Q: My fiancé found us a home and the sellers wanted $149,900 (if memory serves me correctly). He haggled them down to $145,000 and asked for the seller to pay 6 percent closing costs, but they would agree to only a 3 percent closing-cost credit. We’ve had the inspection and everything has checked out. But now my fiancé is feeling as though he should have offered less than $145,000. My question to you is: Is it too late to renegotiate? We’re new to this whole process of homebuying.
A: There are really two questions at issue here: Is it possible to renegotiate? And is it sensible to try to renegotiate? Whether or not it is possible, my advice is to manage your (and your fiancé’s) understandable, mild panic and fear that you might not have cut the absolute best deal possible without disrupting the entire transaction by trying to get a price reduction at this late date.
Understand that it’s virtually never possible for any buyer to know exactly how low it may have been possible to negotiate the price for any given home, because it’s a hypothetical, "what if" scenario. If you’ve negotiated a deal that you can afford, on a house that you both like and is in acceptable condition, you have a lot to be grateful for.
It sounds to me like you two are dealing with a simple case of buyer’s remorse. During the challenge of the house hunt and the heat of negotiations, even through inspections, there’s an element of emotional intensity and a sense of urgency that propels buyers to show up and do what they need to do to further their homebuying goals.
Once all of this busyness is done, though, there is an anticlimactic, dramatic slowdown in activity as the close of escrow looms. Often, this is when buyer’s remorse starts to creep in. Some buyers start to nitpick at the property itself, or regret their decision to buy at all. Others, like perhaps your fiancé, tend to second-guess the deal they struck and itch to have a crack at a "do-over."
Since we’re on the topic of managing your thoughts on this matter, I have to take a moment and point out the Golden Rule at this juncture, which, if followed, would prevent probably tens of thousands of lawsuits and broken transactions every year.
Do you really think it’s even fair to sign a contract agreeing to one price and set of terms, have the seller take the place off the market and forgo other (potentially better) offers in reliance on your word that you’re in earnest about buying it as agreed, and then say, "Eh, I changed my mind?" How would you feel if the seller said, "Yeah, sorry — we got a better offer, so we’ve changed our minds?"
My guess: You wouldn’t like it. And you know what they say about karma. My advice is not to let your buyer’s remorse cause you to start a sequence of reactions that you might not like in the end.
Whatever lessons your fiancé feels he has learned during this process that would cause him to have bargained harder or held out for a lower price, in retrospect, are not lost if he doesn’t renegotiate; he can apply them the next time you buy a house (or a car, or any other big-ticket, haggle-worthy item). …CONTINUED
As the old song goes, "to everything there is a season. (Turn! Turn! Turn!)" The time to do your deal with the seller is during your upfront negotiations — you know, the ones you did before you signed the contract.
If you agreed to that price and credit, the only reasonable bases for renegotiating the deal are if (a) your inspections revealed defects or issues that materially impact the value of the home, or (b) the property failed to appraise at the agreed-upon purchase price — neither of which appear to be the case.
I have seen cases of buyer’s remorse spiral out of control, with the end result that the buyers lose the home altogether. The harm potential of an effort to renegotiate depends largely on where you are in the process specifically; whether you have already removed your contingencies (in some states); or whether your objection period is already up (in others).
If you have already finalized the deal in either of these ways, the fact that you would risk your deposit if you backed out of the deal now eliminates all leverage for the seller to agree to a price reduction, and you’re very likely to just upset and anger them with the request — something I personally would avoid doing to the people who are still the custodians of the home for the time period between now and the time you take possession.
Similarly, the type of sale you are involved in is relevant. If you’re buying a bank-owned property or a short sale and these terms were signed off by the bank, don’t even waste your time thinking about renegotiating — it’s not going to happen. Banks are extremely rigid about not renegotiating.
Is it illegal to attempt to renegotiate the price or terms of the deal at this point? No. But it’s inadvisable.
In this market — where many buyers are out there desperately trying to buy a home and close escrow prior to the Nov. 30 deadline to qualify for the $8,000 First-Time Homebuyer Tax Credit — your home’s seller might wonder whether it’s possible to beat your offer anyway and suggest that if you can’t live up to your bargain you should just move on to another house.
At this point in the game, after you’ve paid for inspections and gotten attached to the home, you are unlikely to really want to walk away from the deal over a few thousand dollars. So your bluff will have been called and you’ll lose any negotiating credibility (for little repairs and conveniences the sellers might otherwise have offered you) and amicability you might have had with the sellers.
If the deal you struck is at a price and on terms you can afford, the home has appraised at the purchase price, and you like the house, let go of the thought of renegotiating. The chances that you’ll save a little bit of money are far outweighed by the damage you might do, and it’s just not worth it.
Tara-Nicholle Nelson is author of "The Savvy Woman’s Homebuying Handbook" and "Trillion Dollar Women: Use Your Power to Make Buying and Remodeling Decisions." Ask her a real estate question online or visit her Web site, www.rethinkrealestate.com.
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