I decide to buy a house.

    • admin says:

      Something to keep in mind. With a drop in interest rates this past week, now is a prime time to secure a mortgage for your next purchase. Interest rates won’t stay this low forever. Our parents were paying 15% to 20% at one point. Even one point difference could mean $100 or $200 more a month to you. Thanks, Tyler for your feedback.

  7. Jackson Bush says:

    I like how you mentioned that the longer the house is on the market, the better your chances are of getting that house. My wife and I have been looking for a house for a few months and we haven’t found any success in finding a home that’s close to our jobs. I’ll be sure to check back and look at older listings to see if any good houses are available.

    • Annette says:

      Hi Jackson,
      Yes, the longer a house for sale stalls on the market, the more likely that the seller will be willing to negotiate. This is especially true if the seller has already vacated the property and is now having to carry all the holding costs of two residences. Working as a Realtor, some sellers are very reasonable, others not so much. They get a number stuck in their head and are very reluctant to move off it. However, time has a way of wearing them down eventually.

  8. My wife and I are planning on moving to Maine soon but have no idea where to begin in purchasing a home and some property. We will keep your article in mind as we look for someone to help us find our dream house. I really appreciate you talking about being patient and that you shouldn’t rush into a decision this big.

  9. Liz Hudson says:

    That’s a good idea to offer as much earnest money as you can to show your serious commitment to the property. I would really like to purchase a house before the end of the year if possible. I’ll definitely consider increasing my earnest money to grab the seller’s attention.

    • admin says:

      Yes, this same tactic has helped many of my clients in the past. Especially, true when things here in Michigan were just nuts and homes were “flying off the shelves”, figuratively speaking. If you’re in Southeast Michigan, feel free to contact me.

  10. Trevor Hall says:

    I never thought about how older listings will be easier to make a deal on. If people have been waiting for a while to sell their home they will be much more willing to negotiate. I’ll keep this article in mind as my wife and I look for a new home in Southern California.

  11. It’s good to know that earnest money of $3k-$5k may help you make a better impression on the sellers. I hope to buy my first home before the end of the year. I will keep in mind to offer a good amount of earnest money.

    • Annette says:

      Hi Lyla,
      Yes, offering a higher amount in Earnest Money is a good way of demonstrating your seriousness in any purchase offer. I cover the SE Michigan area so let me know if I can be of any help. Best of luck to you!

  12. Thank you so much for these awesome home-buying strategies. We’re hoping to buy an oceanfront property. We’d love to be able to walk outside the front door and be on the beach.

    • Annette says:

      Hi Johnny,
      Oceanfront real estate is at a premium in many places. My husband and I are also keeping our eyes out for something similar for our retirement years.

  13. Tanya Hills says:

    Selling a house is not an easy task. And I am currently looking for a buyer. As a first-time home seller, these tips you shared are really helpful. Thank you for these tips!

    • Annette says:

      Hi Tanya, Even the most luxurious of homes don’t sell themselves. I’m glad I was able to provide you with some helpful information. Perhaps you could consider a more aggressive pricing strategy. Talk to your agent and come up with a plan.

  14. My brother told me that I should move out of our parents’ house and buy a home so that I can be independent from them. Thanks for the tip that contingencies are basically demanded from the seller, and that I should get this from them if I’m going to buy a home. I think I’ll look at some property listings in order for me to see how much houses cost nowadays.

    • Annette says:

      Hi Angela,
      Your first step is to find out how much you can afford. Contact a local lender who is willing to meet with you in person and talk about your situation.

  15. Marry Walker says:

    I found all these strategies very important for me to buy a home for the first time. Thanks for the useful information and valuable article.

  16. My father wants to live in a home near a golf course, so I’m looking for one for him that’s for sale. Thanks for the tip that I should get all of my preliminary due diligence with a lender ahead of time so that I won’t have problems in the long run. I think I’ll work with a real estate professional once I’m done with all the things I need to gather so I can just show my father all of the homes that he might like.

    • Annette says:

      Working with a buyer’s agent guarantees that your father’s priorities will always be first. When you work with a listing agent, their loyalties are instantly compromised between you, the buyer, and their first client, the seller. Although I’ve worked as a dual agent, it can put a less experienced Realtor in a tough spot. Working with a buyer’s agent is always your best option and it costs you nothing since commissions are paid by the seller. It’s a real win, win!

  17. I agree that it’s very important to find a home that fits all the features that your family needs. We have a son with some special needs and it’s important that we get him taken care of. I’ll make a list of everything that we are looking for so that we can narrow our search for houses.

  18. jack stiles says:

    I love that you mentioned that you will have higher chances of buying the right home if you shop through the older listings because you will have lower competition. My wife and I have been talking about finding a new home to move to, and it will be important for us to know that we could find one quickly because we have already sold our home. I will be sure to start our search with the older listings.

  19. Bryson Owens says:

    My wife and I are buying our first home soon and I think that we should learn as much as we can about the process before we actually start looking for a home. It’s nice that you mentioned considering homes that have been on the market for a while because they will have a lot less competition. This should help my wife and I save a lot of money because we don’t have to outbid other buyers.

  20. Bryson Owens says:

    My parents are trying to find their forever home right now. They need some help finding a good deal on a luxury house though. I think it’s smart to look at older listings to find that good deal.

    • Annette says:

      Hi Bryson, The luxury market is not prone to multiple offers generally. Typically, they stay on the market considerably longer the higher the price range because they are marketing to a smaller pool of people. However, I would encourage your Realtor to find out the seller’s motivation for moving and timing. Having that information can help when writing up a purchase offer.

  21. My wife and I want to buy a home, but it seems like every time we find a property we like we miss out on it because it gets taken so quickly. We found it helpful when you mentioned that it is a good idea to look for houses that have been on the market for a decent amount of time. I would also say that it would probably be a good idea for us to find a real estate agent to work with so that we can close quickly when we find a property we like.

