5 Questions to Ask Before Making a Lowball Offer

3D red glass houseIn a housing market that’s as competitive as this one, a lowball offer — one that is considered significantly lower than the seller’s asking price — may simply get tossed out. But if you do your homework by asking yourself the following questions, you’ll keep your offer in the right ballpark and ultimately increase the odds of scoring your dream home at a price that doesn’t make you cringe.

What do comps look like?

Take a look at what comparable homes — those similar in terms of size, age, location and features —are going for. This is where Zillow can come in handy: You can search for recently sold homes in the area to determine whether the seller’s asking price is in line with what’s happening in your local market. Many sellers are trying to capitalize on the momentum that’s been building. In other words, they want too much, and are making the fatal mistake of overlooking market value and simply overpricing their homes from the get-go.

Who is the seller?

Direct contacts to owners are up considerably year-over-year. Now that the housing market recovery is underway, the old buying and selling rules no longer apply. Buyers need to get creative and are now searching for homes that aren’t officially for sale, via features such as Zillow’s Make Me Move®. Personally appealing to a seller, and perhaps tugging a few heartstrings (poker face in tact, of course) could work, ultimately landing you a decent deal, assuming you’re a respectable buyer and you say all the right things.

How desperate is the seller?

Is the seller supporting two homes? In the middle of a divorce? Whether the seller accepts your lowball offer often boils down to just how motivated the seller is. Feel things out, poke around a bit and look for signs of desperation.

How long has the house been on the market?

If the house you’re interested in has been sitting on the market for months on end, then the seller might be more willing to entertain any offer, even if it is a lowball one. After all, summer is almost over, and some unsuccessful sellers are going to start getting anxious, particularly as we get closer to the holidays.

Will my offer be properly presented?

You’re going to need an agent who knows how to present a lowball offer and is willing to do so! There’s an art to it, and if the offer is not presented the right way, backed up with a reasonable explanation as to why you’re coming in as low are you are, it could kill any potential deal. You should check a site like Zillow for agent ratings and reviews before choosing a real estate professional to represent you.

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Vera Gibbons is a financial journalist based in New York City and is a contributor to Zillow Blog. Connect with her at http://veragibbons.com/.

Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.