Decades ago, sellers priced a little high to leave room to negotiate down. Buyers typically offered 5 percent less. Then they negotiated and settled at a price in between. Today, there is so much variability in the housing market that it’s impossible to use a pat formula for coming up with an offer price.

Your goal is always the same: You want to buy the best house for your needs and pay the lowest price. In many cases, you can start with a price that is less — maybe even considerably less — than the asking price and negotiate from there.

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