In our American culture, price negotiations aren’t something the average consumer deals with on a daily basis. When you walk in to Walmart to purchase an item, the price listed is the price you pay. If you think it’s too high, you don’t buy the item. The same goes with food at a restaurant or the price of a life insurance policy. The only leverage most consumers have is the ability to shop around for a better deal.
There are, however, exceptions. Buying a car is one of them (though many dealers are now adopting CarMax’s silly no-haggle business model). The other? Purchasing a house.
When buying a house, nearly everything can be haggled over. Which items and terms are worth negotiating over?
7 Things Homebuyers Should Consider Negotiating
As a buyer, you always have bargaining power – even in a white-hot seller’s market like the one we’re currently in. Here are some of the things that you can negotiate for:
The property’s selling price is the first and most obvious point of negotiation. But in a seller’s market, you have to be careful about how you approach the situation.
In most of today’s markets, you’ll find aggressive sellers. Some of them will throw out crazy numbers just to see if anyone will bite. Others will price fairly and they’ll be under contract within 24 hours. It’s up to you to determine what a property is worth.
Your agent should be able to run some price per square foot computations on your behalf, but remember that these are just rough estimates. You have to take upgrades and features into account, too. If the price seems fair and you believe there will be lots of competition, consider submitting a full-price offer (or even something above asking price). This increases your chances of going under contract without a bunch of competition.
Contingencies are the next big point of negotiation. These are also built into the original offer. Common contingencies include:
- Sale of current home
- Home inspection
- Mortgage financing
- Home appraisal
- Clear title
You can make a home purchase offer more attractive to the seller by limiting the number of contingencies you include. However, be careful not to expose yourself to unwarranted risk. Consider, for example, what would happen if you didn’t write in a contingency on the sale of your home and got stuck with two mortgages for six months. Could you handle it?
If you’re a cash buyer, you have a lot more flexibility in what contingencies you want to include. If you’re taking a traditional bank loan, your mortgage lender will require certain contingencies – like an appraisal.
The closing date is something that’s included in an offer, but it can also be renegotiated later on. If you’re flexible, you can always ask the seller what they’d prefer.
If a seller is already under contract for another house and knows the exact date that they’ll be moving in, you can offer to put your closing directly before theirs to make it a quick and easy transition.
There are certain repairs that a homeowner has to fix (when they show up on an inspection report). This includes problems with the foundation, leaks in the roof, or major issues with electrical or plumbing. The rest are optional.
Repairs tend to be the most highly contested category of negotiations in a home sale. After going under contract to buy a house, you’ll have a period of time – typically 10-14 days – to have the property inspected and come up with any requests for repairs. The seller can then come back and agree to your terms, reject your terms, or only agree to some of the requests. Then you get to accept or counter offer (and this can go back and forth for a while).
As a buyer, you have a lot of closing costs. This may include loan origination charges, appraisal fees, closing fees, title insurance, inspections, prepaid expenses (homeowners insurance, interest, taxes, etc.), and other costs. And while it’s assumed that you’ll pay for all of these expenses, that’s always up for negotiation.
If something comes up during the inspection period and you learn about an issue that wasn’t previously known, you could ask the seller to pay some or all of your closing costs as a way of accounting for the issue.
There may be certain items that the seller doesn’t want to have repaired on his watch, but agrees need to be fixed. In this case, the seller can provide a credit to the buyer to cover the cost. This amount can be a straight credit, meaning the buyer gets the cash at closing. Or, in certain instances, it might actually go into escrow as a safeguard.
Items to Convey
While items that are attached to the home – like built-in kitchen appliances, light fixtures, and window blinds – automatically come with the house, other items are considered personal belongings of the homeowner. If you want any of these items – like a TV, playground, or workbench – you can include an addendum in the contract that requests the items.
Be Smart About Negotiations
In this article, we’ve addressed some of the most common things homebuyers negotiate. However, context is always key. Even in a cold market, you have to be strategic about what you ask for and when. Making a list of 12 different requests and concessions at one time is a good way to see your deal fall through. (At the very least, it reduces the amount of goodwill between you and the seller.)
Consult with your agent and discuss a plan of attack. Price and contingencies will obviously need to be negotiated when putting in an offer, but repairs and credits can always be haggled over after the inspection. Plan ahead, but don’t bite off more than you can chew.
Buy and Sell With Green Residential
At Green Residential, we’re involved in every aspect of the Houston real estate market. From property management to buying to selling, we do it all. As such, we offer our clients a degree of experience and thoroughness that simply can’t be replicated by any other agent or broker.
For more information on our homebuying services, please don’t hesitate to contact us today!