How Much Should I Offer Below Asking Price?
Thinking about making a lowball offer? Before you do, make sure it’s the right move and read our tips for how to make one.
By Emily Southey | 12 minute read
If you’re making an offer on a home, you might be wondering how much you should offer to pay for the property and if it should be below or above the asking price. In a buyer’s market, it’s not uncommon for prospective homebuyers to submit lowball offers in an effort to buy a home for less than the asking price. But how low is too low? This is the question we seek to answer today. While submitting a lowball offer can be an effective homebuying strategy, it can backfire on you if it’s so low that it insults the seller.
What Is Considered a Lowball Offer?
A lowball offer is a negotiation technique employed by homebuyers with the goal of purchasing a home for less than the asking price. Therefore, a lowball offer is one where the buyer submits an offer on a home for a price significantly less than the asking price.
In a buyer’s market, the odds of a homebuyer finding a seller who will accept a lowball offer goes up. But in a seller’s market, a buyer is less likely to have success with this strategy.
The values of lowball offers vary as they are unique to the purchase price of a particular home. However, generally speaking, offers below 10% of the listing price are considered lowball offers (for example, a lowball offer on a $500,000 property would be roughly $450,000 or below).
When and How to Make a Lowball Offer
Submitting a lowball offer isn’t for everyone. Rather, there are specific circumstances in which they make sense and others in which they don’t. Continue reading to learn more about how and when to make a lowball real estate offer.
Determine if it’s a buyer’s market or a seller’s market
Before making a lowball offer, the first thing you should do is research the market. It is crucial to understand if it’s a buyer’s or seller’s market. After all, the success of your lowball offer directly hinges on current market conditions. Wahi’s
Market Pulse tool can help you see which Greater Toronto Area neighbourhoods are selling for over and under asking.
Typically, buyer’s markets offer greater flexibility when it comes to price because inventory is high and demand is low. Therefore, sellers may be more willing to negotiate and accept an offer below asking. In contrast, if it’s a seller’s market, buyers will likely have a harder time purchasing a home below asking, especially if bidding wars are involved. Since inventory is low and demand is high, sellers are likely to get multiple offers and therefore may see no need to counter or accept a lowball offer. Ultimately, unless you have ascertained the seller’s motivations and have reason to believe they favour other factors, such as speed over price, it’s best not to submit a lowball offer in a seller’s market. If you need help determining the current market conditions, consider working with a realtor who has extensive knowledge of the local market and can help you devise a strategy for making an offer.
If it’s a buyer’s market
One instance when a homebuyer can get away with making a lowball offer is in a buyer’s market. As mentioned, a buyer’s market typically translates to high inventory and low demand, giving homebuyers the upper hand. In such a market, homebuyers should feel comfortable submitting a lowball offer of roughly 10% below the asking price (anything less, and you risk insulting the seller). Even if the seller doesn’t accept your offer outright, they are likely to submit a counteroffer.
“Before making a lowball offer, the first thing you should do is research the market. It is crucial to understand if it’s a buyer’s or seller’s market. Wahi’s Market Pulse tool can help you see which Greater Toronto Area neighbourhoods are selling for over and under asking.”
If it’s fall or winter
The time of year is one factor that can impact your offer strategy. In most places, housing markets tend to cool off in the fall and winter. Therefore, if you hope to purchase a home with a lowball offer, waiting until these off-peak months might increase your chances. Typically, the housing market experiences a surge in spring and summer, with families looking to relocate between the end of one school year and the start of the next. From late August through to March, when school is in session, the holiday season is in full swing, and the weather has taken a turn, the market cools off. While there might be less inventory during these months, you might be able to purchase a home for less.
If the asking price is too high
Another scenario when making a lowball offer might be worthwhile is if the asking price of the home is too high. Sometimes sellers will list their homes for more than they are worth. Understandably, sellers want to earn as much as they can for their homes, but sometimes these asking prices are unrealistically high. In such a scenario, the buyer shouldn’t hesitate to submit a lowball offer. Work with a realtor to determine the market value of the home, comparing it to similar, recently sold homes in the neighbourhood. Of course, always be respectful when submitting a lowball offer, especially on a home that’s priced too high. Although you might have the evidence to back up the fact that the home is overpriced, you don’t want to risk alienating the seller by coming off as rude or condescending. Instead, let the evidence speak for itself. For example, ask the seller’s agent for the comps they used to price the home. If the property in question differs from the comps (for example, the comps have updated kitchens and appliances or swimming pools in the backyard but the listed home does not), note this when you submit your lowball offer.
If the home needs to be updated
Lowball offers may also be suited to homes in need of extensive repairs, otherwise known as fixer-uppers. Therefore, when deciding whether to make a lowball offer, it’s important to consider the repairs or upgrades that the home needs. Stepping foot in the home might make clear that the necessary repairs are extensive, but for most properties, a home inspection is what will reveal the extent of the repairs. If the home inspection report lists a wide range of repairs, many of which are significant and will be costly to repair, homebuyers can use this as leverage to lower the asking price. Another option instead of reducing the purchase price is to request that the seller handle the repairs prior to the date of possession or that they provide the buyer with “credit in lieu of repairs.” No matter how you choose to go about it, a home in need of serious repair is one scenario in which a lowball offer might be acceptable.
If the home has been on the market for a while
One final instance in which submitting a lowball offer could be an effective strategy is if the home has been lingering on the market. Specifically, if a property has been on the market for over three months, the seller may be more willing to negotiate, in which case, submitting a lowball offer could be a great place to start.
Tips for Making Lowball Offers in Real Estate
Increase the odds of your lowball offer being accepted by following the tips and tricks below.
