It can't hurt to try. But I would only pay what current units just sold for, maybe slightly less given current market conditions. And don't forget to take $15,000+/- off for the commission that the seller is not paying. Forget about what they paid, it's irrelevant. The current sales/listings are all that matter. That's where your "final price" needs to be.
Now, you say you wouldn't pay more than $270,000. You don't say whether that's based on the comps (in which case that's your ceiling), whether that's based on what you can afford (in which case, that, too, is your ceiling), or just a gut reaction (which isn't as relevant here). But let's say $270,000 is the absolute ceiling either because of comps or what you can pay.
There's a tendency in the United States to "split the difference." A bad way of negotiating, but widely accepted. So, if you put in an offer at $250,000 and the seller wants to "split the difference," you'll end up around $280,000. And that's higher than your maximum. (Doesn't always work that way, but it does surprisingly often.) So, to answer your specific question, an offer of $250,000 might not be too low. Instead, it might be too high.
Would it be a "slap in the face" to the seller? Who cares? It's important only if you love the unit and absolutely want to keep negotiations going with the seller. If you've got a price, then negotiate in order to get your price.
Now, some very good agents here will have another strategy: Make an offer, back it up with as must documentation and justification as you can, and make it clear that your offer is your "best and final" one. A "take it or leave it" offer, but supported by enough data to fully justify the offer. And that strategy is definitely something you should consider. I prefer the first approach, but more agents will go for the second.
In either case, though, don't worry about insulting a seller. It's your purchase; it's your money; it's your home; it's your finances.
Hope that helps.
As a Realtor, I encourage buyers to write offers for amounts that represent their assessment of value and for the amount they are willing to pay. You never know what a seller will do with a written offer presented. If the seller declines to counter.....move on. But, you won't know if you don't write the offer.
You should start by first having your agent run the comps of the 2 bed/2.5 bath townhouses that recently sold in that complex (deducting 1/2 % per month of the sales price from the under contract date) so you'll know what it's actually worth in today's market. Irregardless of what the seller initially paid for it, they have earned and gained value in their home's equity and thus are entitled to it when they sell.
You are free to offer whatever price you would like but if the comps support your offer price - it'll definitely be in your favor and put you in a better position for negotations. For starters, get yourself a buyer's agent and they should guide you from there.
Prudential NJ Properties
973-228-1000 ext 132
I couldn't figure out if there's a way to e-mail you directly. Anyway the MLS is 813721. It's on realtor.com. The link is http://www.realtor.com/search/listingdetail.aspx?zp=08854&am
I went to visit the place this past Sunday and was not too impressed, which is why I will not be putting a bid in on the property.
For future properties, I will be sure to get a report of what similar properties in the same area have sold for with similar specs...
By the way, my friend just made an offer of that townhouse at $270,000, but he did not get it; he may get it for $285k or $290k. He really like Piscataway because he said now the Rt 18 took off all the traffic light, when the highway all complete by end of 2008, Piscataway will be even more desirable... How do you think?
It also has one of the most professional management companies in the area ... http://www.societyhillpiscataway.com/