How To Make A Lowball Offer With A Straight Face

In a tortured housing market filled with sellers desperate to unload their homes, today’s lowball offers are next month’s listing prices. If you’re in the market for a house, you have nothing to lose by disregarding the sticker price and putting in a comically low bid for the property. Doing so as a way to start negotiations is probably the best way to see just how low the owner is willing to go.

Blonde & Balanced offers this advice for submitting a limbo-style offer:

* Be direct. Don’t hem, haw or offer qualifiers or apologies. Just name your price with confidence and wait for the seller to respond.

* Forget about what you’re able to pay. You may be able to afford more, and even willing to go much higher, but that’s immaterial as far as these negotiations go. Use your leverage of being a rare person willing to buy a house and be prepared to walk away if you don’t love the price you’re getting.

* Be prepared to explain your offer. An offended owner might question how you came up with your price, so have a list of things that are less than ideal about the property to prove why your offer makes sense. “We’d have to remodel that kitchen,” “the projections say the house is losing 20 percent of its value every year” and “there are so many foreclosures in the neighborhood” are excuses you can nearly always use.

How To Make A Lowball Offer On A House [Blonde & Balanced]

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  1. Phil Keeps It Real [Consumerist] says:

    I do all my lowballin’ online … (wiNK)

  2. Cat says:

    If you’re more knowledgeable about an item than the seller, you are at an advantage.

    A local antique shop had an Aladdin kerosene lamp marked at $80. It had the wrong chimney, no mantel or wick, and was not an antique according to the location of manufacture. I explained it would cost me $60 to make it useable, and he sold it to me for $20. I put $50 into it and it’s worth $200 now, even if it’s not an antique.

    • agent 47 says:

      I’m not sure how effective that would be. The seller Could just figure “ok then, I’ll just wait and sell it to somebody who doesn’t know anything about these things.”

      • Cat says:

        Worth taking the chance. If he’s not going to lower the price, then in 6 months he may be more willing to deal.

    • tinyninja says:

      I’m torn on this technique..

      Yes, if someone doesn’t know what they have and prices it wrong (up or down) it’s their problem. OTOH, I remember being horrified by the tactics of a quilt collector who found an extremely valuable quilt at a garage sale, already marked down, and whittled the price down further by “educating” her that the quilt was barely fit to be a dog’s bed.

      So if that person runs across a similar item, they aren’t going to seek to preserve it because a ‘collector’ told them it’s just garbage.

  3. Hi_Hello says:

    from the article:
    Explain your offer. Sellers will probably feel shocked, and maybe angry, when you offer $275,000 on their home that’s priced at $350,000.
    Don’t stray below 85% of the asking price.

    that is a 79%

    anyway. I tried to teach my brother how to lowball… he lowfoot the guy and when the guy asked who he got that number, he couldn’t explain… I had to step in…

    No matter what stuff you read on the internet, practice!!

    • dicobalt says:

      Real estate, the whole industry is a scam.

      • motown missile says:

        This thread illustrates how much the real estate market has been hyper inflated over the past several years. While I normally don’t recommend lowballing in any transaction, it may just be the case that the lowball offer is the one closest to the actual value of a property.

    • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

      I think it really depends on how motivated the seller is to sell and the overall market.

      When we bought our home, the original asking price was $125,000, but the sellers were desperate to sell and had to deal with several people falling through at closing.

      They had just dropped the price to $120,000 when we gave a lowball offer of $95,000 with a list of repairs before closing (it was an old house with the usual laundry list of old house problems). We thought we were going to haggle the price to around $105,000 but they surprised us when they accepted our offer on the condition that they weren’t responsible for the repairs.

      The only real stipulation they demanded was they did not want us to pay with a VA loan. We agreed and closed with a traditional mortgage two weeks later.

      • Hi_Hello says:

        was the repair what you thought it would be? i’m surprise they took the $95G unless there were other problems you didn’t know about.

        • Traveller says:

          We were so desperate to get out of a house that we took the lowball offer, it was a short sale and the bank took it too.

          Factors in our case were our desperation (foreclosure was imminent) and the realtor’s advise that based on the ethnicity of the buyer they typically put forward a firm offer.

          They did end up paying (likely under the table) a bit more to get it closed. The bank wanted a bit of cash as part of the short sale and we took that back to the buyer to help us out and they eventually agreed.

      • Robert Nagel says:

        They didn’t want the inspection that comes with a VA loan. I fear that they know something the buyer didn’t and it made the purchase price very attractive. You can be guaranteed one thing in this type of transaction. The seller knows more than you do, always.

