Tips & tricks on how to negotiate a lower price when buying a home

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Dealing with finding a house is one thing, buying it for the right price is another. If you fall in love with something, you might end up making some pretty bad financial decisions. 

If you want to buy a certain property, it’s best to be well prepared. Of course you check up on your own financial status and possibilities. But once you found something, you might want to use these tips and tricks to negotiate on a much lower price then is listed.

The real estate market is a cyclical one. It goes up and down all the time, and some areas are more in demand than others. You could figure out when is the best time to buy. But trying to time the market is near to impossible (same with investing). The best time is when you can afford it and when you find yourself in a position to make this step. After all it will cost you a lot of money.

In this time of market the prices of real estate are a bit higher because of the growing consumer optimism. Or at least, in the Netherlands. We notice properties are listed for sale for higher prices than a few years back. One thing that you see happening, that is sellers think the market is going up, and increase there list prices. Although it might not be according to the real value.

A friend of mine is looking for a new home and is also checking properties in the area we live. In an instant I became an expert of knowing the better areas. So every time she is viewing a property we talk a bit on what kind of house it is, and what to expect from it. The other day she showed me a property that was in the exact same street as to where I grew up (an my parents still live). I knew the house was for sale for over more than a year, and the price is a bit high compared to the value.

After she viewed the house, she stated it was good value for the money they asked. Because it was big and the price already has been decreased over the past months.

The value of a property is difficult to determine. It depends on how good you know the neighborhood, the quality of the property, the market conditions and a whole lot of others factors. If a property has been discounted, it’s a mistake to presume it as a bargain. It simply have been overpriced in the first place.

We bought our own home around 2 years ago. It was in an area well known to me, because I grew up there myself. Therefore we pretty much knew the real value of the property in the neighborhood. We also knew we still had to do some major research in order to make a good purchase.

The property we found most desirable was high listed in price as well. And far above what we were willing to pay for it. So we set up a tactic based on the info we got beforehand. And bought the property for the price we set at the beginning, far lower than was listed. I would like to share all the insights we got and how you can use it in your own advantage.

1. Get to know the neighborhood

Ok this one was an easy one for us, but is really important. Just ask around with people that are living close by or request pricing information with a register. Knowing the history of the house you want to buy, or similar ones, will let you define the value you want to pay for the property.

In our case similar properties were listed for 25% more before the recession hit in 2008. In 2014, that value had came down big time. The property was listed for €289.000, but was still 10% above the real value. How we knew?

Similar houses were being sold for far less in the same period (till max. a year before). And the neighborhood we were interested in wasn’t really in favor for a lot of people. So we knew the demand was still lower than the rest of the area, and thus we ‘made up’ a price on what we thought it was worth it.

By doing research on similar houses you get a guideline as to what kind of money was actually being paid for them. From there you can derive your own value, and stick with it during the negotiation. (Or start with a lower bid, to end somewhere in the middle.)

2. Seek out information on the house AND the sellers

We also asked a lot of question to the real estate agent that was selling the property. He was quite talkative and shared a lot of info with us. We learned the following:

  1. The sellers would never have a debt left over on selling the house – they paid of half of their mortgage already AND had bought in the pre-euro phase (which meant the property had at least doubled in value than what they paid for themselves.)
  2. The property had been for sale for over a year, and they were afraid they would not find a proper buyer
  3. The new house they bought for themselves was twice the money compared to the property they wanted to sell and they had to move into it in just a few months
  4. The property was in good shape but was not modernized recently and still needed an update. Especially the kitchen and bathroom were in bad shape, resulting in big expenses for remodeling.

This info led us to the tactic we used in our negotiation phase. We knew they wanted a quick sell, for as much money as possible and the would not make any loss on it. And because there needed to be some remodeling we had a few more arguments which could support our value determination.

3. Hide your own emotions

Real estate agent know where to look for in possible buyers. As soon as you start talking about the paint color in the living room or where you can place your own furniture, they now your hooked.

It’s a bit comparable with investing. In both situation you don’t want to act out of emotions, or at least let them show. If you do the negotiating yourself, a professional real estate agent will easily play his game when you are overjoyed and tell him everything in all honestly.

