Matt made some very good points, and I would just like to add a few side notes.
The list price, or asking price, is what the seller would like to get for their property. It doesn't mean that is what they will actually receive. The tax appraisal value, will not be the best indicator of market value. What has recently sold in the neighborhood would be your best indicator of market value.
Like Matt said, there are many variables to consider in making sure you get the best deal. Joel take some time to talk one-on-one with an agent (preferably not the agent representing the seller). Choose to be represented, it doesn't cost you anything, but it can save you from making some expensive mistakes.
Not only will you have a greater chance at getting the property at the best possible price, but you will walk away an educated buyer (in my opinion...priceless).
All the best,
Realtor / Relocation Specialist
If you're speaking about tax appraisal values then it really is like comparing apples and oranges. Because Texas is a non-disclosure state (where we don't make final sales prices of homes public information) tax districts are no basing their "appraisal" on fair market value. In fact, many people find that their homes are undervalues or overvalued by the appraisal district. Even two identical homes on the same street can have widely varied tax appraisal values.
If you're speaking about a true appraisal done by a certified appraiser in the state of Texas, then you have a different problem on hand. If the appraiser reports the value is x, which is $26K lower than the list price, it could be possible that the home is overpriced. Appraisers take in a multitude of factors when looking at a home's appraised value and can often vary amongst themselves as well.
Your best bet is to ask your agent what their thoughts are. Because they work in your local area, they can help show you why a home is or isn't worth the asking price. If you're not working with an agent, you should interview a few and enter into a buyer's representation agreement with them. Representation will get you the full advice and opinion of your agent as well as offer you many protections in the process of the transaction. Best of all, it's typically free to the buyer as in most cases the seller pays the agents' commissions.
As for whether it's possible to make an "in between" offer - well the truth is there are no rules to offer making. You can offer what ever you want. It doesn't mean it will be accepted. When we look at a home for a client we take in many variables - price, comparable sales, buyer's desire for the home, seller's motivation for the sale, days of market, price changes, inspections, etc. It's not just a simple cut and dry - let's offer x-y style price.
Hope that helps!
Matt Stigliano, RealtorÂ®
"Your all access pass to San Antonio real estate."