    • bluline says:

      My daughter and her husband just made an offer on a home that was well below the asking price. The owners rejected it but did not counter-offer. Instead, they simply lowered the price. So my daughter and her husband waited a couple of weeks and made an even lower offer, which was accepted. Then they started to get cold feet, fearing it was still too much. So they went back and lowered the offer that the owners had accepted by another $15K, and the owners accepted that! I was amazed. The bottom line is that in this housing market the buyer has all the power and pretty much anything goes.

  4. Swins says:

    One say’s don’t qualify, but three says “explain” which is in effect qualifying why you “low balled”
    So silly.

    • WiglyWorm must cease and decist says:

      The advice is not to hem or haw about it and come off as weak, but to be able to back up your offer with rationale. There is no contradiction in the two instructions.

      Another way of saying this, if we want to use a poker metaphor (because they are so apt in negotiations), is to keep your cards close to your chest. Don’t show your hand until you need to. Every piece of information you have is valuable and to give it away too soon lowers your advantage.

  5. ElleAnn says:

    Be prepared to walk away when they counter-offer at list price or just below. This fall, we found a house that was listed $25K above market and had been on the market for 9+ months. We offered $35K less than asking price. It was owned by a relocation company, so we figured that they’d want it off their books, so we were surprised when they came back at list price. We walked. The next weekend, we found the house which we ended up buying (which was a much better deal- new roof, new AC, new windows, new siding, and all appliances were included). I’m glad we tried to get that first house, but walking turned out to be a great choice.

    • patrick bateman says:

      The house we bought was owned by a relocation company and worked to our favor in the end. It was originally listed at $315,000, but our target was $220,000 as the maximum. It was the perfect house in the perfect location for us, so I marked it as a favorite on the tracking sites, just so I could follow the price drops. We watched as the price dropped every month or so. We decided to view the house when it was dropped to $265,000. We offered $220,000 since it was on the market for more than a year, and there were no indications that a contract was ever written up with a potential buyer. We ended up getting the house for $235,000, which is great especially considering that it looks like the relocation company purchased the house for $279,500 according to sale records. Long story short, homes owned by relocation companies that have been sitting for a year seem to be a great way to get a bargain. Don’t be scared by the list price.

  6. Hoss says:

    85% isn’t “comically low” Phil

  7. kent909 says:

    This is exactly what we need. Another way to push home prices down. Brilliant! !!!

    • MonkeyMonk says:

      Yeah, because all those unsold houses sitting on the market does NOTHING to lower home prices. The houses need to start selling before we’re going to see any uptick in prices.

    • hansolo247 says:

      It is what is needed.

      prices must come down to bring the number of buyers and sellers into equilibrium.

    • Streakist says:

      Actually it is exactly what we need. The housing market is still over inflated and the market is still correcting itself. It’s not a good thing for home prices to triple while wages remain stagnant. Maybe I’m a dreamer, but I like the idea of being able to afford a home on one income.

  8. Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

    I always thought it was easier to low ball an offer for a house because it was done via a 3rd party and in writing, with a lag period in between offers and counter-offers. For me, it’s easier to play the game when you have time to think about your overall strategy and your next move. It gives enough time to bring emotions into check and to thoroughly run the numbers.

  9. Rachacha says:

    I would caution not to go too low as some sellers might get offended and reject the offer and refuse to accept any future offers from you depending on how attached to the property they are.

    • ARP says:

      Came to say this. You need to have an objective rationale for your low offer, not a “let’s see if it sticks” offer. If you don’t, you risked cutting off discussions completely. If someone offered me say, $200k for a house that’s probably worth $300k, I’d assume they’re not serious and probably wouldn’t deal with them (or they’re not worth the trouble). Or, I’d respond to come back later when they have a real offer.

      Now if you weren’t planning on buying unless you got that very low price, that’s probably fine. But if you are actually willing to pay more, this could backfire.

    • donovanr says:

      Real-estate agent?

  10. fatediesel says:

    I think the 85% rule in the link depends a lot on the seller’s situation. My parents were looking for a winter home in Arizona and their realtor took them to a house that she knew the sellers needed to get rid of. My parents offered 60% of the list price and the sellers made a counter that was only 70% of the list price, which my parents accepted.

