So you know how we made the offer on the house? We signed the papers Saturday and our realtor (who is awesome and wears a cowboy hat and writes emails in the most fabulous colloquial English I have ever read in email form) presented the offer on Sunday. We offered a whopping $174,000 below list. To my shock, on Sunday - the seller actually countered, instead of rejecting us flat. Even more surprising was that his counter was $30,000 below his list price. (For reference, his list price is $218,000 above the tax-assessed value. We're not just crazy people harassing home sellers.) So while I don't think he's yet near the value of his house, that's a big concession, and he's not just messing around.
I am reading into this heavily, for sure, but it seems to bear a wealth of good signs, to me. He's taking us seriously, and he's really trying. That means he hasn't received (and don't expect to) any serious offers near his list price - or he would tell us to go away.
More important to me is the end-game. I never expected that this offer would directly result in a sale. I see a couple of possibilities for this house. The big question is why it is on the market. If that's because the seller cannot manage mortgage payments any more and has to get out from under the house, then I think in the long run, he'll either drop the price and bring money to the table (to pay off his own loans against the house), or be forced into short sale or foreclosure. If it's because he needs cash right now and thinks that he can get some by selling the house at a profit, then once he finally realizes that this won't happen (it really won't), he will pull it from the market - there's nothing we can do. (Other than spend $100,000+ of our own money on his bad financial decision.)
So my hope is to set ourselves up well in case he drops the price or sells the house short later. I managed to convince my DH of this, and we countered at what we had agreed was the most we would pay - $20,000 more than our initial offer. We need to scan and send the latest signature pages to the realtor, so that counter will be made tomorrow. This one, too, will be rejected, but if we're lucky, it will lead to a house in the long run, right?
Apparently, despite my super-rational attitude going into this process, I have a lot of emotional investment tied up in it. I conclude this based on the fact that, in the past three or four days, I have watched...um...about twenty total episodes of House Hunters, My First Place, and Property Virgins. I can pick out which of three houses the buyers will choose at near 100% accuracy, even when I think their decisions are stupid, and I yell at the TV about their poor taste, judgment, and reasoning skills. Unfortunately, this exercise is not getting me closer to a house.