The listing agent shakes your hand and gives you the wink that the house is all but yours. But unless you have a signed contract, nothing is certain, especially in the hot, seller-friendly housing market.
Indeed, that same listing agent may be using your offer to get a higher offer from a preferred bidder. If you want to be one of those preferred buyers, make sure you are preapproved (not prequalified) and have proof of funding in place. Be flexible in closing conditions. And, assuming you're confident in your ability to spot all the potential problems lurking in a house, consider – with caution – waiving the inspection. If you're not comfortable forgoing the inspection altogether, you can offer to shorten the typical 10-day holding period five days or offer to make any recommended repairs the inspection turns up under a certain dollar amount. Some buyers write letters to owners telling them how much the home will mean to their family, while others tell sellers they will exceed all offers up to a certain amount.
In the current market, buyers should be prepared to do anything that is fiscally feasible to gain an edge. And, even after all that, don’t assume the house is yours until the contract is in place.