Thursday, July 7

I won a bidding war even though my offer wasn’t the highest, and it’s all thanks to 5 things I offered the seller


  • I bought a geodesic dome in Maine for just $100 over asking price by offering favorable terms.
  • I let the seller move out when they wanted to, and let them leave their junk behind.
  • I also paid cash, had a great agent, and put down a substantial deposit of “earnest money.”
  • Read more stories from Personal Finance Insider.

“Good luck with that,” people said whenever I mentioned my search for a cabin in Maine this year. Like many places in America, Maine is having a pandemic housing boom fueled by an urban exodus and those seeking a different quality of life.

Yet, I did indeed close on a cabin just before Memorial Day Weekend. And at only $100 over the asking price. How? By (majorly) adjusting my expectations, having a great agent, and making the process of moving for the seller as easy as possible.

This house is my seventh purchase in Maine and by far the most laborious. While I’m an investor in short-term rentals, the same tactics can be applied to the purchase of a primary residence. Below are the critical elements of why the seller accepted my offer over competing (and higher!) offers.

I had a fantastic buyer’s agent

Like everyone in this market, I adjusted my expectations considerably as I realized my budget of $180,000 would not get me much of anything in Maine anymore. In March, I lost out on a few distressed properties when using local rural agents. So when my daily alerts presented a funky 1982 geodesic dome with two acres of land near four ski mountains for $139,900, I jumped at it. I knew it would be competitive for “The Enchanted Dome“because it already had an excellent rental history, but it needed approximately $30,000 to $40,0000 worth of work.

I texted my agent Taylor McFarlane, associate broker with McFarlane Field Associates at Portside Real Estate Group, in September 2020. I knew that if anyone could help me win the dome, she could. She coached me to develop alternative terms because I couldn’t raise the price with the likely repairs. She kindly agreed to put forward my offer of $140,000 before anyone had seen the property and after I signed the sight-unseen waiver.

McFarlane teaches her clients to be creative in this market. “It’s not always about the money,” McFarlane said. “There are plenty of ways that buyers can work to make their offer strong and a standout. It takes work from both the buyers and the agent, and it truly can be a fun process (yes, even in this market) if you let it be.” When I make an offer, the goal is to help the seller see that I won’t back out, and it will be an easy sale.

I paid cash

This property was so unique that it would be difficult to find traditional financing. Plus, it was priced well below the median price of homes in the Northeast, so everyone offered cash. But offering cash is always a smart move if you can pull it off — It makes an offer way more attractive.

“Paying cash” doesn’t always mean you need to have the asking price sitting in your checking account, though. You can find alternative funding from a personal loan or a home equity loan, then obtain a mortgage on the house after the sale closes .

I withdrew the $140,000 from a non-retirement brokerage account to buy the property with cash as I’m debt-averse anyhow and it is a relatively low-cost property. My husband and I knew it would be a gamble, but I have a good track record in real estate and it was an amount we were willing to risk.

I put down a higher percentage of earnest money

Earnest, or “good faith,” money is nonrefundable if the buyer walks away from the sale after the contingency period. In this case, we decided to go with 28%, or $40,000, when previously I’ve offered between $1,000 and $5,000 on houses purchased in Maine.

I let the seller pick the closing date

Many sellers are looking for homes to purchase and need a place to live while arranging permanent housing. The seller of “The Enchanted Dome” asked for an extra month, and I agreed.

I let the seller leave their junk

The seller anticipated issues with clearing out her items from the house. We offered to make this easier on her: She could leave things behind, and I could arrange for their disposal or use them myself. While junk removal may cost you a few hundred dollars , it can help win you a sale from someone who is downsizing.

While you’re unlikely to be purchasing a geodesic dome in Maine, all buyers should be using their imaginations in the current market to think about what would make their offer more attractive beyond price. Never underestimate the art of just making someone’s life easier, especially in these times.





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