The home-buying process sometimes resembles a card game as buyers and sellers keep a poker face and hold their cards tight while exchanging offers and counteroffers. Neither side wants to fold until absolutely necessary, and both sides want the most for their money.
Even before the negotiation starts, real estate agents say, the buyer should have spent hours doing homework after picking a house. Establishing how long the home has been for sale and the selling prices of similar homes in the area could help determine the motivation of the seller.
Buyers should be able to support their offer with facts.
"It's not just about price anymore," said Mary Hickok of Coldwell Banker in Belleair Bluffs. "It's about laying out the facts to make a decision."
Should buyers offer the asking price or submit a lowball offer? That depends.
Real estate agents offer these tips when negotiating a deal:
• A seller could be turned off by a ridiculously low offer and then accept another offer. That might exclude you from being able to make a counteroffer. On the flip side, some sellers price their homes higher to leave room for downward negotiating.
• Know a property's history by examining county tax rolls and appraiser records for older sale prices, current market values and value increases or declines. Realtor.com, Zillow.com or Trulia.com also provide information on homes listed for sale.
• The fact-checking also starts with real estate agents providing a comparative market analysis of other sales in the area. The analysis details the sizes, qualities and conditions of similar houses that already have sold and current prices of similar homes for sale.
• Each offer or counteroffer isn't always about money. Buyers can ask sellers to make repairs, leave appliances or pay part or all of the closing costs. The time factor also is crucial to the deal. Haggling over a price for a week or more likely will kill the deal and allow other buyers to make offers.
"People start to get disenchanted after several days and walk away," said Andrew Duncan of Keller Williams Realty in Tampa. "Both parties risk not having a meeting of the minds."
Finding the right price is tricky in a market where short sales or foreclosure sales figure in to most comparable sales. Although it likely will take several rounds of negotiations, buyers and sellers should offer input every step of the way. And they should keep their emotions out of the process.
Duncan added: "There is an art to it."
Mark Puente can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8459. Follow him at Twitter at twitter.com/markpuente.