By Ross Wilson

“So, when you are listening to somebody, completely, attentively, then you are listening not only to the words, but also to the feeling of what is being conveyed, to the whole of it, not part of it.” – Jiddu Krishnamurti

In this fifth column of the offer presentation series, let’s continue with negotiation strategy and seller options.



You’ve fully summarized and explained all the significant terms of the offer during your private consultation with your seller client. And your client has said the offer is unacceptable. Now, while the buyer’s agent relaxes in the other room, it’s time to strategize.

For simplification, explain the three options: counter-offer, acceptance or rejection. It would be great if all offers were accepted without contest, but alas, that’s not how it usually goes in the real world. The order of the letters in the acronym “CAR” is typically the order in reality. Since opening bids are usually negotiable, unless the offer is ridiculous and totally unacceptable, your seller should not immediately reject them. The buyer may just be greedy, misinformed or simply testing your client’s mettle (or their agent was an order-taker or trying to be a hero) and will typically agree to pay more. Thus, countering is normally the best response to a reasonable, but unacceptable offer.

To obtain the highest price for your seller, try a two-price strategy. During your private consultation, determine your seller’s bottom line. This amount becomes their fall-back secondary price, below which they’re prepared to lose the buyer. Then agree on a higher primary amount to present to the buyer agent when you all return to the table. If the closing date is acceptable to your seller, have a secondary tolerable date to interlace into the counter-offer proposal. Remember that you’re negotiating; it’s give and take and perception is four-fifths of reality.

When the buyer agent rejoins the presentation, tell them straight away, not that their client’s offer is rejected, but that your client will not accept the offer. Terminology is important here. A flat refusal, which is how your news will likely be perceived anyway, may shock the buyer’s agent into acquiescence. Rather than accept a rejection, they’ll normally ask (beg) for a counter-offer. Make them ask for it because it will bring the power into your court; they become the supplicant.

Maybe after another brief (staged) private chat with your seller (or even exchanging a predetermined code sign like a subtle mutual nod or a particular word) with a suitable preamble such as “upon further consideration”, announce that your seller wants to be fair. They’ll grant the agent’s request for a sign-back at the higher primary amount (obviously without mentioning the secondary lower amount) and with your seller’s preferred primary closing date. Tell the buyer agent that your seller will agree to all other terms. Then, get the buyer agent’s reaction – both verbal and non-verbal. Watch their body language.

At some point, you might ask the buyer agent about their client’s priorities. Since the most important terms are typically price, closing date and conditions, ask which single term is most important to their client. If the buyer’s priority is price and their agent seriously balks at your proposed primary counter price, ask the agent for a price proposal, since they may have a glimmer of what their buyer will pay for the property. If they suggest an amount equal to or greater than your seller’s already secretly established secondary figure, with a nod from your client, inform the buyer rep that the seller will agree to the agent’s suggested counter price if the buyer will agree to the seller’s primary closing date. Once the terms are verbally agreed, make the written changes and proceed to affix initials and signatures.

If the agent refuses or is unable to offer a suggestion, then your seller could give a little on their primary price proposal, but maybe not as low as their secondary price. Or in exchange for your seller countering at their secondary price, maybe the buyer would consent to dropping a condition or two and agree to your seller’s primary closing date.

If the buyer must have a particular possession date, advise your seller to agree (if possible) to the buyer’s demand for that specific date. In exchange, ask that the buyer be fair and agree to the seller’s primary price, provided that all else is fair and reasonable.

I often obtained the higher primary price for my seller just by “agreeing” to the buyer agent’s request for their client’s preferred closing date. You’ll have to think fast.

Remember – it’s a dance between two variable positions – the ideal primary and the acceptable secondary. And that dance is sometimes a quick-step.

In my next column, I continue to describe the highly successful strategy I used regularly during my four decade career.

SIMILAR ARTICLES

17 COMMENTS

  1. Thanks, Nelson, for your comments. I agree that experience counts big time. But I must say that I’ve always, even during my very early years as an agent, been a sensitive and skilled negotiator, almost empathic in my relationships.

    Kindly forgive my boasting, but to make my point, I must indulge for a moment. I was a top producer for over 4 decades, and from day one, because I studied to properly prepare for the task. This study included much reading, and of course, watching skilled agents in action and mimicing them later, and watching unskilled agents and doing the exact opposite. I felt that to provide quality service, I must be properly prepared. My record speaks for itself.

