How to Win Your Lake House Bid in a Competitive Market!

Tired of losing out on your dream lakefront home to another bidder? You’re not alone! Limited inventory, low interest rates, cash-rich buyers, families leaving the cities, more people working from home…all created a feeding frenzy for lakefront properties. It’s not unusual for any new lakefront listing to have multiple offers.

So how can your offer stand out from the crowd? Follow these tips below to ensure your future lake life!

Dream Home: Serene Lake Living with Muskoka Living Interiors - BECKI OWENS


When we are asked by buyers how much they should bid, we often answer with a question: “How much are you willing to lose it for?” You should be comfortable with the price you are offering based on the location, comparables, future value after renovations, lake amenities, neighborhood, etc. Our CALCULAKER tool is a good starting point for market value. And your lakefront specialist buyer’s agent (see below) can provide the most recent price per square foot costs.  In this market, don’t mess around…come in with your best offer right away! You may not get a second chance. This is no time to tread lightly…be as aggressive as you’re comfortable with. Again, how much are you willing to lose it for?


Offer price is only one part of what seller’s consider when reviewing offers. Terms and conditions are just as important. Sellers want their sale to be quick and easy. Buyers with home sale contingencies in their offer are a near impossible sell in this market. So, if you absolutely have to sell first to buy, at least get your current home under agreement with a “contingent on seller finding suitable housing” clause in your contract. This will buy you some time and make your offer more attractive to your lakefront seller.

Dream Lake Houses on Twitter: "Right on the water and garages for the boats  ! #DreamLakeHouse #LakeHouseGoals"

Home Inspections can be another cause of anxiety for lakefront sellers. Many buyers are waiving their rights to home inspection in this market. If I were a buyer, it’s not the little thinks I’m worried about, it’s the big things! So, I would bring along a friend at the first or second showing that has construction and/or building experience. They would be able to let you know of any obvious structural problems or red flags you should be aware of. But that’s no substitute for a professional home inspection…so if you not comfortable waiving it, then keep it in the contract.

In a hot market, bank appraisals can be interesting for both sellers and buyers. Just because buyers are willing to paya higher value for a lakefront home, doesn’t mean the bank will agree with them! If you’re a cash buyer or putting a substantial amount down (50% or more), then you may want to waive the appraisal clause (please consult a qualified real estate attorney for advice and risks). If you are getting a conventional loan, be aware that your offer and the banks appraisal may not match. If the appraisal comes in low, you need to make up the difference in cash OR renegotiate your offer price on the lake home. Obviously, this puts you in a weaker offer position than your competition.


Do cash offers provide a real advantage over a buyer with a mortgage contingency? It really depends on the individual lakefront seller. The only advantages to the seller may be a shorter closing time and fewer contingencies. That may or may not be important to the seller. If they are getting a higher value from a buyer with a mortgage, then that may be best for them. The opposite may be true for other sellers. Therefore, it’s important to try and understand the motivation of the sellers. That’s where a qualified buyer’s agent is key (see below).


I can’t count how many times we have buyers say to us: “Pre-approval won’t be a problem” or “we’re cash buyers, so it won’t be a problem”. The real problem is, now it’s Friday night and you just viewed your dream lakefront home. You need to put an offer in tonight and you can’t get a preapproval until Monday. Say goodbye to your dream home! PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE get pre-approved prior to viewing homes! This is a devastating lesson to learn the hard way… and yet we still have one of these every week. AND…if you’re a cash buyer, be sure to have a “proof of funds” statement printed out and ready to submit with your offer. By the way, be sure they are liquid funds and available immediately. Sellers will not, and cannot, “take your word for it”. 

Luxury Homes for Sale in Cape Cod, Lake Tahoe and Lake Geneva - WSJ


I know it sounds corny, but a heart-felt letter to the sellers can absolutely move your offer to the top of the pile! Sellers of lakefront property, more than any other real estate, have a high emotional connection to their lakefront home. They want to know that the future buyer has the same feelings. So, create a unique letter for that particular property describing your family and desire for the life at their home. Include photos of your family and lifestyle and submit with your offer. We recently had a seller go with an offer that was $20,000 less just because of the letter. Do NOT skip this step!


Friends Lake Inn: A Charming Adirondack Boutique Hotel in Chestertown, NY

If you are not working with a qualified lakefront specialist Realtor as your buyer’s agent, you will have a hard time overcoming your competition! Many buyers think if they work directly with the seller’s agent, they will have a better chance of their offer being accepted because the listing agent will get paid more. It just doesn’t work that way. In a competitive market: price, terms and conditions are all considered by the seller. First, the seller’s agent does NOT work for you, their fiduciary responsibility is to the seller. Therefore, you have no one looking out for your best interests. A buyer’s agent works directly for you and can best advise you on all of the above as well as negotiate the best deal. Lakefront property is different than any other real estate so be sure they have lakefront experience. And remember, you get all their knowledge for free…the seller pays their fee. You are not only buying a lake house, you’re buying a lake and a lifestyle. There are dozens of questions that need to be answered specific to any lake and lakefront home you are considering. Our critical Lakefront Property Questionnaire for Buyers ensures there are no surprises during or after your purchase.

Ask us about our 16-page “Lakefront Buyers Success Guide” to help guide you along the way! Email us at Best of luck!

Posted by Scott Freerksen “The Lake Guy”

Leave a Reply