1. Research the market value of the home
Our first tip for making lowball offers in real estate is to research the market value of the home. When trying to determine whether to make a lowball offer, you should rely on the market conditions over the home’s listing price. If you’re buying a home without a realtor, you’ll have to research market conditions on your own. But if you’re working with a realtor, they have likely already conducted a comparative market analysis and can advise you on what comparable homes in the area recently sold for. If the comps don’t align with the listing price, submitting a lowball offer might be worthwhile.
2. Never offer more than 25% below the asking price
Offending the seller is the worst thing you can do as a homebuyer. One of the quickest ways of offending a seller is with an offer that is too low. Although there are circumstances in which lowball offers are acceptable, there is still a limit as to how low these offers should be. On average, lowball offers fall between 10% and 15% below asking, and they should never exceed 25% below asking. Even 25% below asking can be insulting depending on the home. While it may be appropriate for a fixer-upper or a home that’s been on the market for several months, an asking price this low might insult the seller in a typical buyer’s market. To decide how much below asking to offer, carefully study the listing price and compare it to other homes in the area using the comps research from tip #1. If the home is already priced low, then you should approach a lowball offer with caution. But if it’s priced far too high, you might have more leeway when it comes to submitting a low offer.
3. Find out the number of days the home has been on the market
Any time you’re considering making a lowball offer, find out how many days the property has been on the market. The longer it’s been sitting on the market, the more likely it is that the seller will accept a lowball offer or at least be willing to counter it. If the home has been on the market for three months or more, chances are the seller is getting desperate. This type of situation is one in which submitting a lowball offer might be effective.
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4. Sweeten the deal by making a lowball offer with beneficial terms
Another tip for successfully making a lowball offer is to sweeten the deal by including advantageous terms in your offer letter. Although the purchase price is going to be below asking, a buyer can increase their odds of the lowball offer being accepted if they agree to a short closing period, offer a significant earnest money deposit, or include little to no contingencies (though a home inspection condition is always recommended). To show the seller you’re serious, we also recommend getting pre-approved for a mortgage before making an offer and including a mortgage pre-approval letter with the offer.
5. Understand why the seller wants to sell the home
Understanding the seller’s motivations for listing their property can help you determine if a lowball offer is the way to go. If the seller is motivated to sell quickly (for example, they have already purchased and moved into another home or they recently inherited the home and have no interest in keeping it), they may be more likely to accept a lowball offer.
6. Be kind and respectful
One last tip for making a lowball offer in real estate is to always be kind and respectful. In any homebuying negotiation, it’s crucial to leave emotion out of it. This might be difficult, but the more emotional you are, the more aggressive or angry you are likely to become, which can instantly turn off a buyer. Remember that the seller may have an emotional or sentimental attachment to their home and submitting an offer that’s too low or coming off as cocky or arrogant can mean the end of the sale. If you aren’t confident in your ability to maintain composure during a negotiation, have your realtor communicate with the seller or the seller’s realtor on your behalf.
Frequently Asked Questions
Should I submit an offer that is below the asking price?
You should only submit an offer below the asking price if you are prepared to lose the home. Submitting a lowball, no matter the market increases the odds that your offer will be rejected. Therefore, before making a lowball offer, ask yourself how badly you want the home. If it’s the home of your dreams, then submitting an offer below asking may not be the best strategy. But if you can live with the possible outcome of losing out on the home to someone else, then don’t hesitate to submit a lowball offer, especially if it’s a buyer’s market.
When is a lowball offer appropriate?
There are several scenarios in which making a lowball offer may be appropriate. Such scenarios include if the market is cool (a buyer’s market), if it’s the off-season (fall or winter), if the asking price is too high, if the home requires significant repairs or upgrades, and if the home has been sitting on the market for a while.
Should I offer more or less than what’s being asked?
The answer to this question depends on many factors, but the most important one is the current market. Research the housing market or consult with a realtor to determine whether it’s a buyer’s market or a seller’s market. In a buyer’s market, homebuyers may be able to get away with offering less than the asking price. But in a seller’s market, the odds of a lowball offer being accepted diminish significantly.
How can I make a lowball offer that gets accepted?
To increase the odds that your lowball offer will be accepted, you could throw in other advantageous terms. For example, you could propose a short closing period (which most sellers favour) or include little to no contingencies.
In addition, we also recommend explaining why you chose to make a lowball offer. If you’ve done your homework and can provide evidence or documentation to support your offer, the seller may be more likely to accept it. For example, if the home is priced too high, submitting comps for similar homes in the neighbourhood could help sway the seller.
In a buyer's market, what should my offer be for a home?
Lowball offers in buyer’s markets vary considerably, but they usually average 10% below the asking price. However, there might be situations in which offering 15% or even 20% below asking is appropriate, such as if the house has been sitting on the market for a while or if it is a fixer-upper that requires expensive repairs. Generally speaking, we advise homebuyers against offering more than 25% below the asking price, as this can be insulting to sellers.
What should a buyer avoid when lowballing?
The first thing to avoid when lowballing is insulting the seller. Do not come in with an offer so low that the seller refuses to even counter it because they are so insulted. Think carefully about the price you want to include with your lowball offer or consult with a realtor for an expert opinion.
In addition, you don’t want to waste the buyer’s time by submitting a lowball offer in a seller’s market where there are likely to be multiple bidders.
Another mistake buyers should avoid when lowballing is offering the maximum they want to pay. Any time you submit an offer, whether it’s below asking or not, you should never offer your maximum budget. Instead, you should offer an amount below what you hope to pay for the home.
One final mistake to avoid when submitting a lowball offer is to rush the process. More often than not, especially in a buyer’s market, sellers initially reject lowball offers only to think about it and end up going back to the buyer with a counter. Give the seller time to think the offer through.
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