Buying Guide

Making an Offer

To determine your initial offer for the home, we'll sit down with our notes on the home and neighborhood, including prices of other area homes, and figure out the most you'd be willing to pay for the home as well as the price you expect to pay. Your initial offer will likely be less than you're willing to pay, but not so low that you insult the seller. There is always room for open negotiation. Homes are intensely personal, and creating bad feelings with the seller will only make it more difficult for everyone.

While much attention is spent on offering prices, a proposal to buy includes both the price and terms. In some cases, terms can represent thousands of dollars in additional value for buyers -- or additional costs. Terms are extremely important and should be carefully reviewed.

How much?

You sometimes hear that the amount of your offer should be x percent below the seller's asking price or y percent less than you're really willing to pay. In practice, the offer depends on the basic laws of supply and demand: If many buyers are competing for homes, then sellers will likely get full-price offers and sometimes even more. If demand is weak, then offers below the asking price may be in order.

How do you make an offer?

The process of making offers varies around the country. In a typical situation, you will complete an offer that the realtor will present to the owner and the owner's representative. The owner, in turn, may accept the offer, reject it or make a counter-offer.

Because counter-offers are common (any change in an offer can be considered a "counter-offer"), it's important for buyers to remain in close contact with the realtor during the negotiation process so that any proposed changes can be quickly reviewed.

How many inspections?

A number of inspections are common in residential realty transactions. They include checks for termites, surveys to determine boundaries, appraisals to determine value for lenders, title reviews and structural inspections.

Structural inspections are particularly important. During these examinations, an inspector comes to the property to determine if there are material physical defects and whether expensive repairs and replacements are likely to be required in the next few years. Such inspections for a single-family home often require two or three hours, and buyers should attend. This is an opportunity to examine the property's mechanics and structure, ask questions and learn far more about the property than is possible with an informal walk-through.

Making an offer on that potential dream home gets you one step closer to making your dream a reality. This is a critical process, however, because suggesting and selecting the perfect price could make or break the sale.