How I created a winning house offer, even though I was outbid by $32K!

Guest post by Kelli Bielema
This is the one!!!
This is the one!!!

I was somewhat casually house-shopping about a month ago. I didn’t even have my paperwork complete, but I wanted to begin the hunt so I understood the process more thoroughly. Little did I know I would find the perfect place for me and my boo, our pets, and my home-based business.

I had to hustle to finish the loan application (so many papers!), get my taxes done (UGH), have that “Can I borrow $50,000?” conversation with my parents, all while having one of the busiest winters my little event planning company has had in years. I GOT THIS.

The Seattle real estate market is beyond hot. And it’s hella crazy with competition, but that’s growth for ya. As much as I would have loved to stay in the cute lil rental house in Ballard that I’ve lived in for seven years plus (three with my boyfriend), we had outgrown it, and I seriously needed a place to plant myself and my business. I had a studio rental with storage space, and that rent was increasing another $75 a month. Buying made the most sense, but I knew I needed help with the down payment (hello mudda, hello fadda), a great agent (my band-mate and pal Lori), and something that made my offer stand out.

The horror stories of pals who had put in ten offers on ten different homes, only to be repeatedly outbid by up to $100K, sounded exhausting and terrifying all around. Once we came upon this adorably remodeled 1918 home on a private drive, with a private studio, a chic kitchen, brilliant white flooring, a magical backyard, I knew this offer had to BLOW MINDS.

Brilliant white flooring!
Brilliant white flooring!
Chic kitchen!
Chic kitchen!
A private studio!
A private studio!
Magical backyard!
Magical backyard!

The homeowners were creatives like us, and, by speaking to their sensibilities and how well this house fit our needs, I was determined to make my first time house offer ever a clear winner.

I burned up my Google search engine with “creative house offers” but nothing really resonated. I thought more about the house and what it told me. I needed to be visual with my plea. Thus, I channeled my inner graphic designer (along with the help of — which is great for those of us who lack the technical computer graphic skills, but have the design savvy to piece it together). I created an infographic to express what we loved about the house and how we imagined ourselves living in it.


The infographic was a hit. So much so that the highest bid went $32K over my final offer. That’s the importance of this little letter. Heartfelt, honest and whimsical. Plus my specific references to the “unicorn” reflected the framed artwork in the studio space that states “unicorns are faux real.” So the homeowners gifted us with this print… I LOVE THEM SO MUCH!

Unicorns are faux real

Granted, this kind of approach won’t necessarily work with a house flipper, a new construction development company, or owners who haven’t necessarily the same intentions. It was refreshing to know that even in this competitive market, there are people who see the value of owning your first home as something more than a financial investment.

What kind of creative house offers did you come up with or receive? Did it work?

Comments on How I created a winning house offer, even though I was outbid by $32K!

  1. I love the infographic. We used a similar, although much less creative, tactic when buying our home. I work for local gov and my husband is a bartender…..and we have 3 kids, a dog, and 2 cats. In Washington, DC with some of the highest housing costs in the country. At the price point we were shopping we were competing with all cash offers from house flippers. In our market even these all cash offers often go for over asking. It is just that competitive. So we wrote a short 1 page letter talking about how we love DC and the house. My husband added a line about how he could immediately see my kids playing tag in the back yard (for NE DC this house had a huge yard). The little old lady who was selling the house wanted another family to have the house and sold it to us even though our max budget was 10K under asking and the asking price was already low for the neighborhood. A few weeks after we moved in she told us how her father build the house with help from the neighbors and she wanted someone who would love the house like her and not do a full gut renovation.

  2. Ha! I’m seriously very amazed that this worked. We were outbid so many times while house hunting. We wrote the sellers of one house we liked a lot a lighthearted but (for me) cheesily “heartfelt” letter that mentioned each of the points this Info graphic mentions, even down to referencing something they had in their home and pointing out that we were also huge fans of said thing. My husband even used to work with one of the sellers and we found that she was good friends with one of our friends. We were outbid by $5k. Guess who they went with?

    People will always choose the offer that’s higher or cash (or conventional loan, over an FHA loan). This is cute and all, but these people must have been super against a developer or flipper getting their house or something and figure your info graphic meant you were *like them.* Which is the point, I understand, but this is in and of itself a rare unicorn of a thing that would not happen in most hot markets.

