A couple shakes hands with a real estate agent after negotiating their house offer

Negotiating a House Price: How To Get That Winning Bid to Contract

Real Estate Advice

by Karen Dybis Posted on February 20, 2024

Selling a house is a big deal. Even the most seasoned real estate agents admit that negotiating house prices is a fine art — and a life-changing event that’s not for the faint of heart. So how do you handle attracting buyers, juggling offers, and finally settling on a figure that makes sense? Let’s take a look at some frequently asked questions about how to negotiate when selling a house and, most importantly, getting a winning bid to contract ASAP. 

Did you know? This is the third article in our series on selling your home. Throughout this series, real estate agent Neyshika Tellis has given us the lowdown on all things home sales. If you haven’t already, check out the first two and learn how to evaluate an initial offer and what you need to know about counter offers

1. For Starters, How Do You Get Multiple House Offers?

“You want to invite multiple bids,” says Neyshika Tellis, a real estate agent with Florida-based Charles Rutenberg Realty. But when the bids start rolling in, it can quickly become overwhelming.

It starts with how you price your home. Tellis recommends sellers take a thorough and thoughtful approach to pricing: Research how much your home is worth, make improvements to prep for potential buyers (such as painting with neutral wall colors, decluttering, and repairing any structural flaws), and set a price that brings in as many bids as possible. 

That means pricing just right. “You don’t want to be too high, because then you sit on the market. If you price too low, you’re going to end up giving up too much,” Tellis says. “That price point is something you can use to your advantage. If you price at $275,000, for example, you’ll get [showings] with people who look at houses priced from $250,000 to $275,000 as well as people who are looking from $275,000 to $300,000.” 

“The more eyes you have on your property, the more offers you may get.”

2. Can You Negotiate an Offer on a House?

Tellis and other real estate agents agree: It’s rare for a seller to take the first offer they get from a buyer and end up with that same dollar amount on the contract. Typically, buyers will start with house offers that are lower than the original list prices. 
Think of that first offer as a starting point for negotiating a house price. For example, an item on eBay is listed in an auction at a certain price and, from there, buyers start to raise the bids more and more. A house sale happens in a similar way: You set the price, the buyers offer what they think the home is worth, and the two parties communicate via their real estate agents to settle on something fair to both of them. 
Pro Tip: When you’re ready to tackle house offers, get ready to also dive into closing costs, home inspections, counter offers, and — best of all — bidding wars. A lot can happen in a short amount of time.

3. How Does Negotiating a House Price After Inspection Work?

The outcome of the inspection is the key factor here, of course. If it turns up serious structural issues — is it long past time to replace the roof? — you may have less power at the negotiating table. Multiple challenges may require taking a line-item approach. For instance, if the house needs to be rewired, the pool is leaking, and the garage door is faulty, you might agree to take care of the electrical matter and drop the price accordingly, but have the buyer manage the pool and the garage door. 

And by the same token, if the home is in good shape, you could be in the driver’s seat. But in just about any scenario, post-inspection is a potentially delicate time, so consult with your agent for guidance on how to negotiate house prices at this stage.

4. What Is a Reasonable Lower Offer on a House?

This depends on what’s happening in the real estate market. In a buyer’s market, potential bidders may feel like they can give you an offer that is lower than your initial price — and if you want to sell fast, you may need to take that offer. 

But to negotiate a home contract in a seller’s market, it’s smart to come back with a counter offer and see if you can reach a higher price from the buyer. This is especially important if your home has special features, like a pool or a finished basement, that add to the overall value beyond what might be the norm in the neighborhood. 

A woman holds her head, poring over the details of her house offers

Lowball offers, which have the potential to not only kill a deal but to also insult the seller, rarely get you anywhere when it comes to negotiating house prices.

5. What Is Considered a Lowball Offer?

There are times when a low offer is just too low, known as a “lowball offer.” This is when a buyer comes in with an offer that is several thousand dollars under your initial listing price. Real estate agents like Tellis can tell stories of buyers just throwing numbers out there to see if the sellers are “motivated.” 

Sometimes there are good reasons for lowballing, but frequently the tactic can end up killing the deal — and insulting the seller. So if you know you’re on the right track with your listing price, decline the lowball offer, stick to your plan, and try not to take it personally.

Q: How do you negotiate housing prices? 
In general, get advice from a reputable real estate agent who knows how to negotiate a home contract, understands your local market, and is knowledgeable about the broader economic factors that might influence costs. And just as importantly, be very clear — with yourself and your agent — about your bottom line. If there’s a number you absolutely cannot go below, keep that in mind as the negotiations begin.

6. How Much Should I Counter Offer on a House?

This is a question many first-time home buyers may ask themselves — and something that you, as the seller, should definitely consider before negotiating on a house price begins. When a potential buyer appears, you may be eager to sell and willing to take any offer that comes your way. If you need to move quickly, then by all means, follow your strategy (with the guidance of your real estate agent, of course!). 

