What You’ll Learn
How to make a stronger and smarter offer
Tips for “reading between the lines” as you come up with an offer
How to get crucial information from the seller or even their agent
Ways to analyze trends to inform your offer
Making an offer can be a nerve-racking step in the homebuying process. While no one wants to overpay for their house, your offer should also be enough for a seller to accept, not to mention be competitive with other offers that may be coming in.
While there’s no single magic formula for how to get to an offer price, there are some questions you should ask yourself, your agent, or even the listing agent. Taken as a whole, the answers to these questions can help you get to a more informed (and hopefully more successful!) offer number.
1. Why is the seller selling the house?
This one’s a pretty obvious first question. In fact, you’ve probably already asked the seller yourself before deciding to make an offer. But it’s not just a talking point. Finding out why a seller is selling can be crucial info that can help you understand their mindset and timeline — and therefore, the amount of wiggle room you have to stray from their asking price.
2. How much did they pay for the house?
While the last sale price might be wildly different from the current value of the home, it’s still helpful as a starting point, even if it’s been several years since the last sale. From there, take into account other factors like appreciation, the current market, and any renovations done to the house since they bought it.
3. How much does the seller have left on their mortgage?
Like the seller’s motivation for selling the house, understanding their mortgage balance can help you understand the seller’s mindset. If they still have a large balance left, they might be more likely to sell quickly for financial reasons. If it’s low, they might be willing to wait things out for a better offer since they can likely afford to continue making payments.
4. What’s the housing market like in your area?
Once you’ve taken into account the seller’s situation, take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Is it a buyer's market or a seller's market right now?
If it’s a buyer’s market, you’ll have less competition and the seller might be more inclined to take your offer since they may not be able to count on more offers coming in.
If it’s a seller’s market, you’ll likely be competing with other buyers, therefore driving up the price. In that case you’ll want to make an offer that’s at least the asking price, and possibly more to make your number as competitive as possible.
5. Are there any recent sales to compare this property to?
Look up recent sales of comparable properties in your area, then compare your offer to the sale prices. Is your offer significantly higher or lower than those sales? Be sure to use only recent sales (less than 6 months old) to inform your decision, since that’s the cutoff time for most appraisers.
6. Are there any trends in recent sale prices in the area?
This is an extension of the previous question. Aside from comparing your offer to similar properties, see if there are broader trends going on the market. Are homes in your area selling above or below asking price, and by how much? In more competitive markets, you may find that successful offers come in above the asking price, and vice versa for less competitive markets. Taking note of these patterns can help steer your offer to a more successful (or a cost-saving!) number.
7. How long has the house been on the market?
Like buying a used car, the history of a house’s listing can reveal a lot. The longer a house has been on the market, the more likely a seller will take a lower offer. Keep in mind too that a seller’s agent will sometimes re-list a house under a new listing to conceal the house’s real “DOM,” or days on market.
The Bottom Line
While there’s no way to predict if an offer will be accepted or rejected, asking all of these questions can help you gather more information, which will in turn, help you land on an offer you’ll feel confident about.