Once you've found a home that meets your needs and your budget, it's time to make an offer. Your agent will play a critical role in the negotiation which is one of the reasons to carefully select your agent. Your agent should be looking out for your best interest and working to get you the best deal and terms.
Making an Offer
Your agent should provide you with comparable sales to show you what the current market value of the home is. Remember, if you are financing the purchase, the mortgage lender will require the home appraise for at least the purchase price, so you don't want to make your offer higher than market value unless you intend to pay the difference in cash. Depending on the current market, your agent will advise you on what the initial offer to purchase price should be. You may be advised to start low so you can negotiate up to your desired purchase price. However, if there are a lot of buyers in the market, you'll probably be advised to make your highest and best offer at the first pass.
There's more to your offer than just the purchase price. You can also ask for special conditions such as help with closing costs, an quick or delayed closing, or the inclusion of personal property with the sale, such as a lawnmower or swing set. You should also make your offer contingent on a home inspection and appraisal, and the sale of your existing home if that is a requirement. Have your agent ask the selling agent if the sellers have any special conditions they prefer — if you can accommodate their needs as well, your offer is that much more attractive to them.
Conducting a Home Inspection
Once you and the sellers have come to an agreement, it's time to take a closer look at the property. Your buyer’s agent should be able to recommend an inspector, or you can find one on your own that is a member of the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI). The inspection will cost you between $300 and $600, but it is well worth it. It's recommended you tour the home with your inspector. He or she will look for flaws in the structure, electrical systems, appliances, etc., and write up a report and estimate the cost of repairs, but being present during the inspection will help you make an objective decision about any negative findings.
You may want to hire separate inspectors to check for radon, lead, asbestos, carbon monoxide or termites. If the home is older, or the home inspector raises flags, you may want to consult a structural engineer. After your inspection(s), present the report(s) to the seller. He or she may agree to fix these items, give you money to repair them yourself or offer to sell you the home "as is.”