Multiple Bids? Buyer Letters Get You Noticed

Houses crowded on a San Francisco hill

Bidding for Bay Area real estate can get as crowded as this neighborhood scene in San Francisco.

These are tough times for Bay Area homebuyers. The supply of homes is tighter than it’s been in decades, and multiple offers are the norm. It’s not uncommon for some buyers to find themselves on the losing side of a bidding war four or five times before successfully closing on a home.

Sellers typically give preference to the highest bids with the fewest contingencies. But there’s another way buyers have a chance of getting their bid to the top of the pile: Include a personal letter in the proposal.

“Absolutely, it helps. A personal letter puts a face on the buyer, and that can make all the difference,” said Linda Carroll, branch executive of Pacific Union International’s Napa County region.

Carroll cited a recent Napa sale in which a couple didn’t submit the highest bid but included a letter complimenting the seller for the “charm and coziness of the house” and “your gorgeous backyard.” The letter described how the couple met and fell in love in Napa and now wanted to make a long-term commitment to the area. It also gave several reasons why the home and its location were a perfect match.

The letter worked.

“There was a higher offer, but the sellers chose not to take it because they liked the people they had come to know in the letter,” Carroll said.

EMOTIONAL CONNECTION

Many owners develop an emotional connection to their home that can influence decisions when it’s time to sell.

“It depends on the profile of the seller,” said Brent Thomson, a senior vice president at Pacific Union and branch executive in Marin County. “If the seller raised a family in a home and the decision is between a family that’s going to recreate that life or a single person who’s going to tear it down, the family has a better chance of having their bid accepted. And they can get that point across with a letter.”

A personal letter puts a face on the buyer, and that can make all the difference.

One of our real estate professionals in San Francisco told of a prospective buyer who fell in love with a house in NoPa, the neighborhood north of Golden Gate Park’s Panhandle, and wrote a letter saying “how he appreciated all the work the sellers had done on the house, and how he appreciated its eclectic nature. He knew all the right things to say.”

The house had been on the market for only four days, but the letter “was enough for the seller to say, ‘We know there’s another offer coming in, but we want to sell to this person. We found the perfect person for our house.'”

CLOSING THE SALE

A letter can do more than tug at heartstrings. It can satisfy a seller that the bidder is committed to closing the sale.

One of our real estate professionals in Orinda told of a seller who accepted an offer only to have the buyer back out at the last minute in favor of another house. A couple whose bid had been passed over had emphasized their commitment to the house and their determination to close the sale, and they were contacted immediately and asked to resubmit a bid. It was accepted.

Our real estate professionals have some advice for crafting a buyer letter that will get results:

  • Research the sellers. Who are they and what do they do? What motivates them? Why are they selling?
  • Explain your interest in the house, including what first caught your eye. Be specific.
  • Describe yourself and why this house would be a perfect fit.
  • Make clear your commitment to do whatever it takes to close the sale.

(San Francisco photo courtesy of J.G. in S.F., via Flickr.)

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  • Teri Shaughnessy

    My last Short Sale listing was won through this strategy.  In addition, the family that had their offer accepted went one step further . . . they left flowers and a note at the doorstep of the home the morning we were reviewing offers.  We had 12 offers.  Teri Shaughnessy, PUI Santa Rosa

  • Barbara Hardacre

    Dollars speak but so do letters.  Buyers should craft well thought out missives to sellers that express not only interest in the property but also biographical information that is interesting and straight forward.

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