In the current hot seller’s market here in Silicon Valley, most real estate agents representing the seller set an “offer date” for would be buyers and their Realtors to submit their offer packages, also known as their bids, for the property. How long does it take to write an offer? You may be tempted to do it on short notice.
The time commitment it varies – I would say you want to give yourself 2 days for a reasonably comfortable amount of time to read and absorb everything and to write your offer. It is difficult if you only have 24 hours between when you see and like a home and when the offer is due. It is possible, but only if you (and your Realtor) drop everything and only focus on this for the next 24 hours. And let me tell you, that is not fun – in fact, it’s miserable! Much better is to have several days.
Last week, though, I showed a home at 9 a.m. and turned in an offer before the 4 p.m. deadline. Never again. It was incredibly stressful and there was no way that we could all review everything as much as we should have done. The stress of it was sickening (literally) for me – I take my fiduciary obligations seriously and felt like I was cutting corners left and right to make a deadline. And I had to ignore all my other clients for a few hours to make it happen. (And no, my clients did not get it. Their offer was far too low, unfortunately.)
Most of the time, right now offers in the San Jose – Los Gatos – Saratoga – Campbell area are due on Tuesday. Once in awhile they are due on Monday and rarely on Wednesday. Seeing a potential target on Sunday is possible but it is still really hard (and about impossible if the due date is Monday). Much better is seeing it on Saturday, or, if possible, before the weekend even begins. If you can do that, it will be immensely easier and less stressful!
Why does it take so long to write an offer?
Every Silicon Valley home sale is just a little bit different from any other, but I’ll tell you what usually happens, besides having an offer date.
- There will be a disclosure packet, which you are expected to read and fully sign off on, and turn in the signed paperwork with your offer. It includes hundreds of pages of information: the home or property inspection, a pest or termite inspection, and often other inspection reports as well, such as roof, chimney, and sometimes, if applicable, things like a pool or well inspection. Additionally, there are reports on natural and environmental hazards (about 80 pages) plus all the disclosures that the seller has filled out by hand (c. 20 pages) plus the boilerplate disclosures (probably another 30 pages). Reading, understanding, and digesting all of this is important and it does take a few hours for you to do this. Your agent must also conduct a visual inspection of the property and type or write up his or her notes on the form, which you must sign, too. The first time you write an offer, it might take 6 hours. For subsequent efforts, you will not need to re-read the boilerplate items and it may take you only 2-3 hours or less. Never rush it – it is crucial that you understand what you are accepting. Signing usually is done electronically, using DocuSign. That may take your buyer’s agent an hour or more to set up for you, but will likely take you less than 10 minutes to sign.
- Right now, homes in the San Jose area are selling with few, if any, contingencies. For that reason, your pre-sale preparation is immensely important and it is wise to give yourself plenty of time to review and investigate before the offer process.
- Most offer situations are multiple offers, sometimes with bidding wars, so a lot of extras go into presenting a complete offer package now. One such item is the buyer letter to the seller, which some call the buyer house love letter. You may be able to whip out a nice note to the sellers in a few minutes, others might agonize over every syllable and take an hour. Either way, don’t skip this step with multiples. (Once again, the first one will be tough to do, but if you end up having to write a few offers before yours is accepted, they’ll come much faster after that.)
- You’ll need to get a list of the major offer questions and decide how you want to answer them, which collectively constitute “price and terms”, such as what price you want to put on your contract, whether or not you’ll have contingencies (and if so, how much time for each one), who’s paying for what, how long various things can take, whether you want to sign for arbitration and liqudated damages, etc. A lot of items may be customary but in a deep seller’s market, some buyers may opt to pay for some costs which are traditionally born by the seller for strategic reasons. Going through the major questions may be easy or hard, fast or time consuming, depending on how new the concepts are to you and how prepared you are. A
- Related to # 4 is the need to study and go through the contract. Depending on the client, this can be fairly quick (30 minutes) or it could take an hour or two.
- You’ll need to provide the proof of funds for your down payment or all cash offer. This shouldn’t take too long but the account numbers should be blacked or whited out. DO make sure that you don’t just do a bland screen capture that doesn’t show your name. Think “proof” when grabbing your documentation.
- Meanwhile, your Realtor will need time to do some work too – he or she will need to chat with your lender about timeframes, dates, and particulars for the contract. He or she will probably also review the disclosures. And your agent will very likely pull comps (that is, get recently listed, pending and sold properties which are similar in recent weeks and months) to give you an idea of the probable buyer’s value and the likely appraised value (a best guess based on the comps). With more time, your Realtor may be able to phone some of the listing agents of the pending properties and try to figure out the sale price.
- Once the offer is drafted and signed, the disclosures signed, the buyer’s letter written, the proof of funds submitted, your Silicon Valley real estate agent will need to double check everything to make sure it’s complete, will draft some sort of cover letter and summary, and then assumble everything to be emailed or presented live. If live, you’ll need to allow a few extra hours for printing, collating, and driving.
It is extremely important to do your due diligence – this is not like buying a car! Rushing yourself will lead to undue stress and potentially to costly mistakes. If you are serious about house hunting in the San Francisco Bay Area, do yourself a favor and look at homes as soon as they come on the market instead of just before the offer is due. You will reduce your stress level immensely by following this one little tip 🙂