Real Estate Home Finance

10 Tips to Master the Art of Low-Ball Real Estate Offers

Buying a house is the single most expensive purchase most people will ever make, so it pays to know a few savvy negotiation tips before submitting an offer. An offer that’s more than 15% lower than the seller’s asking price is considered a low-ball offer—and if the seller accepts, the buyer stands to save thousands of dollars. If you’re in house-hunting mode, check out our tips on how to make a successful low-ball offer that both you and the seller can live with.
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Research Recent Sales

To get your low-ball offer accepted, you’ll have to show why the seller is asking too much. The best way to do this is to have a licensed real estate agent run the numbers on recently sold local homes of similar size style and compare those sales prices to the asking price of the home you want to buy. When you make your offer, include documentation that similar homes are selling for less.

Up the Earnest Amount

It’s common to offer earnest payments of $500 to $1,000 when making an offer on a house. An earnest payment assures the seller that you’ll go through with the deal—or the seller gets to keep the money if you back out. If you’re low-balling, you’ll stand a better chance of having your offer considered if you have a little more skin in the game, so up your earnest money to $5,000, or more.

Keep it Clean

If you’re low-balling the asking price, the rest of your offer should be free from complications, such as extra inspections or making the deal contingent on selling your current house. You’ll also want to include a letter of pre-approval from your lender that shows you’ve already been approved for financing. A clean contract that stands a good chance of closing quickly is a great motivator for the seller.

Related: 10 Things to Consider Before You Move to a New Neighborhood

Pay Cash

Real estate deals can take 30 to 90 days to close from the time the offer is made, because lenders require all sorts of financial reports (from the buyer) and inspections (on the house) to protect their interests. If you have the cash, you can avoid all of those potential pitfalls and close on the property in as little as a week or two. The seller is more likely to accept a low offer if you can close quickly.

Check the Listing Date

In a healthy housing market, a newly listed house might get an offer within a day or two. The first few weeks are the hottest time to sell a house, but if the house sits for a few months, buyers start to wonder if something is wrong with it. At this point, the seller may be ready to drop the price and may be likelier to consider a low-ball offer.

Respond to Counteroffers

If you make a low-ball offer, it’s highly likely the seller will come back with a counteroffer that’s higher. If you can’t accept that amount, go ahead and make another counteroffer that’s just a bit above your original offer. Some offers go back and forth half a dozen times or more before the buyer and seller agree on a price, but if you really want the house, hang in there and keep negotiating.

Related: The 12 Biggest Downsides to Buying New Construction

Don’t Take “No” From Your Agent

Your real estate agent may feel you’re making too low of an offer on a home and she might try to get you to raise your offer, but stand firm. The real estate agent is required to take any offer you make to the seller’s agent, whether or not she feels it’s a decent offer.

Don’t Worry About Insulting the Seller

Frequently, homebuyers offer more for a house than they believe it’s worth because they feel a low-ball offer will insult the sellers. In reality, most sellers are happy to get offers, even if those offers are low because it shows someone is interested in their house. They might not accept the offer, but you’ll never know unless you submit it.

Point Out Problems

A seller is more likely to consider a low-ball offer if you can show that the house has problems and how much they will cost to fix. For example, if the house needs a new roof, have a roofing contractor give you a rough estimate of the cost it will take to replace it, and then include the estimate when you make your offer.

Wait it Out

If the seller rejects your offer and isn’t interested in negotiating, but you’re sure the house isn’t worth the asking price, back off for a while. Overpriced homes don’t sell, and you can come back in a few months and resubmit your offer—when the buyer will be more likely to consider it.