    I invite you to read my book, The Happy Agent, available at several realty stores in the GTA, or as a print or e-book from Amazon or Realty-Voice.com. In it, I explain how I succeeded whilst maintaining high ethical standards, and a quality life outside of the business.

    • Thanks for your comment, Marko. If this is so, the decline of the personal service approach may explain the respective decline of our industry. Some might argue that it’s not declining, but it’s certainly evolving. And in my view, not in a favourable manner. Consumers could appreciate lower fees, perhaps, but do they generally appreciate the lower service? Frankly, I doubt it.

    • You’re most welcome, Carlos. You might appreciate reading my book The Happy Agent, available at several realty stores in the GTA or as a print or e-book from Amazon or Realty-Voice.com.

  2. There is more than one way to accomplish the task at hand which is securing and offer to sell and an offer to buy. Unless you accomplish both, no one walks away with a sale. Experience can trump any tactic and choosing the right agent, with experience is the most important. Many times I am told “I want to use my father or family member that just got licenced” or “my friend from work just got his licence and I want to support him/her”. This in my opinion, would be the first mistake of many to follow. I’ve witness tens of thousands and even hundreds of thousands of dollars left on the table due inexperience and poor choice in agent.

    • Thanks, Omer, for your comment. Everything boils down to experience. And it’s from “good” experience that dependable style and technique sprout and grow. But throughout my career, I have found that consumers sometimes choose a “friend” with a newly minted license over a veteran agent. It’s not a prudent choice, but one made from a place of trust. And it’s up to that new agent to ensure they provide expert advice and service. Sadly, this is often not the case.

  3. Isn’t that the truth..
    Attitude is at all time high, try to bluff or bully the Veteran already you’ve lost respect.
    You know where you’re heading thereafter. Working with integrity is the winning strategy.
    J.L. Ottawa

    • Thanks, Jackie, for your comment. Integrity is paramount in any consumer service industry. But just as important are skill and technique. For if an agent lacks either or both, honesty just might not produce the desired results. In my experience, a very large majority of those in the business either fail in short order, or perform poorly with corresponding income results. To succeed, one needs more than integrity.

      I invite you to read my book, The Happy Agent, available at several realty stores in the GTA, or as a print or e-book from Amazon or Realty-Voice.com. In it, I explain how I succeeded for over 4 decades whilst maintaining my high ethical standards, and a life outside of the business.

  4. Go ahead try all this nonsense on me when I present an offer from my Buyer Client….its not like it has been tried a couple thousand times over the last 30 years. Apparently your Owners were not aware the old listing
    from when they bought the home was still online.

    When viewing the home I was smart enough to see the listings of the homes your clients were viewing yesterday and I see they are looking to jump $300,000 in value with this trade.

    I mention I am in a rush because my clients (other clients of many) are looking at 123 Smith St, that happens to be the same home these Sellers were looking at yesterday. I mention how great a home it is an my clients
    are willing to even accept less on their home in order to not LOSE out on this next one.

    I know from the previous listing this home is over priced by about 10% compared to what other homes in the area have gained over the 7 years your Sellers owned this one. I mention homes here are selling around 52% higher than they were 8 years ago.

    etc etc etc

    The game of negotiation is fun and when two experienced and skilled sales reps sit at a kitchen table it is very rewarding to watch.

    I encourage all newby sales reps to refrain from thinking you can negotiate with the Wilson’s of the business because you cannot. Accept you will need to experience hundreds and hundreds of negotiations like this before you are even remotely prepared to compete against a pro.

    What is sad is that the Consumer is prevented by MLS rules from ever knowing who the best in the business really are or that CREA wants the public to believe it is OK to deal directly with a Newby because all REALTORS can be trusted.

    Wilson’s articles reveal choosing the right sales rep could save you a thousand bucks or maybe 10s of thousands.

    • It all boils down to how strong of an emotional attachment that the buyer(s) has/have developed with the offered subject property, At the critical point of seriously “wanting” the subject property (on the part of the buyer), what other so-called comparable properties are selling for becomes Irrelevant. A smart, experienced, savvy Realtor possessing a good grip on the workings of the human mind will have the advantage over the other, likely-objection-scripted Realtor, every time.

