Home loan guide / Buying a home

How to negotiate when buying

3 min read

Jemima Baum

Such is its force, the Australian property market is frequently described as a 'sellers' market'. If you're a new entrant, it can be tough to get a foot inside the door — figuratively and literally.

When fierce competition exists, buyers frequently sit at a disadvantage in the negotiation process. Sellers need not be picky when they have buyers lining the block.

But don't be disheartened. There are still ways to navigate the buying process. While haggling prices may be more difficult, it isn't impossible. And there are plenty of other terms to discuss beyond price alone. Here are our top 5 tips for how to negotiate when buying.

1. Do your research

Knowledge is power when it comes to a confident negotiation. Understanding the true value of the property and what motivates the other parties involved is important to have success when haggling prices.

You may consider an independent property valuation or organise a building inspection. Whether you choose professional advice or not, it is always a good idea to research house prices in the area. Pay close attention to recently sold properties that are similar, particularly when it comes to land size, room number, age, condition and importantly location (including proximity to public transport or whether it is in a school zone).

Unsurprisingly, desirable locations come at a price. But, if your heart is set on a competitive area, there may still be room for haggling prices. This is especially likely if the property has been on the market for a while, or the seller is keen to move soon. So, how to negotiate? Suss out why they are selling. Have they already bought elsewhere? Are they looking for a quick settlement? Is there a particular type of buyer they would prefer to see in their home?

Keep in mind, timing is usually negotiable. If you need a long settlement, the seller may oblige if your dollar offer is strong enough. Likewise, if the seller requires a quick settlement which you can provide, that can give you an edge above the competition.

2. Understand market conditions

Developing an understanding of the local housing market is important, but on top of that, doing your homework about market conditions can give you an even clearer picture of what you may be up against. Finding out how quickly homes are selling in a particular area is a good indicator of the level of competition you may face from other buyers also haggling prices.

Take a look on real estate sites like realestate.com.au or domain.com.au and search through properties currently on the market. Start tracking properties that pique your interest, and note the initial listing price and the listing date to compare against the final sale price (if listed) and sold date. If the sale price isn’t disclosed, but you’d really like the know, contact the sales agent. If they can’t provide the exact figure, they can usually indicate a ballpark for you. Don’t want to do your own research? You can often source some sales data from real estate agents, who are usually happy to provide a recent market report for the suburb or area they represent.

3. Be finance ready

Your finance can play a role, too, especially when haggling prices. It is important to be financially prepared and know your budget so you can position yourself as a serious buyer. Keep in mind what it costs upfront to buy a home and know that if you can’t afford a deposit, there are other ways to get a foothold in the market. And if you’re not ready just yet, here are some ways to hack away at your home deposit savings goal.

Experienced agents can be wary of offer terms which are 'subject to sale', as it means the sale of their vendor's property becomes dependent on the sale of another property. And if the first property falls through, so does the offer. Offering 'subject to finance' is common when purchasing, and means that the buyer can withdraw their offer if their finance is refused, or if their lender's property valuation comes back lower than the offer price.

Where offers are similar in price, the final decision often comes down to the offer terms.

4. Make your offer strong and clean

If you’re serious about the property, the next step is to make an offer in writing, or by contract. The key to success is to put in a ‘clean’ offer with as few conditions as possible. An unconditional or 'cash offer' will typically always be strongest, as the offer is not dependent on other variables such as the sale of another property or the approval of finance.

Before you offer, be prepared for a common question from the agent: how much are you approved to borrow? If buying through private negotiation (i.e., not at auction), consider carefully whether to disclose your pre-approval. They then have leverage and motivation to haggle prices to your highest possible limit. They may try to slip this question into conversation quite candidly – be alert and think before providing an answer. Even if you don't end up winning the property, they may use your higher offer to push up the offers of other potential buyers. On the flip side, agents may use this question to canvas serious buyers, and your lack of disclosure may not instil confidence. Consider your answer and act in your best interest.

5. Leave your emotions at the door

How to negotiate, and negotiate well? When purchasing a property, it’s vital you take your emotional attachment to the house out of the equation. If you can stay reasonably detached during negotiations, and act like the sale doesn't mean that much to you, you're more likely to stay in control. You need to be able to walk away from a sale if the price is beyond your limit. Sometimes sellers have a set figure in mind and just won't budge, and that's OK – it was just not meant to be!

Remember, how to negotiate comes down to a few key points. Doing your groundwork, keeping emotions out of the decision, knowing your financial limits, and making sure you are seen as a serious bidder will help give you the best chance in securing the right deal for you.

We wish you the best of luck in haggling prices or reviewing the many other terms up for discussion as a buyer. We hope with these tips on how to negotiate up your sleeve you can confidently put your bargaining skills to good use.

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