Approaches To Real Estate Negotiation

By Bruce Kellogg


Negotiation, unfortunately, is not taught much to real estate professionals, or to investors. International, corporate, and purchasing courses exist, even to the extent of Master’s degrees, but real estate has not received the same coverage. This article aims to help that.

Start Out Early

Negotiations begin at the first encounter (e.g., phone inquiry). Many people think the initial pleasantries are just that, and the formal negotiations will begin later. Not so. The superior negotiator will have already begun gathering information and setting expectations. Start early so you don’t have to catch up.

The Three Elements

There are three elements to any negotiation: 1) Information, 2) Time, and 3) Power. These will be described below.

Gather Information

The negotiator who gathers the most information usually has an advantage. Interview people, obtain reports, do inspections, use the MLS (Multiple-Listing Service) and other online resources. Hire a private investigator on the seller if the deal is large enough, looking for vulnerabilities (e.g., bitter divorce). You can’t know too much.

The Factor Of Time

It helps to know if the other party has any time constraints, along with your own, of course. Pending foreclosure, divorce, condemnation proceedings are some examples. If the property is “a steal”, scoop it up fast. If it’s priced at or above “market”, then “grind real slow”. Use time to your advantage.

The Factor of Power

In some negotiations the power levels are uneven. One party has more leverage over the other. Seasoned negotiators assess power levels and devise strategies to take these into account. Then, even the weaker party can optimize its outcome.

Be Generous When Selling

Some sellers believe in “Win-Lose” negotiating. They want “top dollah”. This apparent greed and intransigence grates on everyone involved, sometimes to the extent of legal action or retaliation. Be generous when selling. Paint that bedroom. Purchase a Home Protection Plan for those first-time buyers. You’re on your way to wealth. Don’t be cheap!

Keep Your Word/Perform And Smile

Keep your word. Perform everything you’ve agreed to do. And smile as you do it, even if the deal is going against you and you are taking a loss. Don’t whine. Smile. Builds character….and your reputation.

The “Concession Pattern”

In the back-and-forth of negotiations, your “concession pattern” is very important because it sets up expectations in the other party. Always negotiate fairly tightly. Don’t concede too much because the other party will see that as an opening to seek more. Go back-and-forth more times if need be. Try to set things up so you take the other party’s counteroffer rather than force them to take yours. This way they will feel they won, and you will have less trouble with them the rest of the way. And, please, don’t arbitrarily “split the difference”. Amateur negotiators do that.

“Sharp Practices”

The day will come, if it hasn’t already, when the other party will bring “sharp practices” to the table. If these are illegal (e.g., undisclosed money back after the close), call them on it, and refuse to participate. If these are not exactly illegal, then counter them as best you can, or walk away. Life is too short, and your reputation is too important. Always “take the high road” in negotiations.

Re-Negotiating After Inspections

Y’all know to re-negotiate after property inspections, right? ‘Thought so.

Reading List

Included here is a list of Recommended Reading. Buy all of them, used. Read and highlight them. Then, once a year, re-read the highlights. You owe it to your clients, and yourself, to be in tip-top shape a as a negotiator.

Recommended Reading

Negotiate This, Herb Cohen, 2003

Everything’s Negotiable, Eric Wm. Skopec and Laree S. Kiely, 1994

Guerrilla Negotiating, Jay Conrad Levinson, Mark S. A. Smith, and Orvel Ray Wilson, 1999

The Negotiating Game, Chester Karrass, 1992

The Only Negotiating Guide You’ll Ever Need, Peter J. Stark and Jane Flaherty, 2003

Seal the Deal, Leonard Koren and Peter Goodman, 1991

You Can Negotiate Anything, Herb Cohen, 1980

How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie, 1936

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