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Home buying negotiation tips

Published: Oct 14, 2009

You've found the home of your dreams, now it's time to negotiate with the seller to make it yours. Follow these tips to negotiate the best price you can without upsetting the seller and ruining the deal.

  1. Don't lowball

    Start off negotiations by offering a fair price to the seller. You can offer a price that's lower than the asking price; just don't offer one that's too far off-base from the home's fair market price. If you start off with a severely low-ball offer, you'll negatively taint the negotiations from the get-go, and may even prompt the seller to reject your offer outright.

  2. Be informed

    Know as much about your local market as you can, such as the selling price of homes comparable to the one you hope to purchase -- before entering into the negotiation process. Seek out the advice of your real estate agent (she or he has most likely been through the negotiation process multiple times) and get advice from family and friends who've recently purchased a home.

  3. Get to know the seller

    Try to find out as much as you can about the home seller's situation. Is the seller in a hurry to move, say because of a job transfer or a divorce? If so, he or she may be willing to offer a lower price to make a sale happen. Or, has the seller owned the home for quite some time and seen substantial appreciation in the home? In that case, the seller may be more willing to negotiate on price (versus a seller who's purchased recently and may not have seen much appreciation in the home's value).

  4. Establish a connection

    This may sound silly, but if the seller can see you as a person -- not as some dollar-signs attached to an offer, you may be able to get a better deal. Write a letter to the seller, telling him or her how much you like the home and why it's the perfect one for you. You may want to add why it's a perfect one for your children to grow up in -- don't be afraid to tug a few heartstrings!

  5. But..don't reveal too much

    While it may help to establish a personal connection with the seller, you don't want to let the seller know too much, either. Try not to tell the homeowner exactly how much you love the home -- it may come to hurt you during the negotiation process. If the seller were to know, for example, that the house is the perfect one for you and you'd be willing to do almost anything to get it, this will give him or her the upper hand. Try to keep a "poker face" as much as you can during the negotiation.

  6. Prioritize

    Decide what's most important to you during the negotiation. Is it getting the absolutely lowest price or getting the seller to make needed fixes to the home? If you decide what's most important to you, you can smooth the way during the negotiation process by compromising with the seller on some points while holding out for the ones that matter most.

  7. Get it in writing

    Don't assume that items like the washer and dryer are included with the house. Negotiate what will be included in the sale -- e.g., the refrigerator, the dishwasher, etc., and make sure that those items are written in your contract.

  8. Snap some pics

    While you'll want to get what you've negotiated into writing, you may want to get it in photos, too. Take some pictures of items that you've negotiated to remain in the home and include them with the contract. That way, there's no way to debate, for example, just which custom window treatments are supposed to stay in the home.

  9. Ask for more

    It's a good idea to ask for more than you want during the negotiation process. Don't ask for the sky, but you might want to request more concessions than you need -- say, also asking to keep the dining room chandelier when you really only want the roof repaired. That way, you can "give in" to the seller on items like the chandelier, but get items that really matter -- like moving into a house where the roof won't leak.

  10. Keep your cool

    Negotiations proceed best when both parties are reasonable and don't let their feelings get in the way. When negotiating the purchase of your new home, try not to let your emotions take control. The worst atmosphere for negotiations is an adversarial one, where the buyer and seller are at odds with each other and refuse to compromise. Listen to the seller and try to understand where they are coming from.

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