Negotiate a home price like a champ

If you’ve been looking for a house for awhile, you might be feeling like you have a handle on the whole process. You have a realtor, are pre-approved for a mortgage, and know the right questions to ask before you even look at a home.

And then you find it. The house you want. It’s time to make an offer. Let’s do it!

Wait. How do I do it?

Homes have listing prices, yes, but in most cases, it’s not as simple as saying, “I’ll take it!” and writing a check. (If it is that simple for you, then kudos! We’d like to come to your housewarming party.) For the rest of us, however, successfully purchasing the chosen home starts with negotiation.

We have some tips for coming through this process with both a new house and your sanity.

You have an agent for a reason.

If you’ve chosen your agent wisely, they will have an effective negotiation strategy. And make no mistake: in many cases, you’ll need a strategy. Additionally, your agent will be adept at putting together a well-worded offer letter, complete with the necessary legal jargon. Finally, going through your agent keeps things official and in writing, which will help you to avoid any uncertainties.

According to Anna Cottrell of Real Homes, “If you’ve never done it before, you may be wondering how to make an offer on a house correctly. The answer is: in writing, with as much detail and as little room for misinterpretation as possible.”

This is not the time to wing it. Go with someone who knows what they’re doing.

Don’t be tempted to lowball.

Especially if the home you’re trying to buy has been owned by the seller for years and thus probably holds sentimental value. In that scenario, you’ll want to be extra careful not to insult them. You may not mean to be insulting—you just want to get the best value for your money—but offering a ridiculously low amount won’t accomplish anything besides annoying the seller. If there’s competition for the house, it might even be enough to knock you out of the running entirely. 

Yet diplomatically pointing out the flaws in a house can be an effective negotiation strategy, i.e., “The kitchen floor linoleum is cracked. Our offer will need to reflect that.” Tread carefully, though. (Ha! See what we did there?) Mentioning flaws you’ll need to fix is one thing. Exclaiming “Yikes! That stone fireplace is hideous. We’ll definitely knock a couple thousand off to deal with that monstrosity”—only to learn that the seller’s grandpa was a stonemason who installed the fireplace by hand—is quite another.

Use your words, but use them carefully. 

Play it cool.

You’ve found your perfect house. You just know it. You’re tempted to tell the world—including the seller—that this is the only place for you. 

Don’t do it. Do not.

You shouldn’t be rude, of course, but keep your communications with the seller (and/or their agent) fairly neutral. If they know how excited you are about their property, it’s possible they’ll be less likely to negotiate. Those concessions you were hoping they’d make? Those will disappear fast.

Know your stuff. 

Unfortunately, the upfront costs to purchasing a home don’t end with the down payment. There are closing costs, title insurance, and payments for any additional inspections that might be necessary. So if you hit the very top ceiling of your budget with the purchase price, you might find yourself scrambling later.

And while we’re talking costs, be sure to have your agent pull the comps (comparables) for the area. Comps are the recent sale prices of similar homes in the neighborhood and are your best bet for ensuring that your offer is in the right ballpark.

So, did you take notes? Ready to go on and buy that house?!

No? That’s all right. Just remember to work closely with your realtor, choose your words carefully, and have your financial ducks in a row and all will be well.

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