How to Beat a Contingent Offer on the House You Want

At HomeLight, our vision is a world where every real estate transaction is simple, certain, and satisfying. Therefore, we promote strict editorial integrity in each of our posts.

You may have found it; the perfect home in the area where you want to live. You’re told that the seller is receiving multiple offers, but some have attached contingencies — conditions the other buyers have included in their offers. Now is the time to act, but you need to know how to beat a contingent offer.

We’ve compiled 10 proven tips to help you craft an offer that not only shines but also gives you the upper hand. From getting pre-approved for your mortgage to offering flexible closing dates, these strategies are designed to put you in a stronger position.

Here’s how you can beat a contingent offer and move one step closer to securing your future home.

Partner With a Top Buyer’s Agent to Guide You

HomeLight can connect you with a top-rated local real estate agent familiar with non-contingent offers. The most experienced agents know how to safeguard your earnest money and time.

1. Get pre-approved for your mortgage loan

Securing a mortgage pre-approval is perhaps the most important first step in making a compelling offer. It not only demonstrates to sellers that you’re financially prepared but also accelerates the purchase process once you’ve found the perfect home.

By showing sellers your readiness to buy, a pre-approval letter can set you apart, especially in a competitive market or when bidding on a coveted property where every advantage counts.

It’s important to note that there is a difference between a mortgage pre-qualification and a mortgage preapproval. A pre-approval is a step up from a pre-qualification. This proactive approach ensures you’re seen as a serious buyer and can make your offer more appealing than a contingent one.

2. Limit or eliminate seller concession requests

When crafting an offer that stands out, minimizing or completely avoiding requests for seller concessions can significantly boost your chances. Seller concessions are benefits a buyer asks the seller to provide, which can range from covering closing costs to requesting repairs or improvements before the sale. While these can be helpful in some negotiations, they often act as obstacles in competitive scenarios.

In a market where you’re up against contingent offers, presenting a clean, straightforward proposal without additional financial burdens on the seller can position your offer more favorably.

3. Don’t ask for the seller’s stuff

This piece of advice might seem straightforward, but it’s a pitfall you want to avoid when you’re trying to win a house in a multiple-offer situation. Asking for personal property not included in the sale — like a pool table, patio furniture, a jacuzzi, or especially items on the seller’s exclusion list, such as a chandelier — can complicate negotiations and potentially sour an otherwise attractive offer.

Similar to limiting seller concessions, refraining from requesting personal items helps streamline the transaction and demonstrates respect for their property and attachments, making your offer stand out for the right reasons.

4. Work with a top real estate agent

Partnering with a leading real estate agent is key to navigating competitive markets. Top agents have a deep understanding of local trends, strong negotiation skills, and insights into what sellers value most in an offer. They can tailor your proposal to stand out against contingent and non-contingent offers by emphasizing your readiness and flexibility.

An experienced agent also has a network of connections that can provide early access to listings and insights into seller preferences. Their expertise not only boosts your chance of winning but also ensures a smoother transaction from start to finish.

5. Offer above the home’s asking price

When competing for a house you love, offering more than the asking price can be a decisive move to outshine contingent offers. This strategy signals to the seller your serious interest and financial flexibility. It’s not just about outbidding others; it’s demonstrating your commitment to securing the home.

How much over asking price should I offer?

Offering above the asking price shows your eagerness, but it doesn’t have to break the bank. A modest increase, such as $3,000–$5,000 over the listed price, can be enough to make your offer stand out. This additional amount can be a strategic investment in securing the home you want without drastically affecting your monthly mortgage payments. Work with your agent to determine a sensible amount over asking — enough to make an impact without straining your budget.

6. Put down a larger earnest money deposit

A substantial earnest money deposit (EMD) showcases your commitment to the purchase. It’s a deposit made to the seller showing your good faith when submitting an offer. By increasing the size of your EMD, you signal financial stability and seriousness. This can be particularly persuasive in a competitive market, as it reassures the seller of your intent to follow through.

While the standard EMD varies (1%–3% of the purchase price), offering more than the customary amount demonstrates you’re a serious buyer. This can make your offer more appealing compared to others, especially against those with contingencies.

7. Make a bigger loan program down payment

A loan down payment is different from an earnest money deposit (EMD). An EMD is a good faith deposit showing the seller your commitment to buy their property. A down payment is a financial requirement by your lender. A bigger down payment directly affects your mortgage terms, reducing your loan-to-value ratio and potentially improving your interest rates.

Opting for a larger down payment on your loan program serves as another powerful way to communicate your financial strength and sincerity. This move signals to sellers that you’re not just serious about purchasing their home but also financially robust, with substantial skin in the game.

8. Waive the appraisal contingency

Waiving the appraisal contingency is a bold move that signifies to the seller your determination to close the deal, even if the home’s appraisal comes in below the agreed-upon purchase price. This clause typically allows buyers to back out if the appraisal doesn’t meet or exceed the purchase price.

By forgoing this safety net, you’re demonstrating confidence in the value of the home and your financial ability to cover the difference, known as the appraisal gap. This can be especially appealing to sellers receiving multiple offers, as it reduces the risk of the deal falling through due to financing issues. However, it’s crucial to ensure you have the means to cover any potential gap before making this commitment.

