When buying a home, you are probably going to have a real estate agent helping you and giving you pointers on negotiating a price. However, it’s still your money on the line, and that means you should take an active role in getting the best deal.
Time it right
If you wait until you absolutely NEED to find a home to start looking, your bargaining power goes out the window. By starting the process well in advance, you create far more leverage since you have the ability to walk away from any bad deals.
If your initial offer is extremely low the seller can become offended and refuse to even deal with you. Unless the asking price is just obscenely high, try to keep your initial offer at not more than 30% below that mark. In most cases 10-20% is going to be more appropriate.
Understand the market
By really knowing the comps—prices for similar houses in the area—you give yourself a leg up. Sometimes sellers aren’t realistic in their price. If you can reference real numbers for what nearby houses have gone for, you stand a greater chance of helping the homeowner see reality. Websites Zillow and Trulia are great sources for information on comps.
Gather and protect information
There’s a basketball drill in which two players, each dribbling a ball, try to steal the ball the other is dribbling while safeguarding their own ball. You can think of the information in a real estate deal in a similar way. Try to get as much information about why the seller is looking to unload the house. Are they leaving town in a week? Was their some facet of the home they weren’t satisfied with? Ask your real estate agent to try to find out some of these details since key information like this can help in your haggling. Also keep under wraps information about you the sellers could use to their advantage. Don’t mention that huge inheritance you just landed, or that your maximum price is actually above what they are offering.
In some cases you are going to run across a seller who just isn’t willing to budge on their price. That doesn’t mean there aren’t other ways to have the pot sweetened. Ask the seller to leave the appliances or to cover your closing costs, home repairs or other expenses.
Don’t get too attached
As the old saying goes, sometimes the best deal is the one you don’t make. Being prepared to walk away from a negotiation gives you a great deal of leverage. Conversely, “falling in love” with a house puts you in danger of overpaying.
Include expiration dates with offers
If you are dealing with a seller who isn’t in a particular rush, or is indecisive, let them know that you are serious but that you aren’t going to wait around forever for them to respond to you. The time limit can even be as short as 24 hours.
Offer a quick process too
Often, sellers are willing to accept a price that is a bit lower if they feel confident the deal will close quickly. Getting pre-approved, eliminating any mortgage contingencies and putting down a sizeable amount of earnest money are all ways of letting the seller know you are serious about getting a deal done without any delays.
Having a negotiation plan and sticking to it can eliminate a lot of the stress of the home buying process. Work closely with your lender to establish a plan and see it through.