Buyers who learn how to negotiate house prices lay the foundation for a mutually acceptable deal. Whether you’re a first-time homebuyer or not, these strategies to negotiate home prices may help you score a property at the price that works best for you.
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Why You Should Negotiate House Prices
While negotiating the price of a home as a buyer can seem intimidating, the benefits often outweigh the fear. For starters, negotiating lets the seller know you’re serious about the home. And if the asking price is over what you feel comfortable with, negotiating can help you see if there is any wiggle room.
A successful negotiation gives you the opportunity to create a concise offer that you’re happy with and that helps you stay within your budget. It feels great to get the house you want without putting yourself in a stressful financial situation.
Things to Know Before Negotiating Home Prices
Know Your Market
The market will dictate how much leverage you have to negotiate a home price. So start by determining whether it’s a hot seller’s market or a buyer’s market.
The power is typically in your hands if the number of homes for sale exceeds the number of willing buyers. Markets can vary from city to city and neighborhood to neighborhood. So check with your real estate professional to be certain what type of market you’re working with.
Know the Value of an Agent
Can you buy a house without a real estate agent? Sure, but it’s not a decision to make lightly.
Besides the fact that real estate agents know what’s reasonable for the current market conditions, they have valuable experience that can help you navigate offers and counteroffers. And because they aren’t emotionally attached to the outcome, they are better set up to get the best deal without making excessive concessions.
But you don’t want to work with just any agent. You want to work with someone who is a buying and selling expert, has connections with other agents in the area, and is knowledgeable about the community you’re interested in.
Got your eye on a house for sale by owner? You can find a real estate agent or go it alone.
Recommended: Finding a Good Real Estate Agent When Buying a House
First-time homebuyers can
prequalify for a SoFi mortgage loan,
with as little as 3% down.
How Much Can You Negotiate on Average?
One of the best ways to get an idea of how much you can negotiate is to research the prices of “comps,” recently sold homes in your target area that are similar to the property you’re trying to buy.
A real estate agent will have access to market trends. But you can obtain the information yourself on sites like Zillow, Realtor.com, Redfin, and Trulia. If you’re moving from out of state, this guide to the cost of living by state can give you a sense of what housing expenses to expect. In a large state such as California, it’s helpful to consider the cost-of-living breakdown for individual cities.
Zillow also lists how long for-sale properties have been on the market, which can give you some insight into how negotiable a list price may be.
Unless you’re in a hot seller’s market, you may be able to offer 10% under the asking price and even ask the seller to pay closing costs or certain other concessions.
How to Negotiate a House Price as a Buyer
Once you have a sense of the market and an agent to help you negotiate, the next step is to get your finances in order so you’ll be in a strong position to negotiate. Sellers are apt to be most enthusiastic about buyers who have been preapproved, as opposed to prequalified, for a mortgage.
While both involve a lender taking a peek at your financial information, such as income, credit history, debts, and assets, preapproval involves an in-depth application and verification process. It’s a great way to send your offer to the front of the pile.
If you already own a home, selling it ahead of time could also put you in a better position to negotiate: It means you won’t have to wait until your home is sold to go forward with the buying process.
This “chain-free” approach requires careful timing and possibly setting up a temporary living space. While it’s not feasible for everyone, it is an option to keep in mind if you’re hoping to increase your odds of success in a competitive market.
Recommended: How Long Does a Mortgage Preapproval Last?
Now it’s time to make a smart offer.
Tips on Negotiating House Prices
Keep Your Cool
From the first time you walk through the home, it’s a good idea not to show all your cards by appearing overeager, even if you’re totally in love with the place. If you come across as desperate for the house, sellers may feel they can expect a higher offer from you.
Don’t be afraid to point out any drawbacks that give you pause, and give yourself time to shop around before you get serious about putting money on the table.
Get an Inspection
Found a property you love? While your mortgage lender might not require a home inspection — and while forgoing one may make your offer more appealing to the seller — it’s probably in your best interests to have one.
Without a home inspection, the only information you have about the house comes from what the seller is able (or willing) to disclose and what you observe during your tour. Home inspections can reveal hidden issues like cracks in the foundation or plumbing problems.
Along with helping you plan for unforeseen repair costs ahead of time, the inspection can also give you leverage to ask the sellers to knock down their price a bit, offer you a credit for closing costs, or fix the problem themselves. Your real estate agent can help you decide how to negotiate the house price after the inspection.
Put Your Offer in Writing
Many experts recommend putting your offer in writing and adding as much detail as possible. That way you avoid any disagreements on what was said and can negotiate on factors beyond price.
When competing against multiple offers on a house, buyers may waive one or all contingencies to sweeten their offer. Contingencies are simply conditions that must be met in order to close the deal.
An appraisal contingency can be an opportunity to negotiate the home price or back out if the property does not appraise at the price in the purchase contract.
A clear title contingency also gives the buyer a way out if liens or disputes are associated with the property.
And it can’t hurt to ask for help with closing costs.
Plead Your Case
In a competitive market, you might also consider adding a personalized letter to your offer. It might sound cheesy, but selling a home can be just as emotionally fraught as buying one. Describing why you love the house or how you imagine your family growing with the property can help your offer stand out from others, even if you aren’t the highest bidder.
Avoid offending a seller with a lowball offer, particularly if you’re negotiating in a seller’s market or purchasing a beloved property that’s been in the family for years. If you do decide to bid around 20 percent under the asking price, make sure you’re willing to walk away.
When it comes time to make an offer, consider not only the list price but closing costs and any repair or renovation expenses.
Knowing When to Walk Away From an Offer
Although you’ll generally hear back on (realistic) offers within a few business days, sellers aren’t legally obligated to respond to your offer at all. Including an expiration date in your offer will give you a firm calendar date on which you’ll know for a fact you didn’t get the home, which means you’ll be able to redirect your efforts.
Purchasing a home can take a long time. There’s no reason to waste your energy when it’s a moot point.
A seller who responds to your offer but who isn’t inclined to move on the price of the house might be willing to instead make repairs that are needed and that are identified during the inspection of the property. And consider asking the seller to throw in items like furniture or play equipment that they might be planning to take with them. If they decline and you still don’t feel good about the price, it’s time to walk away.
Negotiation goes on in love and war, in a salary decision, with parents and toddlers, and in real estate. If you’re a buyer, the more you know about negotiating home prices, the better.
As important as it is to shop around for the right home — and negotiate for the right price — it’s also important to find the right home mortgage loan. SoFi offers competitive fixed-rate mortgage loans, and qualified buyers can put down as little as 3%.
How do you politely ask for a lower price?
Rely on your real estate agent to help you determine a good offer price. Then consider writing a personal letter to accompany the offer, addressing the seller by name if possible and conveying, in a friendly tone, a sincere message about what you like about the house or how you can imagine your family living there.
How much can you negotiate when buying a house?
How much you can negotiate depends on how “hot” the market is. In a competitive seller’s market you may not be able to negotiate at all. Rely on your real estate agent to guide you. A property that has been on the market for a long time may provide more opportunity for negotiation.
What is not a smart way to negotiate when buying a home?
Avoid making a very low initial offer — you risk offending the seller. And don’t criticize the seller’s taste by, say, pointing out that the kitchen decor isn’t to your liking. Finally, if you are preapproved for a mortgage that is greater than your offer price, don’t tip your hand; instead, ask your lender to tailor the preapproval letter to the amount you are offering.
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