Can I negotiate that? Common questions asked by buyers
Julie Garton-Good, GRI, DREI

A recent survey shows that Americans sell a home approximately every 11 to 12 years. That means they go through the home-buying process only three or four times during their lifetime. So it's not surprising to hear this common refrain after a sale: "I didn't know I could negotiate that!"

What is the primary reason buyers don't understand that various items of the purchase can be negotiated? Probably local custom. Often buyers and sellers pay closing costs and other costs associated with the sale based on "how it's always been done" in an area. For example, some parts of the country have sellers paying for standard title insurance while in other parts of the same state, the custom might be for buyers to pay it. Custom started the pattern; so absent any question or complaint, it continues.

Preprinted forms have also added to the custom of who pays what. The standard form might allow a buyer to choose who provides a service and who pays for it. Both customs and forms have gridlocked consumers' minds, hampering their creativity in negotiating services and fees.

What can a buyer negotiate in a real estate purchase? Almost everything! This could include not only costs with sellers, like discount points and other loan fees, but interest rates and origination fees with lenders.

What if a preprinted purchase agreement you're using already states who will pay a certain cost, but you want to change it? Mark it out, add the change and initial it. (And, of course, the other party to the transaction would have to do the same before it would be binding.)

When it comes to negotiating costs, fees and other points of the purchase, the sky is truly the limit. Whether it's your third or 13th home purchase, loosen the shackles and get creative. Who knows how much money you might save in the process.