    • Annette says:

      Henry, What you describe has become an all too common occurrence in today’s real estate market. Until the inventory of homes catches up to the demand created by the influx of new homebuyers, it will likely remain. The tips outlined are strategies I have used with some success for my own clients. If you would like to avoid this scenario altogether, then try focusing on older listings (14 days and older). The older the listing, the more likely you’ll be able to negotiate on price. If you’re in S.E. Michigan, I hope you’ll look me up.

  22. Bryson Owens says:

    I like your thoughts on not shooting yourself in the foot when negotiating with the sellers. My wife and I are trying to buy our first home this year so that we can raise our kids in a real house. I’ll try to share this information with my wife so that we can get on the same page.

  23. Jenna Hunter says:

    My uncle is trying to buy a new home and he wants to make sure that it is in the right neighborhood with a school nearby. He would really like to get some help from a professional so that he can find the right one for him. I liked what you said about how he shouldn’t make any demands of the seller because no contingencies can place him higher when he has competition.

    • Annette says:

      Yes, the fewer contingencies you place on the seller, apart from a home inspection and appraisal, the better if you feel there is a lot of interest in that particular property. If, however, your uncle doesn’t want to get caught up in a bidding war, then focus on properties that have been on the market longer than ten days.

  24. My sister told me that she would like to buy a house where all her family fits since they are 5 now. It’s interesting how you said that you should take a look at old listings so that you may get a better price. I will suggest to her to read this article so that she can see some tips for when she is ready to buy the new home.

  25. I really like that you talked about how you should never just try to “win” the bidding war. My wife and I are trying to find our dream home this summer and then move in around the fall. I want to live near water because I love paddleboarding in the mornings.

  26. After selling our old house, my mother and I would like to buy a new one in Waynesville. However, as first-time buyers, we are not informed about the things we need to be aware of. Thanks for the strategies you suggested in buying a house. I like what you said about working with a local lender who is well known and has a solid reputation in the industry. I will follow your advice to shop on older homes for sale listings, as buyers can get better chances in the market.

  27. Rick Davis says:

    It’s good to learn that you have a better chance of buying a house that has been on the market for long. My wife and I are wanting to move soon and we were wondering how we can buy a house in the area we want to live in. I’ll be sure to tell her that we should look for a house that has been on the market for long.

    • admin says:

      Yes, everyone seems to focus on the new listings hitting the market but don’t make the mistake of neglecting the older listings that will be much more willing to negotiate with you.

  28. That’s good to know that the first few weeks that a house is listed are pretty crazy. I feel like that would give you a lot of competition if the house you like is just barely on the market. I should make sure that I have the real estate agent show me some houses that have been on the market for longer as well, if I decide to get a house, so there would be less competition.

  29. Jarom Linton says:

    My brother is trying to buy a new house this year because he recently got a really big promotion. He wants to make good financial choices in this process since it’s such a big purchase. I think it’s smart to make sure the lender has all the proper paperwork ahead of time so that the buying process goes smoothly.

    • Annette says:

      Most Realtors have excellent resources such as a list of qualified lenders used by their previous clients. As Realtors we get a first-hand look at lenders, how organized they are, how well they communicate with you to keep you on track, how they work with title agencies and how easy they are to reach and answer questions. I have a list of solid lenders for my own area hear in Southeast Michigan that also includes home inspectors, downpayment assistance programs and more. You can grab a copy of The Ultimate Home Buyers Guide.

  30. Max Beck says:

    I really like that you touched on getting the paperwork done with the lender way ahead of time so that everything is ready to buy the home. My parents are trying to buy their dream home this year and it’s going to be a big decision. They need to find the right professionals to work with to ensure they make the right financial decision and find the right house for them.

  31. Jesse Ford says:

    I like how you mentioned that making a lot of demands from the seller is the last thing you want to do when buying a home. My wife and I are thinking of looking at luxury homes for sale because I’m considering accepting an executive position at the firm I work for and we’ll need a nicer house to live in. It seems like a good idea for us to think about our options before hiring a reputable professional to help us choose the right luxury home to live in.

    • Annette says:

      Congrats on your promotion. However, I would recommend you wait six months in just to make sure you like the position and plan to stay. I’m not a financial analyst so this is strictly my opinion. Luxury home market is moving much slower than mid-range homes considering the buyer pool is much smaller. It’s normal to expect more when shopping in that higher price range but I’d still encourage you to keep the points I mention in the article in mind. Thanks so much for your input and best of luck to you!

  32. It was helpful when you explained that you have better chances of getting a home when it has been on the market for a longer amount of time. My brother and his wife are looking to buy a home soon, but they haven’t been able to give out an offer yet because everything they are looking at gets purchased quickly. I’ll be sure to mention to them that they should consider looking at older listings.

    • Annette says:

      Yes, I understand it can be very frustrating when competing with other buyers. They’ll have a much better chance of avoiding that scenario by focusing on older listings. Thanks for your input.

  33. Zoe Campos says:

    Thank you for reminding me that I have to ensure first that the financing option I’ll choose for my house is already established and rock-solid even before the actual purchase. My husband and I are thinking of buying a house around September and although we have already browsed through some listings, we’re not sure yet if we have to make the decision now. It might be a good idea to consult a real estate agent who can guide us properly through the house-buying process.

  34. Thanks for all your efforts. I was able to find good information from your articles.

  35. Joe Hall says:

    My spouse and I have to move soon because her job needs her in another city for the next few months or years. We want to find the right house for us so we need to learn how to be good house hunters. It makes a lot of sense to sweeten the deal a bit with extra money down when you are trying to get a house that has multiple offers so that we stand out.

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