  11. StatusfriedCrustomer says:

    //We’d have to remodel that kitchen//

    Sorry, but nothing makes you sound stupider than saying this. Remodeling is a decision, not a necessity. Saying “We’d have to remodel it” just indicates that you’ve watched too many of those home renovation TV shows produced by the granite quarry lobbyists and that you are embarrassed to show your friends anything that is not granite. The proper response from the homeowner is “Come back when you have a real offer.”

    • SBR249 says:

      It’s not always a stupid thing to say. People do wacky things to their houses to personalize them. One of my relatives was looking at a house where the owner replaced the bathtub and shower in the master bathroom with a jacuzzi. That’s great and all, but very impractical consider you need to shower everyday. So the relative naturally asked for a price reduction because they would have to remodel the bathroom to make it fully functional for daily use again.

      The same thing could be true in the kitchen.

      • StatusfriedCrustomer says:

        If you can explain it in terms of personal taste, such as “the kitchen is not what I am looking for in style, but it is still worth $_______ to me” then that is perfectly reasonable. It’s these people who think they “HAVE TO remodel the kitchen immediately” — and expect the seller to fall for this — that sound like idiots.

    • sirwired says:

      Saying “we’ll have to remodel the kitchen” CAN be perfectly legitimate. If the kitchen contains worn-out cabinetwork, rusty appliances, and cheap 1970′s vinyl sheet flooring, it may very well need a remodel.

      Sure, you could theoretically not do the remodel, but basic maintenance to keep a house in decent condition is expected if you want to price a house in-line with the rest of the houses in a decent neighborhood. If you want to sell a Handyman’s special, it needs to be priced that way.

      When we were househunting, one of the houses we looked at was priced as if it was in decent condition, but the kitchen hadn’t been touched since construction 30 years ago and it needed new paint and new carpet throughout. If we had bothered with an offer, it would have been for 30% below asking.

    • Martha Gail says:

      Yeah, I think talking about cosmetic things would be a weak argument, but things about the inspection and getting the house up to code would be a good thing to talk about.

    • MaxH42 thinks RecordStoreToughGuy got a raw deal says:

      “In order to make this a purchase that I could live with (and in), I would need to remodel the kitchen to be at all happy spending a couple of hours a day there.”

      Nope, that’s overexplaining, and sounds like wheedling rather than bargaining. The first way is more direct, and implies what I said.

  12. Costner says:

    My father once bought a house for around 65% of list price. He liked the house and told the realtor to put in an offer of $X which was 35% below asking price… and even his realtor was reluctant. My father explained that he couldn’t afford any more than that, so that was the number he wanted to go with.

    The sellers didin’t even counter-offer… they just accepted. As it turns out, they were going through a very long and bitter divorce and neither of them could afford the house payments so they figured they either dump it or end up losing it via foreclosure.

    Sometimes other people’s misfortune can save you a lot of money.

  13. Back to waiting, but I did get a cute dragon ear cuff says:

    Work with a buyer’s agent. If you are working with a regular agent, they are working for the seller NOT YOU!!!.

    If they hear you say “We would go $175,000 for the house, but lets low ball at $135, 000 and see what happens”, they are legal obligated to tell that to the seller. Whoops, there goes your chance.

    • shepd says:

      This will depend on your real estate rules. Where I am, if you present yourself without an agent, the seller’s agent also becomes a buyer’s agent and is required to basically keep quiet for both sides. Unless, of course, they only want the half of the commission they’d get as just a seller’s agent.

  14. Out For Delivery says:

    Watch every single episode of American Pickers and Oddities and learn how to haggle.

    I swear I felt more confident negotiating my new bed purchase down after watching Mike W, Frank, Evan, Ryan, and Mike Z haggle with their wide array of clients a couple hundred times.

    Good shows too!

  15. sirwired says:

    Offer what you think the house is worth, minus some room for negotiation. If you are using a buyer’s agent, expect him/her to drop you quickly if you force him/her to extend crazy-low offers. Offers below asking price are fine, as long as they are trusly justified. Offers to buy a house in great condition as if it’s a boarded up foreclosure waste everybody’s time.

  16. Duke_Newcombe-Making children and adults as fat as pigs says:

    What I’d be interested in is how to make a “high-ball” offer (re: negotiating a salary package for a job). I’m completely in the dark on this one.

    • ARP says:

      The essentials are the same. Read the book “Getting to Yes.” It works when negotiating prices or anything else [I don't gain from you buying the book, just a fan.]

      Essentially, you need to justify why you think you’re worth that price and how you’re better than others who may be willing to accept the offered salary. Justification should be generally objective. Describe the going salary in that geography for that position using sites like salary.com. If you have particular skills beyond what the position calls for, try to describe their value. If you can get up to speed faster, given your skill level, describe that value.