But many buyers expect you to come back with a counter offer, and their real estate agents may already have a price in mind that they believe the two parties will ultimately settle on. Think of it this way: Don’t be afraid to present a counter offer and ask for a little more money if the house merits it. As for how much? It depends on how much the buyer initially offered.

7. How Should You Respond If a Potential Buyer Is Negotiating Down an Overpriced House?

The art of selling a home begins with relationship building — you want to establish trust and then find common ground to establish the terms of the deal. So if your home is perceived as being overpriced, you might want to reevaluate with an appraiser or other expert before going any further. But in general, a seller can apply a few tactics to gain some leverage with a serious buyer who wants the home: adjusting the closing date, for example, negotiating the earnest money amount (basically a good-faith deposit), or agreeing to take on needed upgrades. 

8. What Else Should You Consider When Reviewing House Offers?

This is the key moment in how to negotiate when selling a house. Carefully analyze the buyer’s offer with a fine-toothed comb, starting with the dollar amount. Compare the offer to your listing price, and ask yourself these questions:

  • Are the numbers far apart?
  • If so, the offer may be too low and you’ll want to ask for more money — especially if there are other potential buyers who are interested.
  • Are the numbers close together?
  • Ok, you’re getting there. But you may want to see if the buyer might cover your real estate agent fees, commission, and other costs to sweeten the deal a little more.
  • What if the number is higher than your listing?
  • Well, then you’ve hit the real estate jackpot. That’s when you move to the next stage of the offer and pat yourself on the back.

Now, consider the following:
  • What closing date does the buyer propose?
  • Does it work with your timeline, or does it put you in a bind by being either too soon or too far away?
  • Does the buyer have contingencies?
  • Contingencies are conditions of the sale — like an additional inspection beyond a pre-listing inspection, or the buyer selling their current house — that can affect your plan significantly, so you’ll want to think carefully about whether they work with your strategy and calendar.

Insider Tip: You may start thinking about your upcoming move as you’re ironing out the details on your home offer. With all the moving parts you’ll need to juggle, a flexible solution like PODS portable moving and storage containers may be your best option. The container is delivered straight to your driveway, so you can take as long as you need to load all your stuff. When you’re ready, PODS will pick up the container and deliver it to your next destination. And if you need temporary storage until your new home is ready, PODS has local Storage Centers that can securely house your belongings.

Sticky notes sit on top of a green notebook. One note reads “For Sale,” and the other reads “Bidding War”

When your home sale starts a bidding war, you may feel like you’ve hit the jackpot — but think carefully about next steps, so you don’t sell yourself short.

9. What Is a Bidding War?

In a seller’s market, this is the golden moment: You have a house that’s in demand, and there are several buyers coming forward around the same time — likely within a few days of when you list your house on the market. 

This is when you might want to have a great spreadsheet system, a crystal-clear understanding of your end goal, and a conversation with your real estate agent about how to negotiate the house price. And don’t take the process lightly: It’s wise to assume your potential buyers have sought guidance, too — and have a strategy for how to bid on a house with multiple offers.

If you’re looking to make as much money on the sale as you can, the offer with the highest price and decent additional factors should be front and center — your preferred closing date, for instance. If you need more time, you’ll want to prioritize the offers that are willing to give you those extra weeks. 

In the end, you should feel good about the offer you’ve selected and the result of the negotiations. Again, the key is to establish your goal at the start of the process, and don’t put yourself in a situation where you feel like you’re “settling.” 

10. Is Negotiating the House Price After the Offer Is Accepted Possible?

The short answer is yes. Until a contract is signed, sealed, and delivered, a deal isn’t technically done. But it’s highly unusual to reopen haggling — particularly if you’ve reached the stage in negotiating a house price where the listing is pulled from the market. There can be extenuating circumstances, of course: If a contingency falls through (your buyer isn’t able to secure financing or the home inspection turns up a serious problem or two, for instance), both parties may decide to return to the drawing board. 

Q: When should you stop negotiating on a house? 
Knowing when to walk away is just as important as knowing when to keep pushing. In general, here are three of the most common circumstances that could warrant walking away from the table: 
    1. Too many concessions — or concessions that are unreasonable.
    2. Lowballing that’s beyond reason.
    3. A buyer threatens — without merit — to withdraw from the deal.

11. What’s Next?

After you’ve successfully negotiated the offer on your home and tweaked the finer details, you can breathe a sigh of relief — but just a quick one. Because now it’s officially time to begin your move! Start preparing your moving checklist and visit the PODS Blog to get expert tips on organizing, decluttering, and more along the way. Good luck!

Special thanks to Neyshika Tellis — Tampa, Florida, real estate agent with Charles Rutenberg Realty — for providing her professional insight for this article.

Karen Dybis is a freelance journalist and a frequent contributor to the PODS Blog. Her work has appeared in Time magazine, U.S. News & World Report, The Detroit News, and more.

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