Published in The Real Estate Advisor
Even with the help of an experienced real estate agent, the negotiating process can be frustrating and confusing. Many of us aren’t involved in high-level business negotiations in our day-to-day lives, and even buyers who are savvy businesspersons aren’t used to having a personal stake in the outcome. Good negotiating in real estate isn’t about coming out victorious over the other side, it’s about understanding the seller’s motivations and striking a deal that satisfies all parties as much as possible.
The following tips can help you survive the negotiation of a real estate purchase:
Don’t focus on price only
Many buyers make the mistake of thinking that price is the only point up for negotiation. Buyers can often negotiate quite a bit of value into a contract in addition to the number on the bottom line, such as a preferred closing date, the seller paying or contributing toward closing costs, concessions for home repairs, and so on.
Don’t move too slowly
Real estate can be an aggressive commodity, and buyers who rest on their laurels run the risk of losing out on desired properties. On the other hand, buyers who have their financing in order from the start are best positioned to make aggressive offers and negotiate from a position of strength. The first step to jumping on a hot property is having your ducks in a row from the start.
Should you find a property that matches many of your wish list items, don’t make the mistake of being overly hesitant. Make a firm, direct and quick offer to a motivated seller, stipulating a time limit for the response, and you just might get the terms you request.
Avoid responding on the spot
While you want to move fast, particularly in a hot buyer’s market, never respond verbally to an offer or counteroffer. Ask for all offers in writing and respond in kind. You can still move quickly and with the help of yourreal estate and legal representation, but don’t make any “handshake agreements” on the spot that may lead to issues later on.
Keep negotiations professional
It can be difficult not to take negotiations personally, especially when your potential home is at stake. The need to stay calm and removed from the situation is a strong reason to have the guidance of a dedicatedreal estate professional who will represent your interests while keeping an even keel. As negotiations progress, remain composed and direct in all your dealings. Ask the seller to be specific about any terms they aren’t satisfied with and ask for simple clarifications regarding the changes they would like to see. If a seller doesn’t respond well to that sort of request, be prepared to walk away. Remember that ultimately this is just business, even if from a personal standpoint the stakes are raised.
Don’t make a lowball offer without a reason
There can be very valid reasons for making an offer significantly below the seller’s asking price. The home may be priced well above comparable homes in the market, may have recently been assessed at a lower value, or may require costly repairs or updates. Making a lower offer under these circumstances is well within reason and, if done tactfully, can persuade the seller to adjust their asking price down.
If you’re hoping to get the seller to greatly reduce the price simply to meet your budget or ensure a good “deal,” you’re not negotiating in good faith and risk alienating the seller entirely. Keep the seller’s desire to get a good value for their home in mind when submitting an offer below the asking price, and be prepared to justify the difference.
Don’t be afraid to ask
Shrewd negotiators assume that nothing is ever truly off the table, at least not entirely. When done correctly, it doesn’t hurt to ask the seller for special concessions. Interested in a piece of antique furniture or the barbeque on the back patio? Hoping the seller will pay to replace worn roofing or siding? Ask for what you want, within reason. As always, be prepared to remain flexible on other terms that the seller may ask for.
When it comes to the negotiation for what may be your next home, it’s easy to become anxious and follow the process relentlessly. Try to remember to relax, and if at all possible leave as much of the process to your professional guides. Doing so will leave you less stressed and more able to approach the negotiation without frayed nerves.