Get with a REALTOR (buyers agent) if you have not already done so. They can pull comparable property values in the area and give you a recent view of what has actually SOLD, not what asking prices are. That should give you a realistic picture on what specific properties are worth and remember it's tied so many vaiables that you need someone who knows the local market. In the end, a property is only worth what a buyer is willing to pay. In our market people are offering about 5-10% below asking on houses $350,000 and less but those homes are actually selling from 5-3% of asking or full price in certain areas. The higher priced homes are the ones people are taking to task on pricing.
In mosts cases if it is not a truly insulting offer the seller will counter to get the offer in a place they will actually accept. The longer a property is on the market the more reasonable a seller becomes if they actually HAVE to sell. If they don't they might take it off the market until there is a better time for them to sell. If it's NEW construction, they builder wants to sell as quickly as possible so make sure you're ready to leap and close quickly...this will make your lower price more inviting if they don't have to make another payment or two before you close.
Trisha Lee REMAX Boone Realty, Columbia MO
The best answer is to find an agent in your area that can pull data on current listing price vs selling price as it can vary from region to region/city to city. Ask a couple of agents in your area to provide you with the data, either through Trulia or a simple email. All the statistics should be relatively close, which will give you a good estimate on what to offer.
More importantly, though, you'll also want to verify the property is PRICED CORRECTLY. In many areas, especially here in Phoenix, there are properties that deserve an offer tens of thousands of dollars less than they are on the market for as they are priced well over "market value." If the property you are looking at is near the current market trend based on home sales within the past couple of months (especially if you are in a market where values are declining) then make an offer just below the market trend as prices are likely to continue to decline in your area. If prices are stable, then make an offer much nearer the listing price.
One of the most important things to consider in all of this is YOU - if you give a low offer and someone else comes in 1-2 thousand above you and trumps you and gets the house, how much will you kick yourself? Is this truly the right home for you and your family? Do you intend to be in it for several years? Is it a home that will continue to appreciate or where you will be able to go in and do a few things and get some sweat equity fairly quickly? All of those play a part in what the home is worth to you. In St Louis Hills the market is steady. I constantly see buyers who want THAT area and are willing to pay a premium to get it. And as Eva pointed out, in St Louis, our sellers are still getting close to their asking price in that part of the city and if it's a nice home how much longer is it going to be available .