6 Things You Should Never Try To Negotiate When Buying a Home

Couple buying a house and reviewing the contract with their real estate agent stock photo
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Buying a home can be an exciting milestone, but it’s not as simple as pointing your finger at a property and signing on the dotted line. There’s usually some negotiating that takes place first. 

Faith Saunders, a licensed Realtor in Northern Virginia and Maryland with Pearson Smith Realty, said, “Negotiating an offer for a home can be a complex and delicate process; there are many pitfalls that can come along when negotiating for a client. While buyers should aim to secure a fair deal, there are certain aspects of the transaction that they should avoid trying to negotiate and leave to an experienced Realtor.”

Here are six things you should never try to negotiate when buying a home

Listing Price

Saunders said one of the most common mistakes homebuyers make is attempting to negotiate the listing price of a home. 

“The listing price is usually set by the seller and their real estate agent after careful consideration of the market value and the condition of the property,” she said. “Attempting to negotiate this price without a strong basis can lead to a strained relationship between the buyer and seller. In some cases, it may even result in the seller rejecting the offer altogether. In markets of consistent appreciation, which is most of the country for the past few years, the sales prices continue to climb.” 

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Saunders said that trying to negotiate the listing price without a strong justification can be seen as disrespectful and possibly jeopardize the deal. She also said online third-party estimates can often be up to 10% off from the current market value and are not reliable. 

Personal Property That’s Not Included in the Sale

“Personal property refers to items such as appliances, furniture or decorative fixtures that are not permanently attached to the home,” Saunders said. “While it’s not uncommon for sellers to include some personal property in the sale, attempting to negotiate for additional items can complicate the process. Many states and associations have clear lists stating what stays or conveys with the purchase of the property.”

When putting in an offer, Saunders said, buyers need to be clear about which items are included in the sale.

“If there are specific personal property items they wish to acquire,” she said, “it’s better to make a separate request and negotiation for them rather than trying to include them in the initial offer. The inclusion of personal property can lead to disagreements over the value of these items and potentially delay the closing process.”

Unrealistic Closing Timeline

Saunders said homebuyers often have specific timelines in mind due to events like moving or a job change.

“While it’s reasonable to discuss the closing timeline with the seller,” Saunders said, “attempting to negotiate an unrealistic or extremely tight schedule can be problematic.” 

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She said sellers may have their own constraints, such as finding a new home or coordinating their move, and that homebuyers should have open communication with their real estate agents and sellers’ agents regarding the desired closing timelines. 

Extensive Cosmetic Changes

“Home inspections often reveal issues that may need attention before the sale is finalized,” Saunders said. “It’s common for buyers to request repairs or cosmetic changes as part of the negotiation process. However, it’s crucial to distinguish between essential repairs that affect the safety and livability of the home versus cosmetic changes that are more about personal preference.”

Saunders advised being cautious when negotiating cosmetic changes, such as paint colors or minor upgrades, especially if the property is in good condition and the market is competitive. She said attempting to negotiate for extensive cosmetic changes can create friction with the seller and make the overall transaction less appealing.

“Focusing on critical repairs and safety issues is generally more effective in negotiations,” she said. 

Numerous or Restrictive Contingencies

Saunders said buyers often include contingencies in their offers to protect themselves and ensure smooth transactions. She said common contingencies include financing, appraisals and home inspections.

“While these are essential for buyers,” she said, “they should be cautious about adding too many, prolonged or overly restrictive contingencies to their offer.” 

Saunders said negotiating for numerous contingencies can make the offer less attractive to the seller, especially in a competitive market.

“Sellers are more likely to consider offers with reasonable and standard contingencies, as these demonstrate the buyer’s seriousness and understanding of the process,” she said. “Buyers should work closely with their real estate agent to determine the appropriate contingencies for their situation. As a buyer, you have to strike a balance between protecting yourself and also working toward achieving the purchase of your dream home.”

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Closing Costs

“Closing costs are expenses associated with the home purchase that include items such as loan origination fees, title insurance and recording fees,” Saunders explained. “While these can vary from state to state, buyers should be prepared for closing costs, which are in addition to the down payment. An experienced Realtor can once again shed light on the local trends. 

“Often, negotiating a small credit for closing costs (as a buyer) can be more financially beneficial than offering a lower sales price. Speak with your local lender and [real estate agent] for more information on whether a lower sales price or a closing cost reduction is more acceptable in your market.”

Saunders cautioned that buyers should be mindful of market conditions when negotiating closing costs.

“In a competitive market,” she said, “sellers may have multiple offers to consider, and requesting closing cost assistance is unlikely to be favored.” 

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