Every home sale is unique. Whether you’re operating from a position of strength in a hot seller’s market or trying to coax a better offer out of a stubborn buyer in a soft buyer’s market, you’re going to need a negotiating strategy.
From offering strategic concessions, to attaching a time limit to counteroffers, to simply saying “no,” here are 22 of the best negotiating methods you can use to get the ideal outcome from your home sale!
1. Get Your Sale Off to the Right Start
When it comes to negotiating your home sale, you want to be in the strongest position possible. Setting yourself up to be in that power position starts before the first offer comes in and before you even list your home.
Make sure you’re presenting your home in the most flattering light possible. Consider professional staging, and have professional quality real estate photos taken. Declutter as much as possible (experts suggest removing half your furniture or more), let in as much natural light as you can, and do a deep cleaning. If your home needs updates, carefully research which updates offer the most potential return on investment, and have them done. Decide on a realistic list price that’s supported by an expert analysis of the market.
Turning your home into its best self before it hits the market ensures you’ll have plenty of interested buyers — and plenty of offers to negotiate.
2. Understand Your Home’s Appeal
Think about the features of your home that will have the most visceral appeal to potential buyers. Maybe you recently updated the master bath, or the area schools are the best in the state, or you have one of the largest lots in the neighborhood.
Leverage these unique features when it’s time to talk about offers and counteroffers. The harder you make it for them to walk away, the more leverage you’ll have. Knowing what makes your house exceptional — and being able to back it up with hard data — lets potential buyers know that you’re a serious, knowledgeable seller.
3. Consider a Pre-Sale Inspection
In that same vein, think about having a pre-sale home inspection. It will cost you a few hundred dollars, but it’ll give you a lot of valuable information about your home — as well as priceless confidence.
The potential benefits of a pre-sale home inspection are twofold. First, you’ll gain a lot of certainty about your home’s strong suits. For example, it’s easier to negotiate from a position of power when you can point to specific strengths of your home — for example, the pristine roof and foundation that was just discovered in your pre-sale inspection.
Second, you’ll know about any problems before the buyer does. Buyers will typically use problems discovered in their home inspection — even small ones — as an excuse to ask for price reductions. If you know about any potential issues beforehand, you can price them in, and avoid a lot of sticky negotiations on the back end.
4. Compile a List of Upgrade and Improvements
In the same vein, one great way of knowing your home’s strengths is keeping a detailed list of all the improvements you’ve made to it.
Anything from a new HVAC system to a recently-installed rainfall showerhead should go on your list. Most buyers will come to the negotiating table with a list of things about your home they don’t like as a way to ask for price reductions. Upgrades are a great reason to directly counter that and justify your chosen price.
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5. If You Had a Pre-Sale Inspection, Ask for a Waiver of the Inspection Contingency
The inspection contingency often drags out the sale, or could even cause it to fall through if something serious is discovered in the contingency. So a sale agreement in which the buyer waives the inspection contingency is very desirable for sellers.
If you can provide the buyers with the results of a pre-sale inspection, it’s much more likely they’ll waive their inspection contingency, and provide you with a faster, smoother sale.
Keep in mind, though, that this won’t always be possible. Many lenders will insist on having their own home inspection done.
6. Let Your Agent Handle The Negotiation
Partnering with the right real estate agent is probably the best single step you can take to make your home sale successful. A good agent is a professional negotiator and, whatever your situation, they’ve likely handled a sale that’s similar to yours. They understand the dynamics of the local market, and what may be reasonable — and unreasonable — for buyers to ask for. However much commission you’re paying them, it’s always a great option to sit back and let them handle your sale at the negotiating table like a pro.
You may have a lot of ideas about the best way to handle the negotiations, but your agent will probably be able to get the best outcome all by themselves — if you give them the agency to handle things.
7. Don’t Forget You Can Negotiate Commission, Too
It’s often said that everything in a home sale is negotiable, and that’s true — including the fees you pay your real estate agent.
You can’t always negotiate a lower agent commission, but it’s definitely possible, especially if you have a desirable property that will sell quickly. Agents will also often take a lower commission on a higher-priced property — for example, a 2% commission on a $1 million sale is still more than 6% of a $200,000 sale.
