September 4th, 2023 at 11:00 am

You have found the home of your dreams, and the only thing standing between you and your new life in that home is the price. Negotiating a house price that fits within your specific budget comes with plenty of difficulties and complications, and whether you’re a first-time buyer or a seasoned homeowner, the process can be plenty intimidating. Successfully navigate this process, though, and you’re on your way to enjoying the benefits of owning a home.

This gets even harder when you do it all on your own. Your first step should always be working with a real estate agent and proceeding from there. To get started, find a real estate office near you, interview with agent(s), and begin your home search. Read on to learn how to negotiate house price and how you can get the best deal for your dream home.

Pre-negotiation preparation: setting the stage for success

Success in home buying negotiation starts with thorough preparation. Follow these essential steps to adequately prepare:

1. Setting a budget: your foundation for negotiation

One of the most crucial aspects of negotiating a house price is understanding your financial boundaries. Establish your personal realistic budget and that will empower you to make informed decisions during the negotiation process. Consider your monthly expenses, existing debts, and future financial goals. Knowing your budget helps you narrow down your options and approach negotiations confidently.

2. Identifying needs and wants: crafting your wishlist

A successful negotiation is grounded in a clear understanding of your priorities. Create a wishlist that differentiates between your non-negotiable needs and your wants. This list will guide your decisions and prevent you from compromising on the essentials that really matter to you.

3. Researching the seller’s position: knowledge is power

Before entering negotiations, gather information about the seller’s motivations. Are they looking for a quick sale or aiming to maximize profit? Understanding their perspective allows you to tailor your negotiation strategy. Additionally, research the local real estate market and recent comparable sales to gauge the property’s fair market value.

How to negotiate house price: A step-by-step guide

Now that you’ve laid the foundation for your home buying process, let’s get into more details on the above steps and more as it pertains to the active negotiation process.

1. Work with an agent

As mentioned, we highly recommend working with an agent or REALTOR® as you navigate the buyers market, negotiate prices, and maybe even engage in a bidding war on a house. While it’s true that you can easily find home listings online, real estate agents today do a lot more than find homes to tour. They are experts in local housing markets, which means that they know the average property price in the area, the ways that the interest rates may fluctuate, and the property taxes. They can also help to identify the properties that are likely to grow in value.

Real estate agents are also a helpful third party for any prospective buyer. They can remove their emotions from the home buying process. This means that they can think more logically and won’t immediately fear losing the home if something goes awry.

While you should by all means state your needs and concerns, much of the actual negotiation and communication should be done through your agent. Real estate naturally comes with a lot of jargon that can be confusing and, more importantly, legally sensitive. Going through your agent not only ensures the proper phrasing of questions and requests but also prevents you from potentially saying something that puts you or your purchase offer in jeopardy. This ultimately protects you and contribute to a better price.

2. Understand your market

The level of potential negotiation correlates to the demand and interest in any given property and market. Not to mention, a great amount of negotiation skill is needed to stay relevant in a negotiation or bidding war. This is where how to negotiate house price is crucial and a real estate agent can become an important contributor. Obviously, a home that sees high demand will likely mean more offers from competitors, which leaves you less room to negotiate a price that works within your budget. A market that sees less interest means less competition, leaving you with a lot more opportunity to negotiate.

Real estate agents naturally have both buyers and sellers market information and can talk to the seller or the seller’s agent to determine the amount of interest or proposed offers. More offers might mean having to submit a high initial offer.

3. Understand the seller

This can be difficult to gauge, but it’s important to understand your seller’s motivation, as mentioned above. While some sellers might put their houses on the market just to dip their toes in the water and see what offers they get, the vast majority of sellers want to accomplish one thing: selling their home.

That said, not all sellers are the same. Some sellers can take their time and wait for the best offer, while others have to move for a job, already made an offer for a new home, or are otherwise dealing with a life event that requires a fast sale. Have your agents communicate to determine the reason the seller is moving or selling in the first place. The seller may not give you an answer (and it’s well within their right not to tell you), but it doesn’t hurt to ask. It can give you a better idea of how much the seller wants to be rid of their home, which can give you some leverage.

4. Always get an inspection and an appraisal

Inspections are a fairly standard component of buying and selling a home, and they can play a significant role in the final price. During an inspection, a professional inspector walks through the property, evaluating the appliances and structures. They can identify any current or future issues, including cracks in the foundation, HVAC problems, and potential landscaping dangers. Once the inspector is done, they will give you a copy of their report.

If the inspector finds any deal-breaker issues, you can potentially ask the seller for concessions. This can include asking the seller to fix the problem prior to the sale, giving you credit for closing costs, or lowering the overall price. If your offer includes an inspection contingency, you can even pull out of the sale after making an offer.

Along with an inspection, make sure you also get an appraisal. Appraisals and inspections are two entirely different things, though some home buyers do tend to talk about them interchangeably. An inspection involves a physical evaluation of the house and its structure to determine any potential issues you may run into if you moved in. An appraiser looks at the home to estimate its potential worth, but they won’t tell you about a leaky roof or creaky stairs.

