1. Human nature is the biggest problem for sellers and buyers to overcome in a changing market. Prices stagnate or drop a few percentage points and it’s amazing how different buyers and sellers react. Sellers still think their house is “special” and immune to the market. Buyers figure every seller is about to be foreclosed on and make ridiculous low-ball offers. Smart buyers do their homework, know what size home they need, how much they can afford and then search the market for what they want and negotiate fairly.
2. Find out as much as you can about the seller’s motivation — retirement, job, divorce, wants to move up but only if he gets the right price. If a buyer knows the seller’s motivation they can negotiate a better deal or move on to the next property.
3. Multiple Listing Service (MLS) properties usually state what the seller owes. If not, your agent should be able to track down the figures. There’s a big difference in negotiating with an owner who owes more than the house is worth and one who has a lot of built-up equity.
4. After 45 to 60 days the seller is usually absolutely sick of keeping their house spotless and sick of people walking through. This is when a seller may be the most anxious about selling their house as traffic to their house has likely fallen sharply.
5. Unless you’re incredibly handy and have time and cash, select houses that are as updated as you can afford. This is easier to do in a stagnant or falling market and fixers aren’t usually discounted enough to be worthwhile.
6. In a tighter market, it’s not too much to ask the seller to add the closing costs to the price of the house. It’s better to put 20 percent down and add the closing costs to the loan than put 15 percent down and pay the costs upfront.
7. Items to ask for that shouldn’t offend sellers are paying for new kitchen appliances or washer and dryer. Most sellers will be willing to do so to close the deal. It’s ok to ask sellers to pay up to the first year of homeowner association dues.
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