11 Items You Can Negotiate in a Real Estate Deal

by | BiggerPockets.com

So, you’ve offered on a piece of real estate. What happens next, however, is somewhat out of your control.

You wait for a response. A seller could respond to your offer in three different ways:

  1. Accept it
  2. Reject (or ignore!) it
  3. Make a counteroffer

If they accept it, great! If they reject it, that’s OK; there is always another deal, or you could re-offer again when the seller wises up. However, when a seller submits a counteroffer, that’s when the real fun begins.

A counteroffer (often just called a “counter”) is a response to another, earlier offer. In other words, if you offered $100,000 on a property, and the seller says, “No, I want $110,000,” that response from the seller is the counteroffer.

In most of the deals I’ve offered on, the original offer has not been accepted; the same will likely be true for you. And that’s not a bad thing! I argue that if your initial offer is accepted, you probably offered too much!

Of course, if you are in a highly competitive market, this might not be the case, but generally, I consider a counteroffer a good thing. It means the seller wants to sell to me and is willing to find common ground where both parties can get what they want. The negotiation process is where the two sides try to make that happen. Remember, both parties want the exact same thing: a sale.

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11 Items You Can Negotiate in a Real Estate Deal

Many people see the word “negotiation” and envision one party winning and the other losing. However, in a good negotiation, both parties walk away feeling like they achieved pretty much, if not exactly, what they wanted. When there is no negotiation, that’s when one of the parties tends to feel they got shafted! So remember: a little back-and-forth is a good thing.

Related: Beware “Yes,” Master “No”: The Surprising Key to Skillful Negotiation

Keep in mind, I’m not referring to negotiating just on the price. In fact, there are multiple parts of the contract that can be negotiated. For example, you could negotiate for any or all of the following:

  1. Price: How much are you actually going to pay for the property?
  2. Closing date: When will you close? Next week? Next month?
  3. Closing location: Where is the closing going to take place? Your title company? Theirs? An attorney’s office?
  4. Contingencies: What contingencies could be removed from the P&S agreement?
  5. Financing: Will the seller agree to carry a second mortgage on the property?
  6. Closing costs: Who will pay for what during the closing process?
  7. Home warranty: A home warranty is sometimes included in the sale of a home and covers certain repair items after the sale happens. This can help smooth any concerns on the part of the buyer. Will your deal include one? If so, who will pay for it?
  8. Repairs: What do you need the seller to fix before you purchase the property? Will you hold them to it? Will you buy the property “as is”?
  9. Credits: What about getting credits at closing toward certain repairs that are needed? If a new roof is needed, and the seller doesn’t want to put one on before closing, could you negotiate the cost of a new roof given to you at closing?
  10. Possession date: When will you actually take control of the property? While it’s most common to transfer possession immediately after the title has been transferred, this is negotiable. Maybe the seller needs a few more weeks. Maybe you want to get in early. It’s all negotiable.
  11. Items left in the property: What is the seller required to leave at the property? Appliances? Tools? Furniture? This is all negotiable.

Again, these are all elements you can negotiate, either offering or asking for a concession. (A concession is when the other party gives up something in the negotiation.) Perhaps the seller is firm on the price, but you can get more repairs done on the property before closing. Or perhaps they don’t want to do anything with the condition or the price, but the seller is willing
to carry a contract on the property (seller financing) for a short period while you fix it up. The possibilities are nearly endless as to what your negotiation can produce, so look at negotiation as a huge opportunity for you to creatively achieve your goals.

Related: The 3 Things to Remember Before You Negotiate a Real Estate Deal

When you’re offering on a property through the MLS, the negotiation will take place through the agents. You’ll never likely sit down across from the seller to engage in some television-worthy negotiation. Instead, the negotiation will take place through a back-and-forth exchange of documents signed by you, given to your agent, sent to their agent, and finally given to the seller. The seller will then either accept, reject, or reply with a counteroffer. Your job, at that point, will be to either accept the counter, reject it, or reply with yet another counteroffer.

When offering on a property outside the MLS, through a private seller, your negotiations will likely be much more direct. In fact, you might negotiate every point on the hood of your car or sitting at the seller’s kitchen table. I’ve negotiated a deal while sitting inside the seller’s truck, just outside the house I was buying! The back-and-forth will likely be much less formal, though I still recommend putting as much of the negotiation on paper as possible, even if that just means pulling out a sheet of blank paper and writing down the terms.

What items have YOU negotiated in a real estate deal?

Share below!

About Author

Brandon Turner

Brandon Turner (G+ | Twitter) spends a lot of time on BiggerPockets.com. Like… seriously… a lot. Oh, and he is also an active real estate investor, entrepreneur, traveler, third-person speaker, husband, and author of “The Book on Investing in Real Estate with No (and Low) Money Down“, and “The Book on Rental Property Investing” which you should probably read if you want to do more deals.

4 Comments

  1. Anthony Angotti

    One point of negotiation that is useful is the two stage earnest money deposits. Less Earnest money up front and then after the contingency period you put in more. Doesn’t get used as often as it should in my area.

    I see a lot of usefulness in using the “as-is” with the exception of certain items to be useful as well. So offer to take the property without requesting repairs or concessions unless issues with roof, sewer line, foundation, etc.

    Many other things. Weirdest thing I ever heard of was (not my client) that a buyer wanted the seller to get rid of feral cats on their property with the exception of one that they wanted to keep feeding as an outdoor cat……

  2. Costin I.

    Usually, once you get a property under contract, they buyer has a lot more outs than the seller. One thing you might want to be careful with in the offer-counteroffer game is to realize that with every negotiating counteroffer you make, you also offer the other party an out of the contract. If you got it to a good spot, you might risk losing it if you push it with a counteroffer. In other words, a counteroffer often also voids a previous offer or counteroffer, without the choice to go back.

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