Making an offer? Play it right.

by Chris Lang on December 29, 2008

House contractOne typical mistake of the first home buyers is to show too much interest in the property.

Let me explain: when you’re inspecting the property, the real estate agent is inspecting you, looking at the way this house makes you feel, are you in love with it yet, are you imagining your family living there happily ever after. Showing any signs of such weakness will make your position in the price negotiation worse, before you’ve even opened you mouth and said anything.

You’ve got to play it right from the start. Don’t show too much interest in the property. Here are a couple of ideas: when you show up at inspection, have a list of addresses with you and keep on looking at your watch. Have a look around with your best poker face on, showing no emotions, and if the agent asks you: “Well, what you think?” Tell him: “I think it’s so-so / nothing special / I’m not impressed / I’ve seen better”. Then thank the agent and say you’re in a hurry to get to other inspections.

When you’re ready to make an offer – put it in writing (not verbally) and show the agents that it’s no big deal to you, behave like you’re doing it every day. That should demonstrate the agent that you’re an experienced buyer.

If the agent says “Whoa, that’s too low for me to be taking to vendor” – remind him that by law he has to take all the offers to the vendor, unless the vendor specified a threshold for the offers (in that case the agent is allowed to not pass offers below the threshold to the vendor).

How to make sure your offer is being taken to the vendor? When I was looking for a house to buy, I was making a lot of offers and suspected that several agents weren’t taking my offers to the vendors. It really looked like they were playing me and trying to get a higher offer out of me. I even called REIV about it and asked whether or not the estate agents are legally allowed to not pass offers on to the vendor. The whole story was very frustrating.

The solution to this problem is simple. Just sign the offer, give it to the agent to pass to the vendor and place a copy in the vendor’s letterbox or mail it to his address. Works like a charm, provided that the property is owner-occupied.

Remember, the agent is working for the vendor and his job is to sell the house for the best price he can get. That means that any offer you make, the agent will push you to go higher. A nice trick to stop that (unless you want to spend months negotiating) is to tell him that this house is your second choice and if your offer won’t be accepted then you won’t be back because you’ll concentrate on the main one, listed with another agent and more attractive to you because … (it’s in a nicer area, it’s 20K cheaper, etc).

And the last piece of advice – don’t be afraid to put in a low offer. You might get laughed at – but you also might be the one having the last laugh!

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Peter Quinn December 30, 2008 at 12:00 am

Hi. I am a long time reader. I wanted to say that I like your blog and the layout.

Peter Quinn


Mike | Business Consultant February 7, 2009 at 6:38 pm

I was just reading Donald Trumps Negotiation Style book by George – I believe is his name … you know the guy that is Donald Trump’s ‘right-hand-man’ always around in the Apprentice.

He gives quite a few examples that illustrate your point – and how you never want to appear too eager … and that you have other options.

Ultimately, it’s all about working a respectable compromise that both sides are happy with … but that works great for you too.

If you haven’t read the book, I think it’s called “Negotiation: Trump Style”



Chris February 7, 2009 at 8:52 pm

Thanks, Mike, the book sounds interesting, I’ll see if I can get my hands on it. You can never have too many of negotiating skills 🙂


Packaging Equipment March 10, 2010 at 5:43 am

This is some good advice and generally it’s similar for any sort of negotiation situation. I have found through my limited negotiation experience that I am not a good negotiator, regardless of which side I’m on. I have too much fear that I’ll lose the deal if I go too far or play it too casually. Gotta work on that…


Vincent January 21, 2012 at 4:59 am

I like the advice actually tried it recently on a home I am trying to purchase I was a ill scared about giving a low offer but after my reading this I am contacting the agent. However the home is not occupied and a concern was if the realtor will submit my low offer


heather February 11, 2014 at 10:12 pm

Hi there

Last time ai made an offer for a house the real estate wanted a deposit. I put in another offer for another house, the agent said they will submit my offer, but they did not ask for a deposit I am wondering if they even submitted my offer for the house. Do you normally have to pay a deposit when you put in an offer.
Just wandering


Chris March 13, 2014 at 11:30 am

Hi Heather, normally when you sign a contract to buy a house it states the amount you need to pay as a deposit. However you don’t pay the deposit until after the vendor signs the contract as well (so it’s signed by both parties and is bounding).


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