You loved the house so much, you made an offer—a good one. Yet for some unfathomable reason, it was rejected. What gives?
While home sellers don’t have to explain why they pass up what seems like a perfectly fine offer, trust us, they do have their reasons—and it’s not always just because a higher bidder came along. Sometimes, sorry to say, it really is you.
Worried you might be doing or saying something that’s making home sellers steer clear? Check out these stories from real-life home sellers and their real estate agents on what prompted them to pass up an offer. Consider this a list of what not to do when you really want a house.
Your offer letter revealed a little too much
“When the bids are very close, things like a personal offer letter can either help or hurt, depending on what it says,” says Andrea Gordon, a real estate agent with Red Oak Realty in Oakland, CA. “In one case, the buyer went on and on about the huge remodel he would do when he owned the house. But this was a slap in the face to my sellers, who had spent a considerable amount of money in the past five years remodeling the property. In another case, the buyers wrote a poem to the sellers, but there were spelling mistakes throughout. My seller thought it was over the top, and was appalled by their lack of proper grammar.”
Take-home lesson: There are many agents who swear by the power of a heartfelt offer letter, but make sure that you don’t in any way insult the sellers or their taste. And, apparently the grammar police are out there—you’ve been warned!
Your offer was too high—really
“I had a listing in a very sought-after neighborhood, and we immediately received two offers over list price,” says Gail Romansky at Pearson Smith Realty in Ashburn, VA. “The first offer was $15,000 over list price. The second offer was $40,000 over list price. While the latter higher offer was tempting to take, I explained that the house was not likely to appraise for this higher amount, which meant the loan might not close. So we went with the lower offer of the two.”
Take-home lesson: A higher offer isn’t always better, since lenders will only loan you as much as the house is appraised for—not a cent more. A solid, realistic offer is a much better move—or, if you do bid high, make sure you’re willing to cover the difference out of your own pocket.
Your lender was unfamiliar to the seller
“When we saw an offer from a buyer who was using an online lender we’d never heard of, it made us wary,” says Misty Weaver, a real estate agent with Samson Properties in Chantilly, VA. “That’s because we couldn’t be sure that they understood the local customs and laws, specifically if they might worry the septic system was a risk and deny the loan. A local lender would already understand.”
Take-home lesson: Often a real estate agent and seller feel more comfortable with a local lender they know. Do your research and choose the loan that’s right for you, but consider giving preference to a well-regarded local mortgage lender when possible.
You demanded a family heirloom
“My sellers had specifically excluded all the chandeliers in the house, and so they were surprised when a great offer came in—but the buyers insisted on the chandelier,” says Red Oak Realty’s Gordon. “My sellers countered that the chandeliers were family heirlooms, and they would be happy to provide a credit for the replacement of the lighting fixtures, but the buyers pushily countered that they must have those fixtures. Needless to say, the sellers sold the house to someone else.”
Take-home lesson: If you swooned over not just the house, but also something in it, go ahead and request to include it in the deal. However, if it’s something the sellers want to take, let it go. It’s not worth losing the whole house in your bid for a pretty light fixture.
You made a full-price offer, but nickel-and-dimed elsewhere
“I had a buyer submit a full-price offer and then request $10,000 toward closing costs,” says Tracey Hampson, a real estate agent at Realty One Group in Valencia, CA. “So obviously that means the sellers are not in fact getting a full-price offer, but one that’s $10,000 under.”
Take-home lesson: While sellers love to see full-price offers, don’t try to Scrooge them out of that money elsewhere—they will see right through it.
You acted like you had something to hide
“A buyer made an offer on our house, but insisted on being anonymous,” recalls Amber Watson-Tardiff, a home seller in Bordentown, NJ. “Now, this wasn’t some extravagant property where a celebrity was protecting his or her privacy. It was a twin house that was being sold for under $150,000. The real estate agent wouldn’t give us any information about the person, and the whole experience just felt so shady that we decided to pass for another offer where we didn’t feel like the buyer was either a total wacko or was playing games with us.”
Take-home lesson: Playing games or withholding routine information can make the seller doubt you and your intentions.
Your financial picture didn’t look solid enough
“I had a buyer who made an offer on a house, but they came in with a low down payment, a very high debt-to-income ratio, and a subpar credit rating,” says Kevin Deselms at Re/Max Alliance in Golden, CO. “This spooked the seller because it called into question the buyer’s ability to get their loan funded and close the transaction.”
Take-home lesson: The last thing a seller wants is to get ready to close, only to discover that the buyer cannot complete the transaction and thus send them back to the drawing board. Make sure you’ve cleaned up your credit and have your finances in order before making an offer.