    • I don’t personally know their financial situation or development opportunities, but I’m glad it worked in our favor! Just goes to show that authenticity and creativity can sometimes (sometimes!) win for the little guy!

    • Not necessarily. I am getting ready to sell my home. And while I have my own pre set dollar amount I need to clear, I would totally pick someone who loved the house over a cash in hand buyer. Because I love my house and selling it is the hardest thing I have to do. So it depends on the seller and their reasons for sure. I dont want my house gutted. Yet, I know once its sold its beyond my control.

    • Linder, I have to disagree. Not *all* people will choose the offer that is higher. Sure, my evidence is anecdotal, but evidence nonetheless. I am also in the Seattle area and hopefully it just isn’t a Seattle thing. I have great friends who sold to a lower bid based off the letter they received. Personally, we were able to counter offer on house last fall because of the letter I wrote. We ultimately did not get that house, but we were able to have more a voice during the awful process of buying a home because of that letter. I do have faith that many people consider themselves stewards of their communities – even ones that they are leaving. Those people want to sell their homes to others who are going to be a good fit, even if it costs them a few thousand dollars.

    • The problem is you don’t know when you’re going in what their situation is. Maybe that $5k is the difference that lets them dream a little bigger; send their kids to college more comfortably, start their own business without fear, go on that holiday of a lifetime, or even buy their own dream house. Hell, maybe it’s the difference between solvency and insolvency for them. But equally, if it’s someone who’s hurting for leaving what was their dream home, knowing that they’re selling it to someone who’ll love it too can mean enough that they’ll see your dreams as an extension of their own.

    • The “perfect” for us house came on the market and after looking at the location I realized it was a friend from high school’s parents’ house. Hubs and I were smitten. I reached out to my old H.S. friend we chatted, her parents knew and thought it was great that we viewed. We looked the night after it came on the market, put in our offer just above asking with a wildly fun and creative cover letter I stayed up all night making and found out the next morning there were 10 offers. We lost the bid. Out of the 10, we were 4th in line, another offer was 25k over and the one under that was 20k over all cash. It was disheartening and upsetting. I love the idea of the creative letter but unfortunately it won’t always work.

  3. I saw this house listed and couldn’t believe how wonderful it was! I’m so glad it ended up going to the perfect owners. Congratulations on your winning offer and extremely creative bid!

  4. Congrats on your gorgeous new home! We wrote a letter to the seller when we recently bid on (and bought) our new house. There was potential for some competing offers and we knew that the seller really loved her home and was sad to leave it. We wrote about how much the home would mean to us, what kind of neighbors we would be (the block is very close-knit), and some of the features of the home we especially prized.

    It was tough for us to sell our old house, despite it being the right move for us. We ended up accepting an offer from someone we knew, and knowing that she’d treasure and care for the house was absolutely a factor. We potentially could have gotten a little more for it, but liked our buyer and wanted her to have the home.

    • Love it. And it’s nice to hear your story & others like it because our homes aren’t just buildings we put our stuff in & sleep in. We create memories and enhance our lives in to make them HOME and ours…or eventually someone else’s…. 😉

  5. Thanks for this article!! My husband and I have been struggling with the idea that we’ll never be able to afford a house in this area based on how competitive the market is and how high everyone overbids. It’s good to hear of a victory that doesn’t require throwing an extra 50k at the deal. It’s a gorgeous house, and Shoreline is a nice area! Great job!!

  6. How wonderfully creative!

    The seller of our home selected us over another bidder because her realtor had told her that I seemed to truly love and appreciate the house. The other buyer wanted to use the home as a rental, something that it had been for the prior 15 years. The seller had inherited it from her grandfather, who built the house in 1923. She did not want it to be a rental anymore: She wanted it to be loved by its owner. I send her pictures each time we update something.

    • What? Why? That’s not actually the message of this article. What they should do if they decide to sell again for some reason is choose the couple who may not be able to afford that extra (over asking price!!!) 30,000, but they’ll take care of the house and love it.

  7. When my husband and I purchased our house, we found out that our realtor is adamant about meeting with the sellers to “pitch” her buyers. She said that, a lot of times, the personal touch works a lot better than some cold numbers. It worked for us! I can also say that, if we decide to move, I would gladly take a lower offer from someone that will cherish our house as we have over a higher bid from someone that might not care as much.

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