How to: Present a competitive offer in five steps

Chicago's real estate market doesn't slow down. It's a blessing and a curse, and that's just the way it is. If you're an unprepared buyer, you'll most likely be left in the dust. So, how do you avoid losing the home of your dreams because you don't have something as silly as paperwork in order? Get great advice from someone who does this sort of thing for a living. That's how. Here's my go-to, never-fail, super easy list of offer must-haves:

  1. PRE-APPROVAL: A pre-approval letter comes from a buyer's lender stating that they are pre-approved by a bank for a mortgage. With the market as strong as it is, sellers can afford to be choosy. Stack the cards in your favor and prove to any seller that you're a serious buyer, ready to go. 
  2. OFFER: Nine times out of 10, I use what is called the Multi-Board Residential Real Estate Contract. It's long, tedious and can definitely be overwhelming. This is the document that outlines a buyer's entire offer: purchase price, earnest money, proposed close date, mortgage information, contingencies, and much more. I always share this document with my clients early on so that when push comes to shove, this 13 page monster doesn't come as a surprise.  
  3. EARNEST MONEY: Earnest money is used in many real estate transactions by buyers to show they are serious though technically, earnest money isn't required. The Multi-Board contract outlines two installments, which again are at the buyer's discretion. 
  4. MLS LISTING: Since MLS listings are constantly updated, I like to include a copy of the listing from the date of the offer to ensure that all involved are working off of the same information. This is another one that's not technically a must have, but I like to have on hand.
  5. LETTER TO THE SELLER: I pull out this trick sometimes when I'm in a multiple offer situation. Sometimes an honest letter from the buyers to sellers is the thing that gets a deal done. Buying and selling real estate is emotional, so sometimes it helps to add in that human element.