Negotiating gambits: Part 1
Julie Garton-Good, GRI, DREI

In a perfect world, all buyers would pay cash, real estate closings would occur over night, and buyers and sellers would negotiate fairly and openly.

Unfortunately, welcome to the real world where buyers whittle at the price, stretch out the closing and use negotiating gambits to try and get what they want.

In this first of a two-part article, we'll help you as a seller reinforce your position with the buyer for an expedient win/win sale!

Let's begin with the bottom line: No one (neither buyer nor seller) gets to win all the marbles! No one needs to lose all of the marbles either (although your head may feel like it after you've negotiated non-stop with a buyer!).

Here are some negotiating gambits you may encounter, along with counter tactics you can use as ammunition.

Budget limitations: Variations on this theme include "we can't go any higher because we just don't have that much money".

Antidote: Remember that it's not necessarily price, but net proceeds that you should focus on. Second, remind the buyer that everything is give and take---if he wants you to lower your price, he'll have to find a way to pay his own closing costs!

Nibbling/whittling:This technique is generally used once negotiations are finalized (although this gambit can occur within the body of the negotiations too). The buyer might tell your agent, "I'm just sure the seller said we could have the microwave. I never would have made the offer I did knowing it wasn't included!" The buyer is "nibbling away" at what has already been negotiated.

Antidote: Make sure everything is spelled out in writing; and if you do change/amend the agreement, make sure all parties to the sale initial and date all changes.

Good guy/Bad Guy: This gambit occurs when the buyers want to buy time before making a decision (often on a counter offer), and/or want to sway or counter the direction of the sale. One of them is the good guy, the other the bad guy. They are very rarely in the same room or location together as this can lessen their impact as a team. For example, the husband might say to your real estate agent, "I don't know if my wife would come up in the offered price. She's pretty set in her ways. I'll ask her and get back to you." He'd later call his agent back to announce, "Tell the seller's agent that my wife won't come up in the price, but she would forget about the refrigerator." He's the good guy for asking; she is the powerful one at a distance making the decision--but they both win.

Antidote: If you're working through a Realtor, he/she will probably try to present the offer to both of the buyers simultaneously. If you're working directly with the buyers, make sure both parties are together for all negotiations. Try to have them sit side by side--it allows you to watch their communication more effectively. Ask if their joint consensus is needed to make the final decision or if one can speak for both parties. Have both sign and acknowledge all paperwork. They will try to negotiate and renegotiate right through the closing, if you let them.

See part II of this article (also on this site), where we'll cover additional negotiating gambits!

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