When selling your home by owner, being a strong negotiator is an absolute necessity. You’re on your own, and if you don’t know how to ask for what you want, chances are you’ll never get it. At the same time, if there is no advantage to you, don’t negotiate. For you to be successful, there has to be something to win. Once you are clear on what it is you hope to achieve, keep this goal in your mind at all times. This will help you remain focused and on target, even when dealing with difficult people.
A strong negotiator knows the hand he/she is playing. You’ve already done considerable research about home prices in your neighborhood as part of the process of deciding on a sale price for your home. Your may also have invested in a professional appraisal. Because you’ve already done the necessary legwork, you have concrete evidence as to how you derived your figures, and that puts you in a strong negotiating position.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, plan your approach if you get more than one offer at or near your listing price. Will you go with whoever offers more, or use that as one decision data point along with each buyer’s likelihood to get a loan (the pre-qualified vs. pre-approved factor), who submitted the first offer (if they are close in dollar figures) and perhaps an intangible such as whether you really don’t like the other person or couple? Draw up a list of factors that will contribute to your decision about which one of several offers to accept.
Also, decide ahead of time if you will try to negotiate upwards if you get more than one offer at your asking price. That may not seem likely but it does happen. Just be careful how you broach the subject so you don’t alienate both buyers. Don’t make it a take it-or-leave it counter-offer. If you do ask for more, approach the buyers without making it sound like a demand. Their reactions should give you a sense of whether they are staying in the game and you can adjust your approach accordingly if you’re getting bad vibes.
Whenever you are in a negotiating situation, it helps to remain flexible and open. This includes maintaining realistic expectations. It is rare that you will get everything you want while negotiating. Think about what you are willing to give up and what are absolute deal breakers. When selling a home, be honest and upfront about any damage or flaws a buyer may point out about your house. Discuss these problems, and let the buyer know he’s welcome to have any perceived damage or defect inspected at his own cost. If there is indeed a problem, offer to reduce your asking price to help offset the cost of repairs.
It also helps to try to negotiate other terms to counterbalance a low offer. As you get to know the buyer through the showing and negotiating processes, you’ll develop a sense of what issues motivate the buyer. Use that to your advantage.
For example, if you know the buyer is planning to pay closing costs out-of-pocket and you’re close on prices, consider offering to split those costs. If the buyer has a young family, consider offering to fence the yard. Remember, the longer it takes to sell your home, the longer you have to drag out the process — and pay the mortgage. It might be worth your while to swallow some minor costs that will make the deal happen.
The process of transferring real estate ownership can be stressful. One thing we can assure you: It doesn’t pay to show that stress to the other side of the transaction. Keep your emotions in check when you are face-to-face with a buyer who has made an offer, and, equally importantly, when you respond via email or voice mail. It’s easy to fall into the trap of firing off a fast, snarky email or leaving a sarcastic message when you get an offer that offends you, but resist that temptation.
Be polite. Be firm. Be clear and logical and present your argument on a factual basis. But don’t let your emotions get in the way. There’s nothing to be gained by insulting a potential buyer, and, in this day of instant exposure, you might get bad-mouthed via social media, and that certainly wouldn’t help your cause.