Offer Negotiation Methods for Home Buyers

Buying a house? These negotiating tips can get you the price you want

Female realtor greeting young man and woman on front porch
Photo: Inti St. Clair/Digital Vision/Getty Images

The best way to boost your offer negotiation skills into high gear is to appeal to a seller's emotions. In many cases, residential real estate transactions are put together—and sometimes blow up—over emotions. Our homes are special to us, and that's likely true for the seller of the home you want to buy.

Often, if you can give the seller a reason to care about you, they may be more likely to accept your offer. Learn more about tips for negotiation that will help you get the home you want.

Put a Human Face to the Offer

Real estate is a people business. While you may think real estate is all about numbers and expediency, it is really about people management and persuading people to do what you want. If you overlook the people factor, you could be headed for disappointment.


Many sellers have a desire—sometimes buried deep inside—to know that the house they are selling will fall into the hands of a worthy buyer. It may have been their first home, or where they raised their children, or simply a place where they spent many happy years.

To make a seller receptive to your offer, make the seller feel a connection to you. Showcase your vulnerability and sincerity in a letter. Make the seller feel as though you are the perfect buyer. Consider including the following details to help make a strong connection:

  1. The names, ages, and relationships of all occupants.
  2. A little history about your previous homes and how that relates to this home.
  3. Your occupation, education, and struggles to get to where you are in life.
  4. List the specific reasons why you fell in love with this home.
  5. Explain why you deserve to live in this home and how you will care for it.

Write a Clean and Positive Offer

This is more difficult than it sounds. Sometimes in the excitement of writing an offer, buyers don't read the offer for clarity. Ask your agent to double-check the offer as well.

Don't leave out any essential elements or give the seller any reason to write a counter offer. If the agent prepares a counter to correct mistakes, it might make the agent consider changing the terms of the offer as well. Make it a no-brainer for the seller to sign the offer the way you wrote it by following these steps:

  • Verify the address is correct.
  • Add up the earnest money deposit, loan amounts, and balance of down payment to make sure the numbers equal the sales price.
  • Check the closing date and possession terms.
  • Discuss motivations for changing contract default periods.
  • Review seller- and buyer-paid items, and determine whether these items are "red flags."
  • Generally, the party responsible for title and escrow fees selects the services. Don't let a small item become a big issue.
  • How much time are you giving the seller to respond, and who needs to receive the response, which will designate delivery acceptance?

Other Ways to Make a Great Offer

Besides adding personal touches to your offer, there are other ways you can make yourself an appealing buyer and stand out to the seller. Consider these ideas:

  • Submit a pre-approval letter with your offer. This shows the seller you are serious and qualified to purchase the home.
  • Put down a large earnest money deposit. Sellers may find you more committed with a larger deposit.
  • Waive some contingencies. However, if you go this route, make sure you understand any potential drawbacks.
  • Offer to close quickly. While the typical closing period is 30 to 45 days, offering a 21-day closing period, for example, may sway the sellers in your favor.

Detail the Selling Agent's Credentials

Just as the buyer tries to appeal to the seller, the selling agent should try to appeal to the listing agent as well. One of the biggest obstacles to a real estate transaction that listing agents face is incompetent selling agents. In the offer cover letter, a selling agent might want to:

  • Share their experience and background
  • State they are a full-time professional agent (to set them apart from many of the novices in the business)
  • Indicate their willingness to cooperate
  • Mention services they can provide that will help to expedite the transaction
  • Express excitement over working with the listing agent
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