      When one marries up the above described savvy Realtor with an unemotional buyer/seller, the game has become effectively rigged in favour of the this combination. There are very few Realtors out there who possess the psychological tools that allow one to be a skilled, on-the-fly, effective negotiator. Most are rank amateurs practicing learned lines. Kind’a reminds me of the time that I was in training to become a life insurance salesman for the Canadian Forresters (circa 1980). On the training-room wall was posted a huge picture of a rotary telephone dial with answers to objections posted at each finger hole on the dial. The goal was to memorize them all in preparation for the expected objections to my cold-calling pitch. I quit soon thereafter. They didn’t have an answer to my objection of being used as a robotic stooge to sell their product. I also tried selling used cars. Couldn’t do it with a clear conscience. And after all, isn’t that what we Realtors ultimately end up doing by selling used properties that we did not build or live in/own previously?

      Like used car salespeople, we are motivated via commissions to sell other peoples’ used stuff about which we possess no real first-hand knowledge. Therein lies the rub. How to sell stuff—and thus not starve—without lying by way of concealment of or willfully remaining ignorant of…the truth. Pros deal with the truth of any matter up front. They possess the psychological characteristics to be able to do so, and they are in the distinct minority on any given day within the real estate war zone. They have absolute confidence in their ability to do the right thing under any and all circumstances, knowing full well that what goes around comes around. They are not short-term desperadoes. They are long-term projectionists of “I am proud of myself and of what I do for a living” bona fide professionals. You can’t teach that inherent characteristic within the confines of the six-to-eight-week real estate university course.

        • Hi Ross:

          You are slowly but surely exposing REM’s readers to the excellent contents of your book, “The Happy Agent”, by way of freely providing your chapter selections herein. I have your book in my possession, and I can say with absolute confidence that it is a must read for every aspiring wannabe, and just as important, similarly for every currently licensed, Realtor. Every brokerage would be wise indeed if your book was purchased by the truckload by same and thence re sold to every person working within every brokerage. That purchase should be a pre requisite for being allowed to work for any brokerage…and it would be an expense-legitimate tax write-off.

          I have said it before, and I say it again; “The Happy Agent” should be part of the curriculum of every provincial licensing course.

          • Thanks, Brian, for your support. With all modesty, I have to agree with you. As I learned from other experienced agents when I was newer in the business, and from being a voracious reader, so should today’s registrants. The trick is getting The Happy Agent in front of the various organization’s appropriate representatives. I’m open to ideas. Thanks again.

    • Nelson, in reference to your last paragraph:

      My comment herein speaks to why strong negotiating skills carry dominant weight … If an agent cannot negotiate his own paycheque contract how can he be expected to negotiate the best contract for a client?

      My buyer client wrote, in part:

      “We are thrilled with our purchase . . . and are certainly in your debt. We basically made a windfall of 10’S of thousands of $ in one night due to your efforts. You told me that you earn your fees and you were not kidding . . . I sensed that you were for real…”

      Part of a lengthy thank you letter received (in full posted at “Carolyne’s Clients Speak”) …

      This is the only buyer (later seller) client I ever had who clearly had no intention of signing a buyer contract, because his friends, colleagues, and several agents I learned he was working with strongly advised him against it; “they” didn’t require one, so why should I demand to have one.

      I showed a couple of houses they chose, with no contract to prove my worth so to speak, and then let it be known I would do nothing further without a contract and it would be a top-up commission contract if the co-op fee did not fulfill my requirement.

      Clearly I earned my keep so to speak after they agreed I was to represent them and signed both a buyer contract and a subsequent listing contract.

      Smart professional business people wherein no one had educated them that even so they understood no agent would/could list a house with no seller contract, he felt there was absolutely, firmly, no need to have a buyer contract in place, working with many agents who didn’t require one. But with my buyer (top-up) contract in place I was the agent who found the perfect MLS listing for them.

      Just happenstance? Any of the other
      agents could have shown him that house that just had got listed. I knew exactly what would fill their unusual wish list and where. There just weren’t any easily available.

      Timing is everything. Once I was secured with my buyer contract in place, I pulled out all the stops. In only a couple of weeks, the perfect property appeared, and an MLS sold sign went up, followed quickly by a for sale sign on their existing place and their co-op sale. THAT’S how to do it. The only way, in my opinion. But of course, to each his own. They got subsequent irate calls from agents whose time they had wasted for months.

      It didn’t particularly matter to me if he chose to have me help or not. Because without that contract in hand, my security that I would get paid, not going to show property and then discover some friend agent wrote the APS contract. Not going to happen.

      Carolyne L 🍁

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