The probable buyer’s value for a home is very similar to market value, as a home is only worth what a buyer will pay. If the seller wants more than that, it won’t sell. If it’s unlikely that their ranges overlap at all, we’ll have a listing that is difficult or impossible to sell.

Quick summary on the probable buyer’s value:

  • The probable buyer’s value is a range of what most buyers would pay for a particular property if there was no undue pressure on the buyer or seller.
  • The probable buyer’s value will be impacted by many factors, such as the timing (if there are other houses which are more competitively priced or no other inventory), the property condition, the presentation of the property, the accessibility of the property (how hard is it to see – is it vacant or occupied?), the marketing (photos, floor plans, etc.), and many other things.
  • The buyer’s terms weigh heavily on what the buyer can or will pay for any home.

Sometimes it can be tricky to estimate what a home might sell for. I usually talk with my seller clients about trying to find the probable buyer’s value.

In a balanced market, the seller may have a range of prices that he or she anticipates and would accept. So too with the buyer, whose range will likely be lower than the seller’s. The key is finding where the buyer and seller price ranges overlap.

In an overheated market, which we have now, it’s fairly simple to figure out the floor of pricing, a price point that is supported by past sales, but it’s harder to ascertain the ceiling, which is where very capable and driven bidders may take the price. Next, please find a long-ish (12:36 minute) video on price and terms, mostly regarding overheated markets, but some info on balanced markets, too. 



Balanced Market

In the balanced or more neutral market, buyers and sellers often have some common ground on valuation of the real estate. This chart below was used in the video above (for those of you who will skip the video):

Table indicating the probable buyer's value in relation to the acceptable range of pricing for the seller


Let’s take a hypothetical case of a home worth about a million dollars (see image above). The seller would love for the property to sell close to $1,040,000.  The buyer would like to purchase it for $960,000.  The agent’s competitive market analysis indicates that similar homes have sold or are selling at around a million dollars, give or take a percent or two.  If the buyer and seller can come to a meeting of the minds, and there’s no undue pressure on either one of them, we have (hopefully) a sale and we have the fair market value.

Overheated market

But as we know, sometimes homes sell for much more than they would seem to be worth, and other times much less.

What causes property values to go above or below what would seem to be the probable buyer’s value?  Undue pressure can certainly cause values to rise (desperate buyer who just has to get into a house, even if overpaying or desperate seller who has got to unload a property, even if selling too low).

In overheated markets, buyers can get exhausted (desperate) from losing time & time again in multiple offer situations.  Sometimes they spike the price. Here’s what I mean by that.  We would see multiple offers on some homes, let’s say 10 offers, with 8 of them in a band of prices that were close to each other (true market value) and one a bit higher and another crazy high.  The “crazy high bidder” got the home, the seller was ecstatic, but it was not typical of all homes and those drastically overbid homes were just creating a worse “bubble”. Those homes sold artificially high, but each time one closed, it raised the bar on what everyone thought was “market value”.

Buyers can spike the price for other personal reasons, such as having important family members nearby, or care givers close by, or finding a particular home reminiscent of the house that one of them grew up in.

Even in overheated markets, not every home sells fast and with overbids

Additional causes of price fluctuations can include:

  • timing (if the home sells fast or not)
  • when it goes on the market (right before a big holiday is often good for buyers, not good for sellers)
  • the competition when the home goes on the active market (what else is for sale?)
  • the property condition (structurally and aesthetically)
  • how easily the home may be seen (tenant occupied requiring a long notice will not be a plus for maximizing the sale price)
  • the number of offers
  • and the terms of the offer(s)

Timing, number of offers and sales price

Homes that sell very quickly (in a week or so) may get so much attention that they also get multiple offers and they may sell with a great price and great terms for the seller, far above what we might anticipate as the buyer’s probable value.  This can also happen after a dramatic price adjustment but the best chance of it happening is usually when it’s a brand new home on the market.

