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Real-life lowball offer letters that worked—and how to write one

Sometimes a buyer needs time to come around to accepting a lower price.

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With sales slowing in New York City and the market shifting toward a buyer’s market, if you're looking to buy, you are likely to attempt a lowball offer. Successful offers, brokers say, will involve a mix of homework and diplomacy, backed up by liquidity and a solid offer (for tips on strategy, check out how to make a successful lowball offer).

But when it comes to writing the actual lowball offer letter, what do you say to convince someone to part with their apartment for less money than they want? How do you spin your words to make sellers part with what is arguably their most prized possession?

For advice on the language to use, Brick Underground obtained two successful letters, which were written by buyers’ brokers, and asked Ari Harkov, a broker with the Harkov Lewis Team at Halstead, to explain why they were effective. 

“In the current market, there are more of these offers and more are being accepted, so there’s opportunity to be successful,” Harkov says. “In the past it was a waste of time.”

Here are the letters for two Brooklyn apartments, with identifying details omitted.

Letter one: Love the space, but it's a walk-up

Hi REDACTED

I am pleased to submit an ALL CASH offer of $2,600,000 for REDACTED on behalf of my customer REDACTED.  

This offer is contingent on a home inspection and a $50,000 credit at closing to repair the kitchen cabinetry, roof deck and build out closets. REDACTED can close at your sellers’ convenience. 

Please find attached a complete submit offer form with full offer details and financial qualifications. REDACTED will be retaining an attorney per our recommendation and I’d be happy to send along full contact details upon accepted offer.

As you know, my customers took their time to view this home and do really love the space. However they can’t justify the ask, or close to it based on recent comp sales. I wanted to provide some color to help your seller better understand our offer, which we don’t mean in any disrespect. I’ve provided some recent comps in the neighborhood as far as condo re-sale goes. It didn’t appear to us that any capital improvements have been made since purchase date, and being a third floor walk-up is a disadvantage in their minds, especially with three kids. 

280 Sackett St., unit 1 just sold in October at $2.415 million, granted it’s smaller at 2,194 square feet but comes with a private garage. The pro is that it’s a first floor, but the downside to this unit was much older finishes. 

277 President St., apartment 1B sold in July at $3.175 million, which was the highest sale on an absolute price for anything up to 2,600 square feet in a condo resale. Consideration is also given as that it is not a walk-up, has ample storage in the basement, three and a half baths plus kitchen in excellent condition, lower taxes and common charges. This location is also right across from the park. 

Please let me know if you have any questions. REDACTED and REDACTED do think the apartment will be a wonderful fit for them. Hopefully we can reach an agreement!  

Many thanks,

REDACTED

Licensed Real Estate Salesperson

Letter 2: A wonderful fit, but let's be real about the basement and cellar

Hi REDACTED,

I am very pleased to submit an offer of $3,200,000 for REDACTED on behalf of my customer REDACTED.  

This offer is contingent on approximately 50 percent financing and a home inspection. REDACTED can close at your sellers’ convenience. 

Please find attached a complete submit offer form with full offer details and financial qualifications. REDACTED is extremely qualified and will be retaining an attorney per our recommendation. I’d be happy to send along his attorney’s full contact details upon accepted offer.

As you know, my customers took their time to view this home and do really love the space. Their offer is a real offer and I’d like to provide you with detailed comps to support this. At an offer price of $3.2 million, we feel it’s very fair given the comps and market trend from when your seller purchased to current. While REDACTED is a three bedroom, the third bedroom is very small.  

More importantly, two levels of the home are basement and cellar level, which value doesn’t translate equally to some of the comps. The square footage of the cellar isn’t valued the same because of light and air issues and per the offering plan cannot be used for sleeping, cooking or living. Your sellers purchased in 2015 at arguably the height of the market. Prices have remained flat, if not dropped in some cases, especially for condo resales.  Please see the attached market data supporting that very fact in Carroll Gardens. 

As far as comps to further support our offer, I’m attaching the most relevant:

192 President St., apartment #2 sold in 2016 at $3.65 million. This is a 25-foot-wide, four-bedroom home on a higher floor with two terraces that have city views. The adjusted appraisal value for REDACTED based on this comp is around $3.3 million. We feel this best represents where the value is and where our offer is at.  

Current active comp is 202 President St., apartment #3 recently relisted with a $300,000 price drop at $3.295 million. 202 President could arguably be more desirable considering it’s a true four bedroom, high floor with light and windows in every room, city views from a rooftop terrace. Even though this home has seen appreciation from when they bought in 2013, they are still overpriced based on our current market. 

Please let me know if you have any questions. REDACTED (and his wife REDACTED) do think this home could be a wonderful fit for them. I look forward to hearing from you.

Many thanks,

REDACTED

Licensed Real Estate Salesperson

Why these letters worked

“The broker used actual data to back up their offer,” Harkov says. “You can’t just say, ‘I feel like paying less,’ you need actual comps.”

Harkov says the key is to package the bad news in between pieces of good news. You can say, for example, “we really love your place, but the apartment next door sold for this and the apartment across sold for that, and by the way we really love what you did with the kitchen etc.”

Even in a buyer’s market, he says, you still sometimes have to play a waiting game for the seller to come around.

“What sometimes happens is you have someone with a $1 million ask and you offer them something in the $900,000 range and they say no. But then they come back to you weeks or months later. 

“If you leave them with a bad taste in the mouth because you were too aggressive, they won’t come back to you out of pride,” Harkov says. “There’s a lot of emotion involved and it is not a perfect science. The seller is picking a number and the buyer is agreeing to it.”

 

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