    • TeriLynn says:

      See, that one I’ve done. I gave a salary, and my boss pushed the salary even higher. I think someone didn’t teach him how to negotiate.

  17. shibotu says:

    “If you’re in the market for a house, you have nothing to lose by disregarding the sticker price and putting in a comically low bid for the property.”

    No, you lose your moral decency. I watched Grapes of Wrath again recently and it’s like when wages get cut from 5 cents to 2.5 cents a box so the workers starve. Why not just go back to slavery if you really attach no importance to how you treat other people.

  18. SmokeyBacon says:

    I would have no problem with someone offering me a lowball offer on my house – I would also have no problem turning it down.Our house value is way down (luckily we are not selling) because there were a couple of forclosure sales in the neighborhood (super cheap deals but the houses were in horrible shape – but the only thing that would count towards the comps is price) and one that the owner died and his relatives just took the first offer so they didn’t have to deal with it (all profit because house was paid off) – so again they got a great deal on it. Sure the rest of us in the neighborhood got screwed by it but again, I know that what they paid for was not the same as what I have (because of the poor condition the homes were in when they sold, and the reasons for selling them).

  19. sprybuzzard says:

    I hate haggling. HATE it. Just thinking about car shopping raises my blood pressure. When we were house shopping we found a house from the 1860s that was in major need of repair, rusty metal roof, old awful windows, part of the foundation falling in, but as we walked though it had some charm to it. It helped that my husband was a contractor and knew his way around the construction business. A reasonable person might bulldoze it and start over, but we were willing to renovate. Due to all of these problems, he made an offer of $15,000 on an $85,000 listing, for the acre of land it sat on. We never heard from the owner, in fact, the real estate agent didn’t hear anything from the owner for at least four months. We wondered if the owner had a heart attack and died reading the offer. Sadly, the place still sits empty two and a half years later, and is likely so far gone it’ll just fall down. It probably could have been listed as a historic building in our area.

  20. hahatanka says:

    Neighbor bought foreclosed house behind me. Realtor had it listed for $65,000 down from $75,000. Neighbor found in on an online auction. He bid $22,500 and got it. Before the crash it was worth about $150,000. Still appraised at $105,000. 3 bedroom 1960′s ranch on 1+ acre, semi-rural.Some neighbors own horses. Not far from the Kansas Speedway.
    Can’t believe house prices in Newark, NJ. $400,000 for a dump.

    • Lightweight says:

      Supply and demand. Fact is, more people want to live in places like New York or San Francisco (or Newark, God help them) than in Kansas.More job opportunities, more social and cultural resources, etc. Thus, inflated real estate prices.

    • Beefsteak says:

      You couldn’t buy a shed in NJ for $65,000. In your mind living near a speedway is a bonus? Holy Crap! besides meth and nascar, what’s there to do in Kansas?

      • hahatanka says:

        Wouldn’t go to a NASCAR race. Just pointing out the general part of the country I’m in.
        Just built a new performing arts center for a couple hundred million, the Sprint Center has a lot of big name concerts. Some of the wineries around here kick California wineries in major competition. KUMED Center is rated one of the best hospitals in the country. I can get anywhere in Kansas City in less than 30 minutes. Oh yeah, did I mention the best BBQ on the planet? You don’t think they cook meth in NYC?

  21. Amy says:

    It’s really disappointing that this post and most of the commenters are approaching this lowball thing as if it were not another human being who is most likely selling his or her single biggest investment, not to mention the home they live in. Obviously if you are in the market for a property you have to make a deal that will keep you financially secure, and sometimes your actual price range, and the value of the house you are bidding on, is lower than the sellers want it to be. That’s unavoidable. But, you should make only make reasonable, good-faith offers. Even if it’s much lower than what the seller is asking, at least you are being honest and serious. Too many people think it is a game show or Macy’s Memorial Day sale and they want to get an arbitrary reduction off the asking because they get off on telling people they got a deal. Sometimes the asking price, especially now, is actually close to the realistic value.

    • hahatanka says:

      The house behind me had been foreclosed on and the people let after trashing the house & leaving freezer and refrig full of rotting food.
      I actually have investors I find houses for them. All of the house have already been foreclosed on or the owner is doing a short sale to prevent foreclosure. they come out better on a short sale as they get to live there until the house sells. They also get a moving allowance for not trashing the house. The bank also forgives the deficiency so their credit is ruined as bad as foreclosure. Either way, the home owner is not being taken advantage of.
      I had to learn so much about foreclosures as BankAmerica wants my house. I’ve been unemployed almost 3 years. Still fighting BOA and expect to win. I have sympathy for anyone losing there house.