8. Know the Market
In early 2023, we’re coming off one of the hottest seller’s markets in decades. High interest rates have been cooling the market, but inventory remains low in most places. There are still a lot of buyers out there who are determined to get into a home, whatever the cost.
When the national market’s in this much flux, look to your local market to understand how you should negotiate. This is especially important if you’re selling as a “For Sale By Owner” listing, without the support of an agent.
If you’re in a very desirable property in a market that remains hot, you can probably still expect multiple offers, and negotiate with confidence. If your market is cooling, you might not get as many offers, and buyers may be less willing to waive contingencies and make other concessions.
Tailor your negotiating style to your local market conditions, or you may drive buyers away.
9. Update Your Comps Often
Speaking of a market that’s in flux, you’ll want to be very careful about monitoring what’s happening with properties that are similar to yours. In some markets, prices are holding steady, while in others, they’re declining steeply. So in addition to checking comps just before you list, you’ll want to re-check them when it’s time to negotiate with buyers.
If prices in your market are holding steady, you can negotiate from a position of strength, and demand a high price and significant concessions. If prices are on a steep downslope, you might need to adopt a softer approach, as buyers will be more emboldened.
10. Provoke a Bidding War
It’s very simple: the more buyers you have bidding on your home, the higher the price will go. So it’s very much in your best interests to get as many buyers bidding on your home as possible.
One strategy to do this is to price your home slightly below its market value. This will attract a lot of buyers who are seeking a deal — and if multiple parties fall in love with your home, you’ll have a bidding war on your hands. It’s not rare for a bidding war to result in a sale price that’s tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars above the list price.
Another strategy to find a buyer is to have a deadline for all offers. This creates a sense of urgency among prospective buyers and can induce them to go ahead and make an offer. Once you have multiple offers, it’s just a matter of seeing who will pay the most.
11. Ask for “Highest and Best Offers”
Once you have multiple offers, you can cut to the chase and simply ask people for their “highest and best” offers. “Highest and best” is real estate lingo meaning whatever the buyer’s potential outer limit is, and asking for it can change the tenor of your negotiation.
This tells all prospective buyers that you’re not interested in endless back-and-forth negotiations with each bidder. It also signals that you have multiple interested buyers, and can be a very effective way to solicit competitive offers upfront, instead of having to coax them out.
Keep in mind that if you aren’t happy with the first batch of offers, you can solicit another round of “final” offers or even a third round.
12. Don’t Be Afraid to Simply Say No
When you receive an offer, your first instinct may be to make a counteroffer that’s more in line with your expectations. But you aren’t obligated to do this! Sometimes it can be highly effective to simply reject an offer, especially if it falls far short of what you want.
Flatly saying no to an offer signals to the buyer that you’re a confident seller who knows what they want. This will signal that you won't have a long back-and-forth incremental negotiation. It can reset the dynamic and bring forth a more serious “final” offer.
There’s another benefit to simply saying “no.” Once you counteroffer, you’re ethically obligated to continue to negotiate with that buyer, even if another better offer comes in. Simply rejecting an offer means you’re not negotiating — and leaves you free to act.
Just don’t go overboard with rejecting all less-than-ideal offers, or you may exhaust all your buyers and get dropped by your agent. The numbers on selling your home without an agent aren’t pretty!
13. Counter with Your List Price
Another way to handle unsatisfactory offers is to simply counteroffer with the original list price. This tells bidders that you know your home’s worth, and are determined to get the price you want.
This approach can seem slightly confrontational and may drive off buyers who want to feel like the negotiation was a collaboration. If you’re worried about this, you can counter at just below the list price — a thousand or less below — to convey your determination to stick to your price without seeming inflexible.
14. Attach a Time Limit to Your Counteroffer
Another great way to inject some urgency into negotiations is to put an expiration date on your counteroffer.
While most standard real estate contracts already contain a deadline for responding to counteroffers, you can shorten it. Giving the bidder 24 or 48 hours to accept or pass lets them know the situation is urgent and that likely other bidders are circling.
