Be tactful in offer for home not for sale

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Dear Steve,
I would like to make an offer on a property that is not for sale. What is the best way to do this? Is there a form or a sample letter that I can use?
— Perla

Dear Perla,
The approach you are pondering is not an uncommon one, although there are no stock-and-standard forms or letters that convey this.

I suggest you start by simply dropping a handwritten note in the owner’s mailbox or at the front door that says something to the effect, “I am in the market for a home just like yours and am in a financial position to buy it. If you’d consider selling it, please get in touch with me. I can have an offer ready within two weeks. Best wishes and thanks for your consideration!”

You could also try a similar spiel by phone, although that approach is more apt to catch the owner off guard and possibly put him or her on the defensive.

A buyer’s agent, of course, would be glad to break the ice for a flat fee or commission should your query be ultimately successful.

However, most owners in this scenario will probably want something close to the appraised value of the home, even if that is not its current resale value in your view. Also know that the owners probably won’t be bending over backward to accommodate your repair requests or want to indulge you in meet-me-halfway negotiations.

The owners of investment homes, or “rentals,” are a little more apt to consider unsolicited offers than resident owners. They are investors, after all, and have at least pondered the home’s current resale potential. Of course, inspecting a rental property may be a challenge if there are existing tenants since the owner won’t want to alert them. If you are an investor and want to convert a resident-owned home into rental house, there may be added resistance if the owner would prefer to sell to a family.

Interestingly, last year, ING Bank launched an initiative called, “WoonWaarUWilt,” or “live where you want,” in partnership with an online real estate firm that will determine if the unsolicited offer for a home is reasonable and whether the buyer can finance the purchase. Then the real estate firm will contact the owner if all the ducks, and ducats, are in a row — all for a fee.

But what the heck. Give it a shot yourself. Who knows? Keep in mind such axioms as “it never hurts to ask” and “the squeaky wheel gets the grease.” With most U.S. resale markets still flat, you might just pique an owner’s interest or simply facilitate what was an inevitable departure anyway — making you both winners.

Be both tactful and brave. And good luck!