    • hahatanka says:

      Bad typing, a short sale doesn’t hurt credit rating as a foreclosure.

    • khooray says:

      If you were dumb enough to pay $500,000 for a $175,000 house, don’t expect someone else to be a dummy and want to pay you for what you’re underwater in now.
      You gambled by sinking everything into a house, it just happens that you lost.
      It’s just the first time this has happened with housing in a LONG time, if ever, so people are having a hard time realizing they’re just not going to make a big profit on a house anymore.
      They’re going to take a loss.

  22. Arctic Snowbot says:

    We are putting an offer on a house tomorrow. $110,000 instead of the $129,000 listed. I was originally going to offer $119,000 but my dad pestered me to low ball them because it’s a foreclosure, and that also gives us room to negotiate he suggested $100,000 but i didn’t want to look too crazy so i went with $110,000. We’ll see how it goes, but if anyone has tips if there is a counter offer, I’d be glad to hear it!

    • alvysyngr says:

      I wish I could rate your post for unrealistic

    • hahatanka says:

      In this market, should have offered $75,00 and gone up to $100,00. TOPS, unless this the house of your dreams. I can be reached at stoverlane com
      So you lose a house. Close to 20% of all houses in the U.S. are in foreclosure.

  23. neilb says:

    We have been trying to do this for years (while we rent). I keep waiting for the world to run out of fat-walleted buyers with JUST enough credit who are willing to pay last year’s prices in our city.
    I am beginning to see that, when general housing depreciation is taken into consideration, renting is far cheaper than owning. That small difference I pay for the convenience of renting vs owning our house is less than we would lose per month due to the market falling apart. I’m sure I not the only person to decide to not own even though they are fully able to and WANT to.
    It is one more stupid consequence of treating housing like a financial instrument.

  24. MJDickPhoto says:

    Maybe it’s just me that sees it, but isn’t #2 and #3 complete opposites?

  25. alvysyngr says:

    My rule of thumb is – If you aren’t embarrassed by your offer than it’s too high!

  26. Awesome McAwesomeness says:

    When we sold our house, we got a super low ball offer and after that, I wouldn’t even negotiate with the person anymore. I didn’t send a counter offer, nothing. We got several other good offers, and gladly gave those people the time of day.

    I suggest that if you really want a property, be fair out of human decency. It’s pretty dickish to do a super lowball if you know the property is worth more.

  27. Awesome McAwesomeness says:

    When we sold our house (which we listed at a few thousand less than it was actually worth), we got a super low ball offer and after that, I wouldn’t even negotiate with the person anymore. I didn’t send a counter offer, nothing. We got several other good offers, and gladly gave those people the time of day.

    I suggest that if you really want a property, be fair out of human decency. It’s pretty dickish to do a super lowball if you know the property is worth more.

  28. pwik says:

    We made an offer a couple of years ago on a house based on a calculations of necessary work to be done to make the place safe, added in the value of land and improvements in place etc. and came up with an offer that was about 65% of their asking. They were dreaming thinking the place was worth what they were asking.

    They counteroffered at 90% and we walked. 14 months later, they sold for 50% off their asking price. Their realtor tried to point out to them that their first offer was usually the best offer, especially if the buyers had done their homework.

    This is not taking advantage, this is calculating what the house is worth to YOU and making an offer based on that.

  29. donovanr says:

    I love the counter negotiation. “We’ll lose money on the house.” or “That doesn’t cover our mortgage.” This is especially ripe when coming from property speculators. As if their miscalculated risk somehow alters the property’s market value.

  30. lucamel says:

    I am currently submitting a lowball offer. 7 years old house pricing 2.8m. Market value 2.9m. The owner bought it on high market at 3.5m. They have to move out of country shortly they bought the house. and house was rented out for 3 years. So pretty bad shape as a newer house. Lots of things need to be repaired. There is no pool or tennis court. Just a big house with great construction and tenents’ abuse. I submitted best offer of 2.3m with quick closure offer. The owner is still in another country. They countered back as 2.6m. I told them I can’t go higher. Keep finger crossed to see what will happen. FYI, on market 3 months ( On market 2 times before and asking 3m+) no previous offers. Any advice will be apprciated.