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Marsha, my home has been on the market for over a month. I live in a good area and my house shows great. There’s been a lot of interest but no offers until yesterday. It’s a lowball offer and I don’t want to acknowledge it. My realtor says it’s not a lowball offer and wants me to give them a counteroffer. Thoughts?


Sellers absolutely should respond to all offers! You never know where negotiations will take you. Don’t be insulted by the offer. Take a deep breath and try to remove your emotions from the transaction. This may be the home where you raised your children, threw numerous birthday parties, Thanksgiving feasts and fantastic holiday festivities, but it’s now a house that’s on the market for sale.

First, what is a lowball offer? You actually may have received a decent offer and not recognize it. A true lowball offer is considered to be 20% off the listing price. For example, if your home is on the market for $850,000 and you receive an offer for $680,000, you’ve received a low ball offer. I suspect from your realtor’s reaction that you simply were given an offer below your asking price.

Your house may be overpriced for the current market. If your agent did her job, you were presented with comparable sales for the last six months. If the house were priced well, there would have been offers within the first few weeks. Remember, it’s not you or your realtor who sets the value of your home; it’s the market. You probably said, “Let’s just price a little high. That’ll give me negotiating room.” Well you priced high and now it’s time to negotiate! It’s also possible this offer is one of the first indications that the market is turning. Your realtor has studied the signs; don’t ignore what she is telling you. You don’t want to regret passing on this offer six months from now. Remember 2007?

Look at the entire offer and not just the price. What are the terms of the offer? Are the buyers pre-approved? Have they given you a strong and clean offer with few contingencies? This is only a starting point. Real estate sales may take several rounds of negotiations.

Ask the buyer’s agent to submit the comparable sales he used to arrive at their price. If these are the same statistics your agent presented to you, then this offer has merit. Don’t volley counteroffers too many times. It begins to feel nitpicky and wears on everyone’s nerves. Two or three rounds of counters and counter-counters is enough. You want your buyers to enter the escrow feeling optimistic and good, not resentful.

The best real estate sales work for both the seller and the buyer. All parties give up a little and everyone gets something they want. Don’t miss the chance. Make the counteroffer and sell your house at its true value.

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