It took two years of touring more than 50 homes and losing out on every offer he made before a Baltimore man finally devised a unique solution to conquer the competition.

Skutch M., who asked Realtor.com not to use his last name, purchased his first home with his girlfriend, Allie, after nearly two years of patience and grit.

“My girlfriend and I were convinced we would prevail and that the right home at the right price would ultimately find its way to us,” he shares.

Skutch says they rode the highs and lows of the homebuying roller coaster by ensuring they “managed expectations” in today’s tough housing market.

By the time the couple found three-bedroom, three-bath, 1,800-square-foot row house gem for $389,000, they knew not to waste any time. They made an offer $4,000 over asking. It came with a catch, though. The offer had terms that expired the very next day—a day before the open house was scheduled.

Here, Skutch explains to Realtor.com why this tactic worked, along with some lessons he learned before he and Allie finally snagged the keys to their first home.

Skutch toured over 50 homes before finding the right place. christian.bitzas – stock.adobe.com

Lesson #1: You might have to look outside your current neighborhood

The house hunt started when Skutch and Allie outgrew their apartment. Instead of leasing a bigger rental, the couple wanted to buy a home.

At first, they zoned in on a specific Baltimore neighborhood they loved.

“For the first 12 months, I was extra stubborn about it, essentially expecting a unicorn to pop up,” says Skutch.

Soon, the pair discovered there were limited houses for sale in their desired area. Not only that, but the ones in their price range needed renovations.

So, with their apartment lease coming up for renewal, Skutch and Allie either had to move to another rental—or revise their house-hunting tactics.

He said he toured many homes that did not meet his needs. LinkedIn/Skutch Montgomery

Lesson #2: You might have to tour a lot of duds

The couple started to explore other nearby neighborhoods, and Skutch changed the listing filters for his online home search to include surrounding communities. He recommends using all the filters to personalize your home search, especially the listing price.

“I wasn’t going to go over $400,000,” he reveals. “There’s no sense in teasing or distracting yourself with homes you can’t afford.”

The couple then went on an open house marathon, touring house after house, with no winners. Even worse, the few times they did fall in love with a house—their offer was turned down.

Yet, Skutch and Allie refused to give up. He even adopted a positive motto for their long-running search: “The more homes you see, the more you know.”

Skutch had to readjust his requirements for his new home. jbstocks – stock.adobe.com

During the couple’s two-year home-shopping marathon, Skutch kept track of his wishlist on a spreadsheet. He also used that to take down notes about aspects of homes they’d viewed—such as the age of appliances.

“No first house will ever check all the boxes, but it sure helps when you’re reflecting after seeing multiple houses in a day that there are clear winners and losers,” says Skutch.

He explains that the spreadsheet ultimately helped them remain objective and even spot trends of which homes in their price range sold quickly.

Lesson #4: Make an offer that’s just right

Eventually, Skutch and Allie toured a handful of end-unit row houses on a Thursday night in April.

“We saw three other end-unit row houses that night, but nothing compared to the fourth one,” he recalls.

They immediately fell in love and knew the home listed at $389,000 was for them.

Because they were true pros at this point, they researched the property history in the listing and discovered the seller had the house on the market for about a month at a higher price.

Since Skutch lost out on every open house offer he’d ever made, he knew not to waste any time on this gem and made an offer above asking for $393,000—and stipulated his clever catch.

“We put in an offer that evening—just over the asking price—that had terms to expire the very next day, Friday at 5 p.m.—a day before the open house was scheduled,” says Skutch.

Skutch might have made an above-asking-price offer and stipulated a quick closing date, but he wasn’t about to waive any inspections. James – stock.adobe.com

Lesson #5: Always protect yourself as a buyer

Skutch might have made an above-asking-price offer and stipulated a quick closing date, but he wasn’t about to waive any inspections.

“You’d be crazy to take that risk with these old Baltimore row houses,” he says.

He also had some intel from the real estate agents involved that the homeowner didn’t want to sell to an investor, and that selling to a local like Skutch was important to her.

So, the couple wrote a letter to the seller and told her their story. It probably didn’t hurt that Allie, who works for a nature nonprofit, mentioned she was delighted to take over guardianship of the beautiful perennials and wildflowers the seller had planted.

Whether it was the robust offer, the letter, or some other reason—Skutch and Allie’s hard work paid off.

That Friday night, before deadline, Skutch got the call that their offer had been accepted.

After a long journey of ups and downs and twists and turns, Skutch and Allie were anxious to start life in their new row home, but they had one more hurdle. The closing date and the date of their planned vacation were just a couple of days apart.

They basically moved out of their apartment, dropped off their belongings in the new house and took off for vacation. When they returned from their vacation, they had no regrets.

“We love it,” Skutch says. “It’s great! It’s not without its little headaches and glitches here and there, but that’s all part of the experience.”

Tips for making an offer before an open house

All the stars aligned for Skutch and Allie, but that might not always be the case with an offer that expires before an open house.

Some sellers could take offense to the expiration date, especially if you submit an offer at or below the asking price. They might want to wait for better offers during the open house.

Yet this strategy can work if it is done correctly and the circumstances are right, says Jake Northrop, an agent at Northrop Realty in Clarksville, MD.

“The seller had already tested the waters at a certain price prior to adjusting to a lower price, which typically reignites the momentum on any property, so it was a great time to carry out this strategy,” says Northrop.

However, he notes it’s vital to “convince the seller that this is the best offer they would receive through the weekend, so much so that they are willing to forgo the potential buyers at said open house.”

Northrop recommends offering “just enough” favorable terms to entice the seller to cancel the weekend showings and commit to your offer right away.

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