By Ross Wilson

“Fairness is not an attitude. It’s a professional skill that must be developed and exercised.” – Brit Hume

In this seventh and final column of the series about effective offer negotiation, I address, particularly from a buyer’s perspective, what unfortunately can happen from time to time – the counter-counter offer. Once again, for better comprehension, if you’ve not yet read this series from the beginning, I encourage you to do so before proceeding.



If a buyer offers fairly, the odds are better that your seller will also be reasonable, or at least, they should. If your seller refuses what you honestly believe is a fair offer, you might wish to question their commitment to selling, or their understanding of their property’s worth. Sometimes sellers or buyers prefer to play the multiple back and forth game. I believe such practice is a monumental waste of everyone’s time and effort but is sometimes a necessary part of the task. The parties may feel they have to try. And of course, as their agent, you must comply with their wishes.

In dual agency, you have no choice since you’re not permitted to intervene with price advice. Therefore, the ping pong process is inevitable. However, when acting for a buyer under single agency, and you personally participated in the presentation, you’ll often have a fair idea of the viability of a counter-counter-offer to the seller. Share your opinion with your buyer. If you feel the seller’s terms are unreasonable, encourage your client to sign it back or walk. On the other hand, if you feel the terms are realistic, but your buyer disagrees, that’s another matter.

If your buyer must absolutely steal a property, you should have clarified their intention before accepting them as a client so you could have focused your efforts on finding an appropriate bargain-priced listing. If the seller is being fair, though, your buyer should be the same. If they insist that the seller’s terms (especially a secondary position) are unrealistic or it’s unaffordable and you feel another counter would be futile, perhaps they should re-evaluate, adjust their expectations and move on to something within their budget. Take it away from them.

The listing agent may surprise you by calling the next day to request your buyer re-submit their offer because the sellers changed their minds. Maybe they were bluffing. It happens. Remember the two-position protocol? For a buyer to get the best possible price, they must be prepared to walk away. They mustn’t attach themselves so much to any particular home that they’ll agree to pay any price, especially if it’s an unreasonable one.

By regularly following this negotiation protocol, your skills will become increasingly more natural and polished and your instincts more honed. Because you simplified what was likely perceived to be a complicated and uncomfortable adversarial process, you’ll be a hero. And heroes get referrals. A solid and fair-minded offer presentation will mean a successful culmination of your laborious, persevering and creative efforts. The system works. Try it. You just might like it. And so might your clients.

“According to the law of nature, it is only fair that no one should become richer through damages and injuries suffered by another.” – Marcus Tullius Cicero

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4 COMMENTS

  1. Thanks, Cummer. I couldn’t agree more. Sadly, in my experience, I’ve found that many people don’t stop talking to listen. We have two ears as one mouth that should be used in the same proportion. Clients will tell us how to fulfill their wants and needs, often unbeknownst to themselves. It’s so important that I devoted an entire chapter in my book, The Happy Agent, to this subject. Thanks again.

    • Thanks for your comment. If I understand you correctly, then we agree that agents are often well paid, and sometimes after having exerted little time or effort. However, I suggest that those equipped with better human relation skills are more consistent in their results.

  2. As always, Ross, good advice (in a short space) on an important phase of our profession. Just one addition, wherever negotiations fail, it’s a good idea to leave good taste behind. Yes, I have been called by the sellers agent to bring back the offer. I have also prepared a sellers offer to the buyer. And as always, being professional, specially listening carefully to the sellers’ comments, conversation, is a key to our success at the table, or anywhere else.

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