How Low Can You Go? How To Make A Real Estate Offer That Isn’t Insulting

By John Ash

One of the most tried and true methods of getting the best possible price on a home is to offer the seller less than the asking price.

Yet, many home buyers are hesitant to use this method of negotiating. They feel as if a low offer will insult the seller. Some real estate agents have acknowledged that many home buyers have also expressed a sense of shame or embarrassment by not offering the asking price.

True, you may in fact encounter many sellers who are offended by your low offer, but there are ways to prevent this from happening. It’s just a matter of assuring the seller that the price you are offering is what works best for your purposes and taking the time to explain your reasoning.

Is it not worth the gamble if there is potential to save anywhere from $10,000 or $40,000 on the deal? Think about it. That’s more money to allocate towards any renovations or furniture for the house.


Sellers definitely have an emotional attachment to their house but this doesn’t necessarily mean they will be insulted by a low offer. Many sellers and their realtors recognize that a buyer’s initial offer is nothing more than an opening negotiating ploy where the buyer is feeling out exactly how desperate the seller is to part with the property.

But, to cover your bases, you should accompany any low offer with an explanation as to why you feel the price cut is fair. For instance, if the property is in need of updating, particularly potentially expensive items like a roof, wiring, appliances and the furnace, you could specifically state this to help offset the possibility of insulting the seller.

If you have a friend or family member who is a contractor, take them with you to view the house, and have them work up an estimate of the potential cost of any renovations to include with the offer. If the bathroom doesn’t meet your criteria – how much will it cost to renovate the bathroom to suit your needs? By breaking things down like this, you are showing the seller that your offer isn’t intended as a slap in the face but more or less a means to show them the perspective from your side.

Hopefully, you are reducing the risk that the seller will be so insulted by your low offer that they refuse to counter and cut off negotiations completely. With any luck, particularly if the location isn’t necessarily a seller’s market, the seller might even question whether or not they’ve overpriced the house upon reviewing your offer and comments. Explaining your reasoning will also give the seller the opportunity to correct any misjudgment on your part. For instance, maybe the roof isn’t as old as you thought and they can make you aware of that fact.

Check out the market locally to determine if you have any leverage in making a low initial offer. It’s conceivable that the seller may have the home listed on the higher end of what comparable properties in the area are actually selling for. This gives you negotiating room. Also, if the house has been on the market for some time and has already been reduced several times, the owner may have already gone as low as they can possibly go and may not be so inclined to hear out your low offer. Some research on the part of you and your real estate agent is a means to ensure that you aren’t in any way insulting the seller.

It’s also not a bad strategy to offer the seller something in return to get them to look past the low offer or come back to you with a reasonable counter offer. It may help your case if you show the seller that you have mortgage pre-approval, can close within 30 days, are willing to pay a portion of the closing costs or can provide them with a larger earnest money deposit.

The main purpose of a low end offer is to alter seller expectations. There is an art to the whole process. Some experts state that you should never offer less than 20% – 25% of the asking price but many successful real estate investors will argue this. Their belief is that this method of negotiating for real estate is worthwhile if there is one seller who accepts a low offer after a dozen or more rejections from other sellers. The bottom line is you can never predict which owners may be open to a low offer so why not explore it? Some sellers are dealing with hardships like divorce or death. Other sellers may be in a hurry to sell in order to relocate.

Plus, let’s not forget how counter offers play into the process. Let’s say that the seller has their house listed on the market at $300,000 and your initial offer is $250,000. It’s fair to speculate that the seller will reject your low offer but they may also counter it at $280,000. So, by offering less initially, you’ve still managed to knock off $20,000 from their original asking price. The sellers may even claim this as a victory themselves because they’ve managed to get you to agree to $30,000 more than your initial offer. Everyone thinks they’ve won!

About the Author: John is a contributor to a Connecticut Real Estate, Connecticut Mortgage, and Connecticut Real Estate Guide.


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