5. Negotiate the closing costs

There are actually a few different payments that go into buying a home. At closing, you pay your down payment and closing costs. Closing costs are fees that go to your lender, essentially paying them back for servicing your loan. There are a few different components that even go into closing costs, including appraisal fees, credit check fees, and inspection costs. On average, closing costs are usually anywhere from 3 to 6 percent of the total loan value. That can add up, especially if your bid went higher than you had expected.

The good news is that you can actually ask for concessions from your seller to cover some or all of the closing costs. If your seller is eager to sell the home, they may actually agree to it, but if the home already has a lot of bidders, you may be better off not asking. You can also ask your lender to incorporate the closing costs into the final loan. Talk to your Southern California REALTOR® to determine the best way to go.

6. Get a preapproval letter

You need to get proof of funding before you can make an initial offer on the home. If you can’t prove that you can even get a mortgage, the seller is much more likely to ignore your offer.

This is where a preapproval letter comes into the picture. A preapproval letter comes from your mortgage lender. It essentially verifies the mortgage amount that you qualify for and shows the seller that you will be approved for the home. A preapproval letter is a good way to show that you are serious about buying the home and have the money ready to close on a deal.

Note that preapproval letters are different from prequalification letters. A prequalification is an estimate of your mortgage amount based on your general income level. 

Preapproval requires the mortgage lender to look at the following items to make an exact estimate of your final mortgage amount:

Many sellers in today’s market will actually require a preapproval letter, but even if they do not, a preapproval helps with the bidding process and can give you an extra edge when it comes to negotiating home price.

7. Consider your closing schedule

Closing dates can vary, but with most deals, it falls sometime between 30 and 90 days after the contract has been signed and the house enters escrow. A high number of contingencies on the offer letter, lengthy approval processes, and other elements can potentially make the closing schedule even longer.

This gets important if you need to move in within a certain timeframe or if the seller needs to move out by a certain date. However, if you do not have a set schedule or time constraints, it is worth mentioning to your seller. Some sellers might actually be looking for a longer closing period, or they might have a rent-back agreement. 

Ultimately, having a flexible schedule as a buyer takes some pressure off the seller, which may also make the seller more accommodating to other requests during the real estate negotiation portion of a deal.

Negotiation techniques: strategies for success

Negotiation is a delicate dance that requires finesse and strategy. Here are three powerful negotiation techniques to consider:

1. The anchoring technique: setting the starting point

Start negotiations with a well-calculated initial offer that is slightly lower than your ideal price. This approach anchors the discussion around your offer and sets the tone for further negotiations.

2. The mirroring strategy: building connection

Mirroring involves matching the seller’s communication style and body language. This technique can help establish rapport and foster a sense of understanding between you and the seller, making negotiations smoother and more collaborative.

3. The “win-win” approach: finding common ground

Strive for a “win-win” scenario where both you and the seller benefit. This approach involves seeking mutually advantageous solutions that address both parties’ needs. By showing flexibility and a cooperative attitude, you can create a positive negotiating environment.

Example in Action: Let’s say you’re interested in a property listed at $500,000. You initiate negotiations with an offer of $480,000, supported by comparable sales data. This anchors the conversation around a reasonable starting point.

As the seller expresses concerns about repair costs, you raise your offer to $485,000, mirroring their concern for the property’s condition. This establishes empathy and builds rapport.

Recognizing their urgency to relocate due to a job offer, you propose $490,000, emphasizing how a swift sale benefits both parties. This embodies the win-win approach, aligning their priorities with your offer.

Handling counteroffers: navigating the back-and-forth

Counteroffers are a natural part of the negotiation process. Here are tips for how to handle them effectively:

1. Objective assessment of counteroffers

Evaluate counteroffers objectively by comparing them to your budget and the property’s market value. If the counteroffer aligns with these factors, consider it thoughtfully.

2. Respectful response

Craft a respectful response that acknowledges the counteroffer. Reiterate your interest in the property and explain the rationale behind your initial offer. Maintain a collaborative tone to keep the negotiation process positive.

Knowing when to walk away: guarding your best interests

Recognizing when to walk away from a negotiation is a valuable skill. Here’s how to identify deal-breakers and unfavorable situations:

1. Identifying deal-breakers

Familiarize yourself with your deal-breakers before negotiations begin. If the terms of the deal compromise your essential needs or financial boundaries, it’s wise to step back.

2. Recognizing red flags

Stay alert for red flags that signal an unfavorable deal. Excessive resistance from the seller, unrealistic expectations, or unexpected changes in terms may indicate that it’s time to reevaluate.

Finalizing the deal: sealing the agreement

As negotiations progress, the time comes to finalize the deal. Here’s how to bring the negotiation to a successful conclusion:

1. Formalize the agreement

Collaborate with your real estate agent to formalize the agreed-upon terms in writing. Pay attention to all details and make sure you feel clear on all points – clarity is crucial to avoid any misunderstanding in the final stages.

2. Close the deal

Coordinate with legal professionals and mortgage providers to complete the necessary paperwork. Submitting all documents in a timely manner will help expedite the closing process.

Win the house of your dreams with California Properties

Knowing how to negotiate a home price can be hard for any prospective homebuyer. It’s not uncommon for sellers to stick with a price that is out of your range, in which case you do have to get used to walking away if you can’t come to an agreement. However, most sellers are willing to negotiate and accommodate to speed up the selling process. Start by working with a real estate agent to give yourself a leg up on your competition.


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