Making an Offer and Negotiating Price

Okay, now you’re getting really close to the finish line. You’re probably exhausted after weeks of driving to open houses and repeatedly scrolling through every real estate app known to man.

But all that searching has finally paid off because you feel like you’ve found the one. This house checks all the right boxes: It fits within your budget, it’s in a great neighborhood, and it even has that white picket fence you’ve always dreamed about. It’s time to make an offer the seller can’t refuse!

Get the Price Right

A seasoned real estate agent has knowledge and experience in dealing with home prices and can put you ahead of the competition when it comes time to make an offer on your home. By working together with an agent, you can submit a solid offer that’ll grab the seller’s attention. 

Your agent can provide you with a comparative market analysis (CMA) on listings and sale prices for homes in the neighborhood where you’re planning to buy. If comparable homes are selling for 5% less than their listing prices, you can reasonably offer 8–10% less than the listing price and leave yourself room to negotiate.

Your agent will guide you through this part, but make sure you listen to their advice. If the market is slow, you could get a deal by making a low offer. But if it’s a seller’s market, other hungry buyers could quickly outbid you. And that’s exactly why you should work with a professional agent.

Submit the Offer

Once you’ve settled on a price, your agent will help you fill out a sales and purchase agreement. It’s basically a legal document that includes all the terms and conditions of the deal, along with important details like:

  • Buyer and seller information

  • Address of the property

  • Closing date

  • Purchase price, lender information and down payment amount

  • Earnest money deposit amount (which can be used toward your down payment or closing costs)

  • Items to be left with the home (like appliances or furniture)

  • Contingencies (like home inspection, appraisal and final mortgage approval)

Once that’s complete, you’ll send the form over to the seller. Remember: Your offer is a legally binding contract. That’s another reason to work with an experienced pro who can make sure to dot the i’s and cross the t’s correctly. A mistake in this document could cost you big time!

Agreeing on terms can sometimes be quick and painless, but it can also be one of the most difficult parts of the process. If you end up in a bidding war with other buyers, don’t panic. Keep a cool head and put your best foot forward. Being preapproved with your lender and having a flexible closing date can give you a leg up on the competition.

Negotiate for the Best Deal

It would be awesome to turn in an offer, have the seller accept it word for word, then live happily ever after. Unfortunately, that rarely happens. The reality is sellers usually come back with a counteroffer that changes or adds to the terms of your offer. And that means it’s time to negotiate!

This is when working with a real estate agent really pays off. Your agent will help you understand how the counteroffer affects you and, if necessary, help you develop a counteroffer of your own.

If you play your cards right, negotiating the purchase contract can save you thousands of dollars not only on the price of the home, but also in valuable amenities (like a refrigerator or oven). That sounds like a fairy-tale ending to us!

When You Get a Counteroffer

No matter what you’re negotiating for, you always want to start from a position of strength. You’ll have the high ground in home-buying negotiations if you:

  • Are a cash buyer

  • Have been preapproved (not just prequalified) for a mortgage

  • Don’t have to sell your current house before you buy

If your negotiations get intense, remind yourself that both parties want the same thing: The seller wants to sell their home, and you want to buy it. Sometimes it pays to compromise on small details to keep moving forward, and a good real estate agent can give you advice about when to give in and when to stand firm.

Understand Walk-Away Power

You know how they say predators can sense fear in their prey? In the same way, a seller can sense if you’re desperate to buy their house—and they’ll often take advantage of it.

That’s why you always need to be prepared to walk away from a deal. Until both sides sign an agreement, either party can reject the offer and end all negotiations. Sometimes it’s just a bluff, but other times it’s best to walk away and live to buy another day—without regrets!

Unfortunately, some sketchy real estate people will wait until you sit down to sign the closing papers before they try to change a deal on you. Why? Because they know you’re emotionally committed to the home and probably won’t back out at that point. The sad part is they’re usually right. It’s dangerous to get too attached to a house before you sign on the dotted line.

Give and Take

Here’s a little home-buying secret: There’s much more to negotiating than simply wrestling over the price. As a buyer, you can negotiate anything. All you have to do is ask! Sellers are often eager to make their deal as attractive to buyers as possible, so you might be surprised at what they’ll agree to.

In exchange for paying their full asking price, maybe you can ask the seller to throw in a washer and dryer. Do you see something that needs to be fixed or replaced? Push for them to pay for repairs. Everything from a new paint job to furniture is fair game. Use your imagination!

You might have to pay a slightly higher price than you originally planned, but you can get something of value in return too. Just remember not to get too hung up on minor details (like paint colors and carpeting) during the overall home-buying process.