Making an Offer

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Okay, you’ve now found the home you want to buy? The next step is to make an offer. By using the following negotiation techniques, you should be able to reach an agreement that is acceptable for both you and the seller. 

But before you do, remember, for some home sellers, it’s been a long year without a home sale. That means some buyers, smelling the desperation, may be able to cut a better deal. Sellers who have had their homes on the market a long time are eager to move on, especially at this time of year, says Bill Golden, a real-estate agent with Re/Max in Atlanta. The closer it gets to the holidays, the more anxious unsuccessful sellers can become, he says.

Other sellers will choose to let their listings expire and try again next year. They, too, may be willing to make a deal in order to sell their properties, even if they’re no longer actively trying to sell, says Patrick Carlisle, chief market analyst for Paragon Real Estate Group in San Francisco. (Bing: How long do homes linger on the market in your area?)

The key to making an aggressive low-ball offer on a home is to start by finding properties that have languished on the market for a long time. The softer the market, the more likely your strategy will work, Carlisle says.

But buyers can get tripped up. Here are six mistakes people commonly make when making a low-ball offer.

Not Understanding the Market

Before submitting an offer, your real-estate agent should do a full comparative market analysis of the property to determine what its fair market value is, Carlisle says.

For instance, it’s still a buyers market in the Richmond, Va., area, where Susan Stynes works as a real-estate agent for Long & Foster. Stynes says she wouldn’t hesitate to encourage a client to make an aggressive offer, after considering the time the property has been on the market and what other home comparable homes are in the neighborhood.

Not Picking the Right Real-Estate Agent

Some real-estate agents caution buyers against making an offer that is so low it could offend the seller and halt negotiations. But sometimes agents are too reluctant to make aggressive offers, Carlisle says. They may be more focused on completing a deal and collecting their commission, rather than making the best deal, or their negotiation skills might not be up to par.

“If it’s an appealing, well-priced property that has five or six offers on it, well, going in 10% or 20% under asking isn’t going to get you anywhere,” he says. But on a property that has been overlooked by the market and doesn’t have multiple bidders, it often doesn’t hurt to go in low.

Not Backing up Your Price

There’s an art to presenting an offer that’s substantially less than the asking price. A low offer could start negotiations off on the wrong foot if you’re not careful, Golden says. The key is for you or your agent to explain the offer when presented.

“Sellers want to know why you’re coming in so low. Include recent (comparable sales in the area) or issues with the property that validate why your offer is so low,” he says. Don’t be too harsh with your criticism, however — that can also work against you.

Not Knowing What You’re Willing to Pay

Buyers today are strongly motivated to get the best possible price on a property, especially if they believe that home values will fall even more, says Jay Butler, professor emeritus of real estate at the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University. Their biggest worry is often that people will say they overpaid, he says.

But sellers have limits too, most often dictated by the amount of home equity they have, Butler says.

Before negotiations begin, it’s important for a buyer to decide what his walk-away price is, Carlisle says. “At some price point, the deal is no longer worth doing, no matter how great the property.”

What’s the lowest interest rate you can get?

While a buyer should know how high she is willing to go, don’t put limits in the first offer, Kliegerman says. You lose integrity if you say it’s your “best and final” offer, but then are willing to come up with a few thousand dollars more in order to buy the property.

Not Making a Clean and Easy Offer

When you make a low bid you want other elements of the offer to be attractive to the seller. And a deal that can close quickly will often have appeal.

Make sure there are as few contingencies as possible, Golden says. It’s always best if buyers don’t have a home to sell in order to buy the one they’re bidding on, Stynes says.

Also have your financials in order from the very beginning. Loan qualification is more difficult these days, so it’s important to have a lender pre-approval letter, Carlisle says.

Assuming Cash Will Always Get You the Best Deal

Cash is king, but in the end, a seller often wants the most money for his home — regardless of whether the buyer needs a mortgage or not. So don’t think making an all-cash bid will automatically mean an accepted offer.

That said, if the seller is a bank because the property is a foreclosure, the institution may accept a lower offer from a cash buyer, as opposed to someone who needs a mortgage, Golden says. Banks often don’t want to deal with mortgage-related delays.

The Basics Of Making An Offer

The Purchase Agreement

What You Need To Know


How Much Should I Offer

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