By Ross Wilson

In the last column, I left off with you, as a listing agent, huddling with your seller client. Now, in the fourth of the series on offer negotiation, I offer some ideas about simplifying the process for your seller clients.

Rarely do clients immediately accept all the terms without question. However, at times, it’s merely their ego in play. They may just want to appear more confident and knowledgeable than they truly are. Or it may just be posturing. Never assume your seller fully understands or is comfortable with the procedure. Encourage them to ask questions; there are no dumb questions – only dumb answers. Bear in mind that selling a home is a rarity for them. KISS – keep it simple sweetheart.

At some point, one of the homeowners may offer tea or coffee or even an alcoholic beverage. This may be an attempt to be a gracious host, but it’s more likely an indirect effort to delay the inevitable decision. Let them do so, but for obvious reasons, you should decline the alcohol. Nevertheless, if they even hint they’d prefer to think about it overnight, encourage them to decide during the current meeting.

Not only will the buyers probably be waiting anxiously, given sufficient time and in the light of a new day, buyers can lose enthusiasm – or even withdraw their offer. For best advantage as well as out of respect for the buyers, your seller should strike while the iron is hot. Anyway, the offer probably technically expires that evening.

More often than not, your seller will reject the price. If you haven’t already gained acceptance of all other terms, try to narrow things down a little by asking if they approve of everything else about the offer. By so doing, you’re sending the message, consciously or subconsciously, that the offer is valuable enough to treat seriously. If they restate an earlier concern, of course, you must address it. Or if they’re disquieted about other lesser issues, you must deal with them too.

Tackle those before getting down to the bigger concerns. But if they declare that everything else is satisfactory, they’ll be hard pressed to raise those or any new objections again. Now you can focus on the main event – the price. However, if any unresolved issue is significant, such as the closing date or a condition, it may be appropriate to encompass that issue into the discussion about price.

It’s important for your client to realize that just because the price is unsatisfactory, the offer should not be summarily rejected. The buyer has clearly demonstrated their sincere intent to purchase their property (don’t refer to it as their home since that term can subliminally stimulate emotions that may only complicate matters), provided everyone can come to terms. And your sellers should return that respect by seriously entertaining their offer. After all, the buyers have affixed their signatures on the dotted line. All you have to do is negotiate the terms. In other words, it’s a starting point. Emphasize this.

Unless unusual circumstances prevail where one of the parties is under duress, or the local market strongly favours one party, the most effective method of negotiating a successful sale is to keep it balanced. Without compromise, there’s normally no sale and neither party achieves their goal. To help your sellers maintain a calm demeanour, make sure they understand that it’s a process, like baking bread. All the ingredients must be added in the correct proportions and appropriate steps followed to produce the final loaf. The offer is just the beginning of the negotiation process, with certain steps to be followed for the mutually intended result. Avoid any possibility of an adversarial attitude developing because such a negative stance could ultimately ruin the bread.

In the next of this series, I address an easily explainable menu of seller options when an offer is unacceptable.



  1. Ross, interesting and informative observations about the critical skills offered by REALTORS® — negotiating the interests of everyone to the best possible outcome for one’s client!

    The process and understanding it is a process involving many factors which can individually turn the process in expected or unexpected directions is one of your key messages worth treating as a most important perspective. Congrats on the emphasis you gave to this context.

    Encouraging a client to ask questions, indeed it is valuable to allow this aspect of an offer presentation to subtly or overtly place the seller in control; good for their confidence and great to let the Buyer’s rep understand. However, IMO, there can be a dumb question or perhaps a question asked or the manner a question is asked which is not beneficial to the Seller.

    Wise REALTORS® advise their client ahead of time they may step in and stop a conversation from continuing; doing so may be necessary to protect the Seller from inadvertently harming their interests.

    And encouraging the client to ask only open ended questions as a strategic way of masking the clients interests is a prudent approach. For instance, if the Seller does not like the proposed completion date and has a specific one in mind, the better question is not ‘would you close on x’, rather it is ‘are there other completion dates acceptable to the Buyer’.

    There can be a point in the process where a Buyer cannot “withdraw” an offer; we all hope our colleagues have an acute understanding of the nuance associated with various stages in the receipt and presentation and acceptance or countering of an offer!

    And while most transactions have negotiated offers and counter offers, unless the buyer’s representative has expressly stated there is buyer flexibility on any term in an offer (agreement), the offer is best described as other than a starting point. The fall out of this perspective is, a REALTOR® does not have to say the offer is an ending point, because any party can counter any offer of course. Again, just my opinion.

    • Thanks, Cameron, for your contribution. I always coached by sellers in advance to refrain from participating in idle chat while at the negotiation table, and to reserve any questions until our private huddle beyond the hearing of the buyer’s agent. However, I would often encourage the buyer’s agent to talk as much as they wanted about their offer and their client. Unfortunate for them, but I often gleaned valuable information from such chatter that I used to effectively advise my seller clients. It’s called smart negotiating.

  2. Very sound advice. I generally advise our salespeople to never let the offer die on their side. Whether we are working with a buyer or a seller, always send the offer back with terms that are acceptable to your client. You never know what the other party will accept or agree to so it is necessary to keep the process going and the deal alive whenever possible. Sometimes as a seller you even need to sign it back again at the same (or a higher) price than the previous signback to send a message. I have seen amazing results by following these simple rules.

Leave a Reply