"I think the floor is sloping," the skeptical Buyer loudly informed me,"cuz there seems to be some settlement here," he continued, pointing at a corner in the hallway, intent on "educating" me (and everyone else within earshot) about the home's potential defects.
"Is there room on the price?" another interested Buyer queried, "if so, we'd be willing to write today." (You must be brand new to the marketplace - or from Mars! Yes, there's certainly room to negotiate, but northward only.)
"Are these windows single-pane? We'll need to replace them ALL," another calculates; all but showing me her spreadsheet.
And so it goes . . . (thank you for your input).
I spend most Sunday afternoons manning an Open House in Piedmont, Rockridge or the Oakland Hills, so I'm well-versed on the Buyer who is calculating the math and deducting dollars for any perceived flaws (good luck to you). At this point, I've logged more Sundays than I care to count, so I can reliably tell you that you are definitely NOT alone in hoping that there's a discount to be had. (There isn't; not in today's market).
With all due respect - you may want to rethink your strategy.
As the representative for the Seller, I'm not only there to answer questions and guide prospective Buyers toward details you may have overlooked or missed; I am also sizing YOU up as a potential candidate for the home. In a marketplace that seems to be serving up multiple bids on almost every well-priced property, Sellers now have their "pick of the litter" and overwhelmingly, they want to choose someone who will love their home as much as they do. In short, Sellers are often relying on their Realtor's opinion and gut instinct about prospective candidates as they narrow down the field and select the final winner.
As such, you should be on your best behavior at an Open House (at least in front of the listing Agent) and save your less-than-flattering opinions about the house for your own Agent to address privately. (This isn't about silencing you as much as it is about improving your odds.) You'll have plenty of time to return with him/her to ask questions and work through any objections or concerns you may have - as any informed, potential Buyer should, and is encouraged, to do.
It's not that I don't appreciate the process (I do) it's just that you want to be circumspect with how you go about it. So when I council my own Buyers in such circumstances, I encourage them to be positive and upbeat. (Any concerns should be for my ears, alone.) While agents try not to play favorites, it's only natural that we root for people we feel will indeed, be a good "fit" for the house and fairly happy in it. Starting off the process, by overtly criticizing the home, sends the message that you'll be tough to please.
So if you haven't yet been "prepped" by your own Realtor, may I offer up a few suggestions for your Sunday Open strategy that may make you a more viable candidate as you tour?
Finally, I don't know how high the home is going to go, so feel free to ask, but recognize that any number I proffer is just an educated guess at best. I will happily supply your Agent ongoing information about the level of interest and the Sellers' expectations, but that's as far as my magical powers of fortune-telling extend. As the offer date draws nearer, I hope to have a much better sense of the "real players" and will share that piece of the puzzle with your Agent as well.
Remember, Realtors set a pricing strategy only - not a market value; a willing and able Buyer defines the true market value of any given property at any given time.
So be willing and able, and then commit. Realize that every home has pluses and minuses, but understand, you'll be better served focusing on the pluses (not the minuses) especially at an Open House. And if there are too many minuses for your liking, than pass. Soon enough, there will be another property that sparks your interest. And when it does, just remember that your actions and comments are being noted.
Now go get 'em and good luck!
Julie Gardner, has been writing The Perspective for 12 years and has published more than 500 essays. She is also a frequent contributor to the Sound Off column in the Real Estate section of The San Francisco Chronicle.