Real estate expert Alison Rogers answers the big question: How low can I go?

open book graphic
open book graphic


Welcome to WalletPop's new book club, where we will have an author-in-residence to give us a peek into a new book and be on hand all month to answer reader questions. Our inaugural writer is real estate expert Alison Rogers, who was the founding editor of the New York Post real estate section and a licensed real estate broker. The following is an excerpt from her book,
Diary of a Real Estate Rookie, which was called "must reading" by the Wall Street Journal and a "Witty bunch of horror and success stories mixed with real advice for other Realtor newbies" by Newsweek.

diary of a real estate rookie
diary of a real estate rookie

Putting in a Lowball Offer
As a working real estate agent (and failed flipper), a question I get all the time from potential buyers is: "How low can I go?" They always ask this in the abstract, as though there's one number that's the absolute answer which I can somehow tell them over the phone-which is roughly like calling your doctor and saying, "Hey, I think I'm having a mild stroke, which medicine should I take?"

So let's go through some general negotiating principles to work with your specific situation a little better. In general, there is a zone where a lowball offer is insultingly low. Some real estate gurus would argue that that's okay, you should go ahead and make ridiculous offers, because if you're willing to ask a gazillion people you'll finally run down one exhausted one who will capitulate. Then, hey, it's like you won the lottery.

One problem with that strategy: I don't generally think it works. I tried it in New Jersey, and it didn't work for me. For one thing, anybody so broke that they might actually face losing their house is so broke that bankruptcy's a viable option. [After I wrote my book Rookie, from which this excerpt is adapted, the phrase "jingle mail" – where homeowners walked away from their properties, leaving the keys in the mailbox for the bank- became popular slang.] Anybody else is probably going to have a middle-class sense of money and entitlement, and they're probably going to delusionally think their house is worth way more than it is. (Perhaps, dear buyer, you've met one or more of these sellers.)