Negotiating is an essential part of real estate. It is an art. You either have the ability to negotiate, or not. It’s not something you can really learn. However, you can become at least a little better at it if you follow the advice below. It’s all about strategy. The first thing you should always do as a seller, is counter at your list price. This is because buyers will usually expect a back-and-forth negotiation, and as such, their initial offer will be lower than what they are actually willing to pay and lower than your list price.

Once this happens, many sellers counteroffer with a price below their asking price, because they are afraid to lose the sale. Human instinct says that they want to show they are flexible and willing to negotiate in order to close the deal. This strategy does indeed work in terms of getting the property sold, as thousands of sellers can attest, but it’s not necessarily the best way to get the most money for your house. 

Instead of dropping your price to get closer to the buyer’s offer, counter at your list price. Someone who really wants to buy will remain engaged and come back to you with a higher offer. Assuming that you’ve priced your property fairly to begin with, countering at your list price says that you know what your property is worth and you intend to get the money you deserve.

Buyers may be surprised by this strategy, and some will be turned off by your unwillingness to negotiate and walk away. But you’ll also avoid wasting time on buyers who only make lowball offers, and who aren’t so much interested in buying your property as they are in getting a bargain. 

If you’re bold enough, you can try rejecting the buyer’s offer and not countering at all. To keep them in the game, you then ask them to submit a new offer. If they’re really interested and you haven’t turned them off, they will. Read: The Big Mistake When People Negotiate. This strategy sends a stronger signal that you know your property is worth what you’re asking for. If the buyer resubmits, they’ll have to make a higher offer.

Also, when you don’t counter, you’re not locked into a negotiation with a particular buyer and you can accept a higher offer, if it comes along. For the buyer, knowing that someone can come along and make a better offer at any moment creates pressure to submit a competitive offer quickly, if they really want the property. This strategy can be particularly effective if the property has only been on the market for a short time or if you have an open house coming up. 

When a buyer submits an offer that you don’t want to accept, you counter their offer. You’re then involved in a legally binding negotiation with that party, and you can’t accept a better offer if it comes along. In the interest of selling your home quickly, consider putting a short expiration time on your counter offer. This strategy compels the buyer to make a decision so you can either get your home under contract or move on. Don’t make the deadline so short that the buyers are turned off, but consider making it shorter than the default timeframe in your state’s standard real estate contract. If the default expiration is three days, you might shorten it to one or two days.

In addition to closing the deal quickly, there’s another reason to push sellers to make a fast decision. While the counteroffer is outstanding, your home is effectively off the market. Many buyers won’t submit an offer when another negotiation is underway. If the deal falls through, however, you’ve added time to the official number of days your home has been on the market. The more days your home is on the market, the less desirable it appears, and the more likely you are to have to lower your asking price to get a buyer. 

Agree to Pay the Buyer’s Closing Costs, but up the Purchase Price
It seems like it’s become standard practice for buyers to ask the seller to pay their closing costs. Buyers are often feeling cash strapped from having to come up with a down payment, moving expenses, redecorating costs and furniture and appliances, so paying for closing costs becomes unappealing. Some buyers can’t even afford to close the deal at all without assistance for closing costs. See: How to Counter a Lowball Offer on Your House

While many buyers don’t have or don’t want to spend extra cash up front to get into the home, they can often afford to borrow a little bit more. If you give them the cash they want for closing costs, the transaction may be more likely to proceed.

2 Comments

  1. Susan

    As a previous seller, I would tread lightly on playing hardball. A little is okay, but there was an offer that I flat out rejected like the article talked about, that I would have taken had I known they weren’t going to counter. The difference in between my house and the type of house this article talks about, is that I knew mine wasn’t worth what I was asking, I just wanted to see what I could get for it. My two cents, is just make sure you know the value of your home. Don’t get too greedy when playing hardball in negotiation. If you play too hard, you’ll be playing by yourself.

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  2. Rodger

    I always say, that in real estate, whoever has the best poker face wins. Most of real estate is all about negotiations, and generally the one who bluffs best gets the best deals.

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