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LA house hunting: 3 top tips to sell yourself to sellers

A "sold" sign stands outside an existing home in Pasadena, California.
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Southern California’s real estate landscape is giving sellers something to smile about.

According to the data firm Core Logic, the November median home sale price in SoCal is $505,000. That’s an 8.6 percent increase from last year. And with surging prices and fewer houses on the market, buying a house has gotten more competitive.

Stuart Gabriel is a finance professor and director of the UCLA Ziman Center for Real Estate. He told A Martinez that despite the increase in home prices, we shouldn't see a housing bubble anytime soon.

"We've taken many steps in the wake of the financial crisis [of 2008]....Borrowers are well qualified, and all of this has put a damper on excessive speculative activity in the market," Gabriel said.

Speaking of staying competitive, one way potential buyers are setting themselves apart from the rest of the pack is with an introduction letter.

In other words, people vying for their dream home sometimes include a personal letter with their bid. This might include photos, family stories and plans to create new memories in a new house.

Carol Huston is with Huston Group L.A. for Wish Sotheby’s International Realty.

Here are her three top tips to write a letter that's a cut above the competition:

1. Let them know you're in it for the long haul.

CAROL HUSTON: The seller has to believe that you will close escrow. There are so many escrows that people open because they took the highest bidder, but the bidder doesn't close, so the process starts all over again. Sellers sometimes kick themselves saying, 'I should have taken that buyer that wrote that beautiful letter. What was I thinking?' 

2. Adjust your expectations as a buyer.

HUSTON: It's a tough market. Pictures of your cat and baby won't convince the seller to take $50,000 less than another bid. And if your offer is competitive, and there are five other bids, think about what makes you better. A sense of humor? Humility? Showing that you're a stable person?

3. Get your real estate agent to ask the right questions.

HUSTON: Your Realtor should ask the seller, 'What will make this offer priceless?' Does that mean the sellers can have more time before moving out? Can you pay their last utility bill or the transfer tax? Find out what their needs are and create a way to make their lives easier when they hand over the keys.

*Interview has been edited for clarity.