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Homebuyers’ Negotiation Tips: What to Do When the House Needs Work
You’ve found the listing for your dream home, and it’s in your budget! You set up a tour and inspection, and find that it’s beautiful, well-designed, the perfect size — and falling apart. What do you do when the house of your dreams needs serious work? Negotiate.
A fixer-upper can be a budget-homebuyers ticket into a much better home than they could afford otherwise. However, negotiations can be intimidating, especially when there’s plenty to discuss. Here are a few tips so you can go into money conversations with confidence.
Weigh Total and Monthly Expenses
When looking at the price of the house itself, remember that you’re not paying that number all at once. A higher price — interest included — naturally means you pay more in the long run. But the difference of a couple thousand dollars is only going to make a small impact on your monthly payments. It’s okay to prioritize overall cost over monthly payments or vice versa — just make sure you’re giving yourself the full picture so you can make that informed decision.
Also, be sure to factor in what repairs will cost you and when. There are some repairs that you could put off and save up for over time, such as a new front door (approximately $1,500) or new siding (approximately $15,000). Others, however, will need to be addressed immediately, either to make the house comfortable to live in or to prevent more damage over time. These fundamental problems — foundation issues, plumbing, leaky windows — can be pricey to fix. Anything that needs to be done right away should be factored into the initial costs. Make sure you actually have or can access the funds to have those repairs made.
Buyers are more likely to lower the price of a home when you can justify the reasons, so consider what costs you’ll take on when you buy the home. For example, you may be able to ask homeowners to take on the costs of hiring the inspector; with average home inspections running between $278 and $390, the odds are decent they’ll be amiable to this if asked.
If there are repairs that would require you to live outside of the home for some time, get an estimate of the cost of staying in a hotel, renting a trailer, or getting a short-term apartment lease for this period. Then, use that figure to negotiate the price down further, or you can compare that to the cost of the seller fixing that issue before the sale. If it’s less to make the repair, they might be willing to take it on themselves.
There are two especially useful things about these kinds of negotiations. First, by providing evidence that this is a true cost of buying the home, you’re justified in asking for a reduction. This is less likely to turn a buyer off than a figure that isn’t backed up by anything. Second, if the buyer doesn’t budge, you’ve still done the work to recognize these costs yourself. This way, they won’t sneak up on you after you’d already purchased the home.
Be Prepared to Compromise — and Walk Away
Negotiations are a back and forth, so you need to be ready for what the seller brings to the table, as well. Before you send your offer in, decide what your deal breakers are. Will you go forward if the seller refuses to address the water damage in the basement or lower the price to offset the cost of repairing the back porch? Know your hard stops in advance so you’re not persuaded into a situation you’re not truly comfortable with.
If you can’t find an agreement that works for you and the seller, it’s okay to walk away from the offer. Don’t let the sunk cost fallacy convince you to compromise on the things that matter most. Remember: It’s better to have spent time considering the wrong home than it is to buy it anyway.
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