Monday, April 28, 2008

A Lowball Offer in Today’s Real Estate Market—How Low is it Safe for a Home Buyer to Go?

When is a lowball offer insulting? 10% less? 20% less? 50% less? And is it the percentage less than the original list price or the current asking price?

Well, my answer is it depends.

As a Realtor working in the north and east Twin Cities metro for the past several years, I have seen my share of sellers who were insulted by a buyer’s offer. And not just in a market where buyers have the upperhand either. A few years ago, anything but a full priced offer was insulting. Buyers were afraid to request a few thousand toward closing costs lest the sellers would balk and accept the next offer in line.

However times have changed. Sellers throughout Anoka, Washington and Chisago Counties are anxious to sell. They know that they are competing with new construction homes and foreclosed homes. Few home owners with “for sale” signs in the yard are expecting a full priced offer in this changed market.


In fact some situations may lead buyers to believe sellers will take ANY offer. But in reality most sellers won't accept just “ANY” offer. An offensive lowball offer could put the buyers’ dream home purchase in jeopardy.

How to Coming up with an Acceptable Starting Point:

  • Ask your Realtor to do a market analysis for the home. In this market, I always pull the comparables to see what has sold recently in the neighborhood before my buyers decide what to offer on a home. Many sellers are listing homes at or below current market value. If the home is properly priced, anything less than 10% of the current asking price could be considered an insult. By looking at the neighborhood comparables, my buyers better understand what offer will be considered reasonable.

  • Consider the original list price. If someone has come down 25-30% of the value of the home already and now the market analysis shows the home is priced fairly, offering 10% less could be considered insulting. If this truly is THE home for my buyers, it might make sense to make an offer closer to the asking price.

  • The Overpriced Home. If the market analysis shows the home to be significantly overpriced and the offer will be more than 10% less than current the current asking price. I provide the comparables to the seller. Sometimes when the offer is accompanied by documentation to back up the offer, the seller is less offended.

  • Buyer’s Plans to Remodel and Update. Be careful when using documentation for changes that reflect cosmetic and personal taste. Many sellers will be insulted when a buyer’s offer indicates that they are offering tens of thousands less due to paint, carpet and other cosmetic changes that a buyer wants to make. If the updates are necessary due to age or wear, make note of the fact. But slamming a well maintained and updated home to justify a low offer is insulting.

  • Avoid Considering Price Paid for Home. Many buyers think that if someone purchased a home 5-10 years ago they have a ton of equity. This can be true but not always. Many sellers have taken the equity out of their home for improvements or for other reasons. Keep the negotiations focused on the fair market value of the home.
Most sellers are in waiting impatiently for that non-contingent buyer to write an offer on their home. In most cases, they understand the market and have worked hard to prepare their properties to entice an offer. But buyers must think through their offers; the perfect starting point for negotiations must contemplated thoroughly. Discussions can go south very quickly between buyer and seller when the initial offer is deemed rude.
Need help coming up with that perfect starting point for your home offer? If you are buying, selling or relocating to Minnesota and need help from a professional Realtor, give me a call or visit my website for a FREE Relocation Packet. I specialize in acreage and lakeshore properties in the north and east Twin Cities metro area including Ham Lake, Lino Lakes and all communities in the Forest Lake School District! Serving Anoka, Chisago, Ramsey and Washington Counties in Minnesota.
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