Right now, homes that are priced a little low, in good shape, reasonably easy to see and have no issues are mostly selling within 2 weeks. If they do so, and sell with one offer, maybe a couple of offers,  and a normal 20% to 25% down payment, the property will likely sell with multiple offers and over list price.

Homes that stay on the market too long become “shopworn” and get passed over by most buyers (and their real estate agents).  When they do sell, they will usually sell for much less than if they had snagged a buyer within the first month.

The terms of the offer and probable buyer’s value

The terms can make an enormous difference in whether a home sells for top dollar or for bottom dollar.   In a nutshell, if the buyer’s terms are bad, the price will have to be good to compensate.  Conversely, if the terms are great, the price may be much lower.

What kind of terms are good or bad?  Most of the terms which impact sales price have to do with the financing, so the amount of cash down or other loan terms.

Great terms, extremely strong: all cash, large cash down payment, no issues with appraisal (either because of all cash, large cash down or no appraisal contingency). The buyer’s probable value may be lower if that buyer is bringing in an all cash offer with a 7 day close, no contingencies, and other sweet elements to the deal on a vacant house that the seller needs sold yesterday.

Bad terms, weakening the offer: small down payment, FHA financing, asking the seller to carry the loan, making the offer subject to the sale of another home (especially if it’s not even on the market yet).

Other terms not related to financing can sweeten the deal for the buyer or make it worse in the seller’s eyes.  The seller wants a “done deal”, so will likely take a lower price if the transaction looks more solid and sure (and less likely to fall apart).

Good terms: seller gets fast close of escrow (if desired) and a rent back if needed (even stronger: seller gets free rent back).

Weak terms: buyer’s offer is subject to the sale of another home (worse yet: it’s not even on the market – better, it’s actually under contract and just needs to close escrow). The buyer’s probable value may be higher because of the increased time and risk to the seller. Sometimes a seller will take such an offer in order to maximize the sale price.

Strong terms can make the home purchase a “better deal”.  Weak terms will need to be compensated with a higher price.

Let’s look at that hypothetical million dollar house in Silicon Valley once more and this time have a look at what can happen to the probable buyer’s value with the terms, timing & number of offers in mind.

Table: how terms impact price for the probable buyer's value - worse terms will lower price, better terms will raise sale price. These will impact the probable buyer's value.


This is not comprehensive, of course, it’s just to give you an idea of how pricing can be influenced (and hopefully to dispel the idea that a house, condo or townhouse is worth exactly one precise amount).  If the home’s impossible to see (requires too much notice, or has to be by appointment only but the agent’s cell phone rolls to voice mail and then the VM is full) has terrible odors or creepy occupants who don’t leave the house when the buyer is viewing it or it’s on the market for 2 years before selling  – it will sell for less.

Most of all, I want to give the sense that the price where the home will sell has a lot to do with how fast it sells, how many bidders there are and what the terms are like.

Awhile back I did a series of posts aimed at buyers who were facing multiple offer situations.  If you would like more information on the contract or purchase agreement terms and how they impact positioning and pricing of offers, please have a read.

Tips for Writing a Competitive Offer: Part One

Writing an Offer in a Multiples Situation? Financing Tips (Part 2)

Writing Strong Offers: More Financing Tips (Part 3)

Tips for Home Buyers Competing Against Multiple Offers – More Financing Tips (Part 4)

Competing Against Multiple Offers: Contingencies and Timeframes (Part 5)

Real Estate Purchase Offer Terms to Consider When Competing in Multiple Offers (Part 6)



What's My Home WorthFinally, if you would like to get some data on the probable buyer’s value for your Santa Clara County home (San Jose, Los Gatos, Saratoga, Campbell & nearby communities) please fill out a request here:  Or better yet, email us your name, property address, and information on the house – remodeling, condition, etc. – as the more I know, the more accurate the estimate will be.  (Offer good for home owners only and only for homes not on the market, pending, or sold within the last 6 months.)








  • Mary Pope-Handy

    Silicon Valley Realtor, selling homes in Los Gatos, Saratoga, San Jose, Silicon Valley, and nearby since 1993. Prolific blogger with a network of sites.

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