If your house has been on the market for quite a while (3 to 6 months), you may have already dropped your price and now you’re waiting for the buyers to rush in and make wonderful offers on this now-priced right property. And then it happens.
The lone buyer does appear, like a bandit in the night and offers you even less than what you just agreed to. Quite a bit less — about 10 percent less. So on your $350,000 house, that you just dropped to $324,000, you now have an offer for $299,000. With a seller subsidy request of $5,000. At this point, your net is $294,000.
So how do you handle such a low-ball offer. Well, first of all — don’t panic, get angry or lose sleep. Especially, don’t reject the offer right off the bat and tell them to come back when they’re serious. Remember, it’s now a negotiation game and the buyer IS serious or he or she would not have made an offer.
Several things have happened before this offer came in. The buyer, with his agent, has researched the market, walked through as many as 30 or 50 properties, conducted a study on the value of the property and written an offer for your house. Remember, you just won the lottery. They could have written on any other house, but they selected yours. So let’s get busy.
First of all, do an analysis of your own goals and needs. How much do you really need to come out of this house to meet your goals of moving to your next home? What could you really live with and what amount are you going to counter. Remember this last point — what are you going to counter? This is assuming that you’re not rolling over and that you’re going to stay in the game.
Next, conduct a comparative market analysis of the house once again. What’s happened in the market to get this buyer to offer such an offer (notice I didn’t say ‘low’). It might be that your house is now worth that amount. And if it is — that’s okay, because it probably means the house you wanted to buy up into is also worth less. At the worse, you’re going to take away less money. The best thing to look at, however, is that now you’re going to buy up with a smaller down payment because the buy-up property is also less.
Now, let’s start the negotiation. Keep in mind, this is for the long haul. Keep it alive as long as the buyer will keep it alive. Give up a little bit at a time. If you reduced the house to $324,000, expecting an offer of $319,999 with closing costs of $10,000 — then start there. You’re already willing to accept a net of $309,999, so you’re not really that far off. Understand you’re not going to get top dollar with no seller subsidy. So come down to $320,000 and give them their closing costs. So now, your net has come up to $315,000.
Hey — you’re actually ahead of the game if they accept. Oops — they don’t. Now they’ve countered to $309,000 and still want the $5,000 in closing. (Now our net’s at $304,000). Great. Just think. When you started, you were $324,000 apart (remember, you had NO offer at all). Now, you’re only $5,999 away from the net you were willing to accept in the first place.
We’re almost there. Now, before I go much further, here’s a negotiation tip — keep this civil. Use a lot of complements about the offer, the buyers and the agent. “What a great offer. Thanks so much for writing. We are very excited about selling this house to you.”
You want the buyer agent and his/her clients to know you’re wanting to work with them. You’ve been waiting six months for this day (negotiation day) and you want to keep everyone engaged in the process to get your goals met — sold and on your way to your new home in the country.
Now offer your final counter (or maybe next to final). You definitely want to use the complements at this point: “We are so close.” “I can’t wait till we wrap this up, then we can all celebrate.”
At this point, you know the buyers want to buy and your sellers are ready to start packing, so emphasize that you’re very close. Use a dialogue like this: “We are so close. We have some goals to meet, just like you do. And I hope we can bring this together to get us both where we want to be.”
This is when you make the final offer and stick with it. If you offer $314,000, they definitely get what they need and you get closer to your final net — which at this point would be $309,000 — just $999 off of your initial goal. Then you know if it goes forward or you’re back on the market. However, don’t be so stubborn that you lose the lone buyer because of $2,000 or so.
If the buyer is stretching and this won’t work, this is when the honesty comes out. The agent may tell you, If we can’t do $309,000, it’s just not going to work. It goes too far beyond their qualification.” Then you can decide whether to keep it on the market (hoping you don’t have to drop the price again), or you cut the loss and move forward with settlement.
Be patient with the process. Don’t get upset, remember, they’re trying to meet goals just like you are. By working together, both can get what they want.
Written by M. Anthony Carr