The High Road: ‘What did they pay for this?’

A question that is just as pointless as why sellers are moving often spills from the lips of prospective buyers like ketchup from a shaken bottle.

Buyers almost always want to know how much the current owners spent to purchase their home in the first place.


Let’s say the place is listed for $1 million.  If the sellers paid $250,000 10 years ago, $500,000 five years ago or $900,000 a year ago, does it matter?

Oh, I see, the buyers want to be sure that the sellers don’t make too much money. 

Never mind how the market has changed, how much was expended on renovations, how much the place is objectively worth today.

To be sure, the number is useful in the sense that it is a comparable along with all other comps.  By taking into account improvements and the percentage changes in the market for similar properties over the years, you could argue that the previous sale price is a helpful indicator of how much the place is worth today.

You could argue that, but I’ll bet that’s not why buyers ask the question: All the want to know is how little they can offer for the property, never mind its value.  The buyers who ask the question simply begrudge the seller their “profit.”

The most charitable way I can characterize those buyers is unthinking, but I’m more drawn to descriptors such as resentful, jealous or envious.

That’s life, but it is no way to go about the business of purchasing real estate.

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Malcolm Carter
Licensed Associate Real Estate Broker
Senior Vice President
Charles Rutenberg Realty
127 E. 56th Street
New York, NY 10022

M: 347-886-0248
F: 347-438-3201
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One thought on “The High Road: ‘What did they pay for this?’

  1. huh?

    I think this is a perfectly natural question. Last year I went with a friend to look at a place that was listed about 10% higher than where the buyers bought it 3 years ago. No improvements. In other words, too high. And the other useless question, “why were they selling”? Because that office — “perfect for a baby” said the realtor — was turning out to feel pretty small with a real living baby.

    So… my friend didn’t waste any time looking at a place that was overpriced, with sellers who had no urgency to move, or with a realtor who wasn’t giving us any information. (We got the info thru the network of young families in the neighborhood and public records).

    Sure enough, a year later it’s still on the market for a too-high price.

    I guess you could call me jealous or envious if you want. All I know if my friend bought very happily quickly into her search using all the information.


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