I would rather you pay 2% ABOVE list on an underpriced home than get a place for 10% off that is overpriced by 20%.
Also you have to ask if you are talking about Original Price or the currently lowered price. Also did they fudge the MLS and relist the property? If you have an agent, make sure they check previous listings.
Also check out the listing agent's background with a FranklyCRA (tm) and see what % below list the agent has taken. That sometimes can be a huge indication of a coming price drop.
Also, note that for the last year or more this figure has stayed pretty steady - that is, for quite a while now homes are selling at about 92-95% of what they list for.
You also have to factor in the sellers motivation which you won't be able to find out on your own. Hopefully you have a buyers agent working for you. The only way to protect your interest is to be represented. Good luck and if you need any further assistance let me know.
There are many factors to consider when making an offer. This % is one of the more unreliable ones. More importantly are: What IS the price compared to the comparable properties? How long had THIS home been on the market? What is the condition on the property?
It is also important to note; that the sold price vs. last year ('06), for Dec and Nov, was +1.05% and +6.22%, respectively. Home values are going up in some areas.
If you do not have a Buyer's Agent as of yet; I would be happy to help you with any more detailed questions about the area or specific properties.
On the other side of the coin is the question of the value of the particular house you are dealing with. What are the comparable sales in the area and what do they say about the value of this particular house. The valuation information is what you actually take to the sellers to argue for the price you are offering. It is the hard information that can show sellers the reality of the situation with their house.
Doing your homework well before going into negotiations can be the difference between getting a house or not, or it can be the difference between getting a fair deal and overpaying. Don't settle for just an average percent off list. Know the specific situation you are dealing with.
Many areas in Virginia are not suffering like areas of Florida, California, and Arizona. In Chesapeake Virginia, houses in the $325,000 - $475,000 price range are selling in as little as 2-10 days when priced correctly.
If you have not yet done so, contact a Realtor in the Alexandria area either by a referral or Google search. Or perhaps an agent from that immediate area will see your post and respond.
But there is no "acceptable average" that one would offer below list price. A Realtor will be able to tell you if the house is priced correctly, and whether there is room for negotiations.
Frank Biganski, Realtor ABR