Keeping that counteroffer window short is in your best interests as a seller, too. While a counteroffer is out there, your home is essentially off the market. Giving them a short time window to respond gives you the best chance of either tying up a sale or getting back out there. This will also help keep that vital “days on market” counter as low as possible.
15. Offer a Home Warranty
It can be tough for some buyers to make that final step forward to “yes,” and a home warranty can give them that little push they need.
Giving them a home warranty puts to rest any fears they might have about lurking problems that didn’t come up in the inspection, and can be a vital source of reassurance.
16. Understand the Buyers
If your buyer is moving to the area for a new job or has small children who need to start school soon, this can tell you that you have the advantage in negotiations. Personal circumstances like this can often come out in casual conversation, or your agent can uncover them by talking to the buyer’s agent.
Beyond that, having some basic information about your buyers can also help you sort them into the serious and the not-as-serious. For example, is the buyer an experienced investor who’s going to be calculating precise returns, or are they a young family just looking for a starter home? On a similar note, finding out who is pre-approved for financing and who isn’t is a very important data point. Knowing who may be renting and who owns a home that they’d have to sell before they move forward with buying can also give you an idea about potential timelines.
17. Keep Your Situation Quiet
On the other hand, you don’t want to hand your buyers a valuable negotiation chip by telling them too much about your situation.
If you’re selling because of a divorce, death in the family, or job relocation, keep that as quiet as possible. If buyers know you’re under financial or time pressures, they’ll be much tougher in negotiations, knowing you have to sell your home fast and move before a certain date.
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18. Be Savvy About Closing Costs
As home prices have increased, it’s become more common for buyers to ask sellers to cover closing costs. Getting their down payment together has often taken the buyer to their financial limit. In many cases, they may not be able to proceed with the sale at all unless the seller helps them by covering some or all of the closing costs.
In a situation like this, don’t hesitate to ask for a price increase to offset any closing costs you might have to pay! Just keep in mind that this may cause problems down the line; if the sale price exceeds the appraisal, the lender could object.
19. Get Creative When Negotiating Closing Costs
If the buyer asks for you to cover a few thousand dollars in closing costs, it can be effective to counter by throwing in some pricey items. For example, your home may have some top-of-the-line appliances you were planning on taking with you or a furniture set that’s just perfect for the finished basement. Offering to throw those in instead of paying closing costs can be a great enticement.
You could also help the buyer out by telling them about some of the great home buyer rebate programs out there that can put cash back in their pocket when they need it most.
20. Sometimes, You Might Want to Just Pay the Closing Costs
Paying the buyer’s closing costs is a last resort since that’s money that’s coming out of your pocket. That being said, there are a lot of situations where it makes sense.
If you have a great buyer that’s simply reached their financial limit, paying their closing costs could get the sale over the finish line. Similarly, if you don’t have a lot of interest in the home, or your local market seems to be trending downward, paying a few thousand in closing costs is a small price to pay for closing a difficult sale. This is especially practical in a slow market where your next best option might be to sell to a cash buyer.
21. Keep In Mind That Higher Isn’t Always Better
For a seller, the goal when negotiating a home sale is always to get the highest possible sale price, right? Well, not necessarily.
Driving the price sky-high can increase the probability of certain complications. The most obvious one is that the buyer could simply have second thoughts and back out of the sale. This is most common when there’s been a heated bidding war, and the buyer realizes they got caught up in the competitiveness of the moment.
Another risk is that the appraisal could come in lower than the sale price — meaning the buyer will either have to make up the difference out of pocket, or you’ll have to lower the price.
It’s often better to negotiate other things — contingencies, closing dates, specific closing costs — rather than just price, especially if your goal is a clean, smooth sale.
22. Know When to Say Yes
Finally, keep in mind that there’s a point where negotiations may become counterproductive. If you drag out negotiations too long, the buyer may become frustrated and simply walk away. That means you’re back to square one, with a home that’s already racked up a significant number of days on market.
Look past price when assessing offers. A high offer that comes with a ton of contingencies may not be superior to a slightly lower offer that has a simpler, easier path to completion.