The most important one is to not tell how much your are willing to spend, this all depends on the property you want to buy, not on how big your own budget is.

5. Use time in your advantage

Time is a real important asset during a negotiation. Most often the sellers and the buyers want to speed through the process and make it a deal. But you can use the time in your advantage.

Our negotiation process lasted 3 weeks. And drove the sellers almost to madness. After every counter offer on their behalf, we waited a few days before coming with an answer. And we calculated every step we made in order to get to the price we wanted. In the end, the sellers were more desperate and just wanted a sale. And therefore were more eager to give in.

5. Don’t be afraid to walk away.

Yes, you heard it. When you still don’t like the price that’s being offered, don’t be afraid to walk away. In our case, the sellers were the ones that walked away in the first place, stating our price was to low. But because we managed to put them into a position they still wanted to sell to us, we were invited over for a coffee and talked about it.

We stick to our price and let them know that it was all we were willing to pay. After just a few days we closed the deal.

Don’t ever pay more than your budget let’s you. If you’re trying to buy a property for a price above your budget, it can get you in real financial trouble. The best thing to do is to walk away. In the worst case you will find something else suiting your budget. In the best case, the sellers will eventually break and concede to your price.

Conclusion

Of course, every situation has to be dealt with in his own way. Some tips just don’t work the same with every house. For example, if you found a house that has at least a few other interested potential buyers, walking away might not do the trick. In that case the seller would just go on to next interested person. (although it’s sometimes used as a seller’s trick)

Just prepare yourself by doing lots of research. Use all the info you gather to make up a plan, and stick with it.

How about you? Do you already own a house, and care to share some of your tips? Is there something else that would help a buyer? Comments are much appreciated, as always! 🙂

12 thoughts on “Tips & tricks on how to negotiate a lower price when buying a home

  1. If you can get such background infos from the real estate agent, that gives a huge power in your hands.
    We bought a house last year and it was something that totally had to be renovated, so it scared away many potential buyers. After the renovation we have immediately revaluated it, so we also feel into a less risky bracket at our bank, which has lowered the mortgage interest.
    Recently the market is getting quite hot, in many cases houses go well above the asking price (at least in the Amsterdam area). But who can say that it can’t go even higher? As you said you just can’t time the market.
    The important thing is that you should always do your math before you make a purchase. This will be the highest debt you will have in your life, so better think it through and don’t let only your emotions lead you.

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    • When asking the right questions you can get to a lot of information. Then you just have to use it in your own advantage!

      Buying a house that needs lots of renovation could indeed scare a lot of potential buyers. Sounds like you have found a good deal here. Especially with lowering the mortgage interest!

      In all big cities in the Netherlands it the same I believe, although Amsterdam will also be a bit more in demand 😉

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  2. I thought buying a car was somewhat stressful, but, I dismissed that after buying a house. Thankfully we never (hopefully) have to do it again. I think the realtor can definitely help or hurt the process depending on how much they know about the property & the seller and if they are willing to negotiate or simply make a commission from volume selling.

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    • Although we bought our house for a fair price, it sure was stressful indeed! In the end it’s about a lot of money that you’re spending.

      Having a bit of luck with the realtor definitely defines on how you can set up your own strategy for buying a property.

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  3. My wife and I are thinking about moving in the next couple of years. So we have began to scout out neighborhoods that we like and how much it will potentially cost. It is so daunting but I think with a little bit of effort we can identify the right house and use your tips to negotiate a lower price. Thanks for sharing!!!

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  4. Thanks for the advice as my wife and I start looking for our first house. Looking up information is a great tip, one that I didn’t even think of! The tax records are as leverage. I guess the same would apply to someone is flipping a house. They need to get their capital back quickly, so you may have a chance to capitalize if it has been on the market too long.

    Bert

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  5. Great tips. Definitely bookmarking this for when I start house hunting!

    I think keeping up with the sellers is a great tip and you certainly used it to your advantage. I guess he shouldn’t have been so talkative 🙂

    I’m still renting because it’s much more affordable for me right now. However, I should probably brush up on my negotiation skills!

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    • Great, hopes it help when the time comes!

      We might have been a bit lucky with the realtor on the selling part. But it’s a good thing to just ask. Who knows what they are all spilling out 🙂

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