9. Include an escalation clause in your offer

An escalation clause can give your offer a competitive edge by automatically increasing your bid up to a maximum limit in response to higher offers. This tactic shows sellers you’re serious about securing the home while still keeping your offer within a budget you’re comfortable with. It essentially says, “I’m willing to outbid others, but only to a point.”

This clause can be particularly effective in a bidding war, ensuring your offer remains competitive without manual adjustments. However, clarity on your maximum cap ensures you don’t commit beyond your financial means. Consult with your real estate agent to craft an escalation clause that’s aggressive yet prudent.

10. Offer flexible closing and occupancy dates

Flexibility with closing and occupancy dates can be a significant advantage in your offer. Sellers may have specific timelines they need to adhere to, whether it’s coordinating the purchase of a new home or relocating for work. By offering accommodations like a 1-month free occupancy period after closing, you’re addressing the seller’s potential logistical challenges.

This gesture not only makes your offer more attractive but also demonstrates empathy towards the seller’s situation. Such flexibility can tip the balance in your favor, especially when competing against offers that are less accommodating to the seller’s needs. Always communicate through your agent to negotiate terms that are considerate yet feasible for you.

Be certain your offer package is polished and complete

Attention to detail in your offer package can also help you to beat a contingent offer. A single clerical or typing error can not only delay the process but also create an impression of carelessness. Ensure every part of your offer, from the financial figures down to the terms and conditions, is accurate and clearly presented. A top-rated agent can help you achieve this level of diligence that shows sellers that you’re a serious and organized buyer.

Three additional ways to beat a contingent offer

Connect with the seller

Creating a personal connection with the seller, such as writing a heartfelt letter or making a video expressing your love for the home, can sometimes give you an edge. This approach aims to make your offer stand out by highlighting the emotional value you place on the property, not just the financial offer.

However, proceed with caution. Such communications can inadvertently lead to violations of Fair Housing Laws if they include personal details that suggest a preference or discrimination. It’s essential to consult with your real estate agent before taking this step to ensure your message is appropriate and legal. This strategy carries risks and may not be advisable in all situations.

Make an all-cash offer

An all-cash offer is a powerful tool in a competitive housing market or when bidding on a property in high demand. Without the need for mortgage approval, cash offers can close faster and with few or no contingencies, making them far more attractive to sellers. This can be particularly effective against buyer-financed or contingent offers, as it significantly reduces the risk of the deal falling through due to financing issues.

This option requires substantial financial resources and is not feasible for most buyers.

Use a Buy Before You Sell program

If you’re a homeowner with significant equity built up in your current property, there are modern buy before you sell programs available from real estate solutions companies like HomeLight that can help you make a stronger, non-contingent offer.

Here’s how HomeLight Buy Before You Sell works:

Contact HomeLight to get started today, or ask your agent how HomeLight Buy Before You Sell can provide you with a smoother, contingency-free purchase experience.

How Much Is Your Home Worth Now?

Home values have rapidly increased in recent years. How much is your current home worth now? Get a ballpark estimate from HomeLight’s free Home Value Estimator.

FAQs about how to beat a contingent offer

What happens when there are multiple offers on a house?

When a house receives multiple offers, the seller has several options: they can accept the best offer, accept an offer but keep the listing active for backup offers, reject all offers, or respond to one with a counteroffer while putting the others on hold. In highly competitive situations, sellers may also request “best and final” offers from all interested parties, giving buyers a chance to submit their strongest bid.

How long does the seller have to respond to my offer?

The response time can vary, but typically, an offer includes a deadline for the seller to respond — often 24 to 72 hours. However, this can be shorter or longer depending on the market conditions and the urgency of the sale. If the deadline passes without a response, the offer technically expires, but negotiations can still continue if both parties are willing.

Can You Make an Offer on a Contingent House? 

You can make an offer on a house that is labeled as contingent. Some real estate agents will take the approach that a property is always for sale until the actual closing date, so they advise sellers to accept backup. Your chances of winning the house are reduced, but you can throw your hat into the offer ring.

What’s the biggest mistake to avoid when making an offer?

The biggest mistake to avoid is overextending financially or waiving contingencies that you should retain to protect you as a buyer, such as inspection and appraisal contingencies. While making a strong offer is important, ensuring it’s within your budget and includes necessary safeguards is vital to avoid potential issues down the road.

Beat a contingent offer by partnering with a top agent

When you’re looking to beat a contingent offer on the home you want, every detail counts, from the financial aspects to the personal touches.

The tips outlined in this post can make your offer more appealing, but nearly every advantage action can be made more potent through the guidance of an experienced real estate agent.

If you’re ready to make a move, HomeLight can connect you with the highest-rated real estate agents in your area. These agents bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to the table, ensuring you have the best strategy to beat out contingent and other offers. In addition, HomeLight’s Buy Before You Sell program can streamline your entire buy-sell journey and let you make the strongest offer possible to win your dream home.

Header Image Source: ( Depositphotos)