Thank you for the question.
I dont know if it is too late to give you advice on this sort of thing but this is typically how you decide what price you should be offering:
Zillow makes whats called a Zestimate, and it is exactly what it sounds like, it is an estimate. Look at the price RANGE right below the zestimate to see how confident they are on their value of that particular home. If the price range exceed $80,000, they are not as confident on the price, and from my experience, although they are close, their Zestimate is merely a conversation starter.
Look into current market conditions: How many homes are on the market in that area, what supply of inventory do they have, what is the historical norm in that specific area in terms of pricing, etc.
Look into comps. Pending sales, Sold homes within the last 4-6 months, and active homes. Decide which particular homes to use to compare with your subject property.
Are there currently any other offers on the table? If there are, welcome to the world of bidding wars! Good luck paying what you hoped to pay! Bidding wars usually result in purchase over asking price. Ive seen it as high as 5% over.
Look into the seller: How much did they pay for the home and when did they buy it? Did they buy when the market was bad and paid too much? Are they just trying to break even? Are they looking for easy and quick profit? How much do they still ow on their mortgage? Etc.
Look at seller motivation: Ask your agent to try and get some more info on the seller. How motivated are they to sell? If it is high motivation, they can usually negotiate with you. Keep in mind however, it is a sellers market out there currently so they have more room to call the shots (To some extent)
When you write an offer, try to get the best deal possible. Have your agent maybe write up a cover letter, present the offer in person, include something personal to the seller to flatter them in the letter you submit, bring up all the comps, etc.
You should be in good shape.
best case, they accept it...worst case, they say no. probable case...they counter and 440k.
and yeah, paying 435k or 445k doesn't make much of a different. but psychology plays a huge role in negotiations and i've seen multimillion dollar home deals fall through over thousands of dollars here and there with neither side willing to budge. sometimes the agent steps in to cover the difference but sometimes not...
i once bought a $90k car and walked away from the deal from one dealership over $150. it wasn't the money but it was simply because they lied and left a bad taste in my mouth...they said one price over email and phone and when i got there, it was $150 higher in hidden fees. the competitor also had the same price so i went over there.
for a large purchase such as a house, usually the buyer and seller needs to feel good about it for the deal to go through.
I understand the excitement and anxiety you feel as you found out THE HOUSE is back on the market. Yet, you still have to realize your purchase plan step-by-step.
First, ARE YOU PRE-APPROVED? How do you know you can afford 445?
Second, DID YOU SEE THE HOUSE? Purchasing a house is not like buying a camera on eBay or Amazon. You HAVE TO see it yourself. You have to walk around the house and feel the vibe of the neighborhood.
Third, DO YOU KNOW WHAT IS THE SITUATION OF THE HOUSE? I see that you need help with the fair market price and you know very well that a good Realtor will not tell you a value till she sees it and does research herself. But more comes into the play is the offer negotiation!! What can you negotiation with? What is the situation with the seller? All these things you have to know before you make a decision on the offer price. Don't go with Zestimate or Tax assessment value!! If that is so easy to figure the fair market value, there is no need for appraisal!!
In other words, find an agent to work with you!! I know you are excited, but home purchase is not a small commitment. If you don't have an agent already, read my blog to see how to find an trust-worthy real estate agent for your best interest:
I think in todays market its critical to learn your market. Know which are the best buys in the price range and area you are searching. I have taught a process that will assure you know your market to over 25,000 home buyers in the Seattle area. You will find it outlined at Your-Road-Home.com.
Properties are moving so fast many people are over paying in the heat of competition. Gather up as much information as you can before you buy and be sure to have an inspection. And if you are a first time home buyer the MCC Tax Credit is amazing.
Trulia is also a good source of information and when you are ready you will find Seattle agents and loan officers offering their services on Trulia
Best of Luck, stephen webber