In a crazy real estate market, here’s how one couple finally made a successful offer on a house

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Mandy and Jordan Picchiottino looked for 9 months to find a home in the Atlanta suburbs. Here’s how they outcompeted others to land their dream home.

USA TODAY

Mandy and Jordan Picchiottino moved to the Atlanta suburbs from Chattanooga, Tennessee in January — short on time but long on requirements for a new home.

So the couple, in their 30s with two young boys, signed a nine-month lease in Dunwoody, Georgia. Jordan’s job selling medical devices required him to transfer right away. They previously owned twice and wanted to buy again. And since they fell in love with their new neighborhood, they decided to take their time looking while they rented.

It was not to be.

Their landlord put the rental house up for sale, tapping into what is the hottest real estate market in more than a decade. Properties nationwide stayed on the market for fewer than 17 days in June, down from 24 a year earlier, according to the National Realtors Association. Prices climbed at a rapid clip across the country. In Atlanta, the median price rose 26%.

So suddenly, the Picchiottinos needed to buy. And soon.

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Cynthia Pierce, a real estate agent for Keller Williams, helped the Picchiottino family outbid other homebuyers by offering more than just money. (Photo: Brock Scott for USA TODAY)

“People have crazy amounts of money,” Mandy said. “So we had to think creatively in order to make our offer stand out.”

After more than 40 home tours, four offers (two on the same house) and a roller coaster of expectations, heartbreak and hope, the Picchiottinos are moving into a five-bedroom, 3,200 square-foot home in Dunwoody this month.

The couple paid $35,000 over the asking price and allowed the sellers to stay in the home for three weeks after closing. They wrote a personal letter. They pursued financing until they found something that worked. And they found the right real estate agent in Cynthia Pierce at Keller Williams in Atlanta, Jordan Picchiottino says.

“People have crazy amounts of money. So we had to think creatively in order to make our offer stand out.”

Mandy Pichhiottino

“Even though we were getting impatient, she reassured us, and that paid off in the end, we found the right home,” he says.

Relationships with other realtors, banks and attorneys in the Atlanta market where Pierce has been selling homes for 36 years helped. For instance, Pierce steered the Picchiottinos away from a home that eventually sold $140,000 above the asking price, and had 10 all-cash offers, Mandy Picchiottino said.

“She was just really helpful in navigating us away from wasting our time on homes we just had no chance of getting,” she said.

For the successful bid, the Picciottinos also added other perks for the sellers. Their “in earnest” deposit, a fee paid by the buyer towards the price to let a seller know the offer is serious, was $10,000.

Mandy and Jordan Picchiottino had a limited budget for a home in the Atlanta suburbs and had to think creatively to make their offer stand out. (Photo: Brock Scott for USA TODAY)

They also shortened the “due diligence” period, the time allowed in some states like Georgia to give buyers time to hire home inspectors, property appraisers and even finalize their mortgage, Pierce said.

She doesn’t recommend buyers forgo a home inspection. Instead, Pierce recommends shortening the time period in which to complete one.

“The seller only had eight days of any risk that their contract would fall apart,” Pierce said, adding that’s less than the traditional time periods before the current boom. “Of course, it didn’t fall apart. They were strongly qualified for everything. So it worked out very well.”

Even before you start looking seriously, make sure you have proof you can pay, says Amy Paternite of Coldwell Banker in Maplewood, New Jersey.

The family purchased a 5-bed, 3.5 bath, 3,200 square-foot home in Dunwoody, Georgia for $725,000. (Photo: Brock Scott for USA TODAY)

If you’re able to pay cash, make sure you have proof of funds. And if you’re like most Americans, and aren’t able to pay in cash, it’s crucial to get preapproved for a mortgage before seriously looking. That way you can move fast, she says.

“Time is not your friend in real estate,” Paternite said. “You have to get it when you see it, or it’s gone.”

Rachel Layne is a Boston-based freelance journalist. Her work has appeared in the Boston Globe, CBS News, HBS Working Knowledge, USA TODAY and other publications. She previously spent two decades covering multi-industrial companies for Bloomberg News.

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