When buying or selling a house, everything is up for negotiation. How much you can get in a negotiation is the result of what you ask, how you ask it, and the timing.
First you have to know your market. Is it a seller’s market with few homes on the market or is it a buyer’s market with lots of homes to choose from? A buyer’s market will give more leverage on the buyer side for negotiation. A Realtor who knows the market is going to be able to help you the most here by knowing whether something is priced right. They often may know the current situation of the seller (whether or not they need to sell) which will affect how much negotiation will be allowed.
Can only the price be negotiated? Not at all. In addition to the price, you can negotiate on furniture, closing costs, and closing dates. However, if you are able to offer a cash deal or a quick close, then you are going to have more leverage in negotiating on other things. It’s good to ask, but it’s also good to know when to stop. If a buyer keeps asking for more and more things, it is likely the seller will get upset and will end the negotiations completely.
It’s also a matter of Murphy’s law that no offer will come in on a house for months and then when the first one hits, two more will hit at the same time. Therefore if you really like the house, don’t get too obnoxious. Move fast, ask your requests, and get it signed. Nothing is set until all is agreed and signed.
Make it personal, but not too personal. It’s good to let the owners know that this is the house for you so they feel good about giving it to you even if they have other offers. However, if you are desperate, then the negotiation falls to the other side. This is true on the seller’s side too. The more desperate you are to sell, the more you will have to be willing to negotiate to close the deal. Think like a businessperson, not an owner or potential owner.
The costs of not negotiating are high. Many times an offer comes in too low and the owners just say “no”. In a buyer’s market especially, that is a bad idea. Come back with some sort of counteroffer. At least let the buyer know you are willing to negotiate. Think about the costs of keeping your home on the market, the upkeep and general maintenance, and having it ready to show at any minute. Ask yourself – is it going to cost you more to turn something down while you wait for another offer?
A good Realtor will be able to help you keep your emotions in check during this process as well as give negotiating ideas. When two people really want the deal, a deal can be made.