When you find the home you want to buy, the next step is putting in an offer so the seller knows you're interested. But how much do you offer? Do you offer the asking price, or more, or less? There are several factors you should look at when deciding how much to offer initially.

Comps (Comparable Sales)

You want to first take a look at comparable sales. Comparable sales are the sales in the same general area, with homes that are roughly the same size, the same number of rooms, and otherwise similar to the house you want to buy. They should also be recent, usually within about the last three months. The comps can help you see how different the seller's asking price is from how much comparable homes have sold for. This will give you a starting point to know whether you can drop significantly below their asking price or not.

What can you afford?

This requires some realistic honesty on your part. As much as you might love the home, you have to be clear on what you can actually afford, rather than offering what you wish you could afford. You'll also want to consider whether you want to be able to negotiate if they refuse your initial offer, because if you do, you may want to offer less than you can afford to give yourself that wiggle room.

How badly do they need to sell?

This requires a conversation with your agent, although it may have come up with the sellers if they were home when you saw the home. Indications that they need to sell desperately include:

  •         Multiple price reductions
  •         A significant price reduction
  •         The listing agent using words such as highly motivated, flexible, or that they have an urgent need to sell

If the seller needs to sell, they'll be more willing to accept a lower offer than if there's no urgency.

What kind of competition do you have?

The more competition you have, the more money you'll have to shell out. With multiple offers on the table, the seller has no need to accept the lowest offer. You may not be able to find out the exact amounts that your competition is offering, but your agent should be able to tell you if you have a lot of competition. She should also be able to tell you what a competitive offer should be, based on the level of competition.

Ultimately, even with all those factors, the biggest question to answer, is: how badly do you want that particular house? Your desire to have that specific house will inform how much you should offer, combined with the rest of the factors above. You should always discuss your offer with your agent, and utilize her guidance and experience to make sure you submit an offer that's competitive, fair, affordable, and likely to get you into the home you want.

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