Lessons from a learned negotiator

By Elizabeth Erickson | Sep 14, 2011

“That’s stupid! That’s just a stupid offer!” Looking back, it seemed like he levitated from his surly slouch.

Presenting an offer to sellers and their broker in person is ‘old-fashioned’ in the world of faxes and emails, but there are two advantages: For buyers, they have a “time stamp” of sorts, knowing that their offer has been given to the seller as they anxiously await a response.

They’ve made a big decision to call this home – if the offer can be negotiated.

But more important it’s the ability to massage the details of an offer side-by-side with comparables and conversation and that can make all the difference in transforming an offer into a contract.

Out of 20-plus homes, my buyers had returned to only two; one very dated and one completely UP-dated, but they were drawn by trees in the dated home.

The listing broker had initiated two calls. She said, “My seller just wants to see any offer. She’s reasonable and wants to move near grandkids.”

I told her we wouldn’t be even near the list price. “Please just write it. She’s ready to listen.” So write it, we did.

She arrived at my office with the seller – and her co-listing broker of “The Schmedley Team” – from Bothell.

I explained that I’d personally viewed 19 Mukilteo homes and filtered those down to 12 to show these transferees. Viewing comparisons through buyers’ eyes creates a close-up knowledge in the price range temporarily until the market changes – next month.

Together we had also researched PENDINGS and SOLDS, which is what the appraiser will do.

I had barely stated the offered price, which was $54,000 below asking, when Duffus Schmedley arises from his slouch position with his exclamation. This response after a year, no offers and another summer gone.

This poor seller then took her lead from Duffus saying, “I don’t need to sell.”

I requested, “Let’s keep this on the table and look at the buyers’ estimates for updates balanced with solds. This is the area I work in. Let’s just go over the buyers’ estimates and what I’ve prepared...”

“What’s your last name?” he snarled... So, it’s not ‘Mukilteo’ then, is it?”

All three stood up. I shook the hand of the stunned, silent listing broker. She called the next day to apologize and see if we could regroup, but the buyers by then were contentedly under contract with the other home.

Moral of the story?

• “They can always make an offer.”  Most common quote from owners of overpriced listings.  Riiiiight.... sure we can. I had a great time that Sunday morning.

• You don’t need to sell? And the market is on an ... upward rise?

• A list price is a wish-only -- more and more often with little bearing on the final sales price. “But we need..” has no bearing on value.

• Fact: It’s a crummy sellers market. Period. It’s a great time for buyers, but NO buyer wants to pay above supportable, logical market value.

• Listen to any offer that comes your way.  In this market, dismissing an offer out of hand is lunacy. My mantra is “It’ll never die on my table,” and I request that the other broker to approach it from that stance.

• If you have a hot head listing broker – fire their tail out the door before they ruin your one good chance of moving on. Grandchildren grow so fast... I know.

• Putting a sign in your yard does not a good broker make. It’s layers upon layers of skills that set great brokers apart from the rest. Get referrals.

And haughty Duffus who kept Grandma here another year...? I looked him up: Two sales in the last six months. But the most stunning statistic was that he had 12 expired or cancelled listings during the same period. (Twelve!)

Negotiating is a learned skill and an art; he’s still scribbling with crayons.

Elizabeth Erickson is owner and designated broker of Gallery Homes Real Estate. Contact her at erickson@galleryhomesre.com or at the office: 425-212-4300 or direct: 425-508-1405, or go to www.galleryhomesre.com.


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