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Get the Deal Done

by Tracey Velt


In a negotiation, everyone wants to get to a win-win, but few people know what that win-win is. That's why it’s so important to do your homework before you even get to the negotiation table.

"There are three essential elements to negotiation: information, time and power," according to Gee Dunsten, PMN, CRS. Dunsten is associate broker for Long & Foster Real Estate in Ocean City, MD, as well as a national instructor for Women's Council's designation program.

"You increase your chances for success when you have an understanding about whether the party has the correct information they need to make a decision, and you know about their timetable," Dunsten continues. "If you establish power by being a credible source of information, you can work with everyone to reach a deal."

Gail Hartnett, PMN, CRS, MRP, ABR, team leader of The Gail Hartnett Team at Keller Williams Realty in Boise, ID, agrees. "You have to know who has the power to accept the deal. For example, I worked with one seller, and all communication came through the daughter, who wasn't a party to the contract. However, she was the decider."

Here are their tips for getting to "yes:"

Know both sides. Hartnett is a listing agent, but she's worked on both sides of the transaction before. She has a buyer specialist on her team. "It's important for buyer's agents to understand the world of sellers and vice versa. This was my 'aha' moment, when my buyer specialist brought me an offer on one of my listings. She was intent on getting everything the buyer wanted without a thought to the seller. I realized that I had to educate her that winning for your client isn't always about getting everything they want," she says. In fact, she says, being too rigid isn't negotiating. "Negotiating is helping people get as much of what they want as possible," she says.

GeeDunstenRespect your peers. It's vital you build a solid reputation with other agents, and that starts with respect. "Create non-adversarial partnerships with other agents by listening to them," says Dunsten. "Build relationships with co-workers and top agents in the market. It starts on the phone when someone calls and wants to show a home you listed."

Find Customers' Hot Buttons. Get to know buyers and sellers by asking a series of questions. "Ask questions, listen and rephrase the answer so you truly understand what the person is saying," Hartnett suggests. Too many times, she says, agents gloss over what's important to the buyer or seller or don't read between the lines. Don't make assumptions that a low price is what's important to the buyers; a quick move in might be what they want.

Says Dunsten, "Related to that, don't use real estate terms like comps and CMA. People want to feel that their house isn't like the rest of the homes in the neighborhood. Don't put yourself in an adversarial position."

Be Prepared. "Coming to a solution shouldn't be a fight," says Hartnett. "That's why I always do my research and have alternate solutions available." For example, she says, if the seller isn't coming down on the price, give the buyer some other ideas for concessions, such as having the seller pay for a home warranty. Dunsten agrees. For example, if you're negotiating the price, you must know the market. "You must be able to explain why one side of a gated community is getting higher prices or the benefits of taking less for a home," he says. That superior knowledge establishes you as a credible expert.

Move On. Sometimes it's OK to accept the situation and move on, says Hartnett. For example, she says, one client didn't understand electronic signatures and refused to use them. "I listened to her concerns, and it was clear she wasn't changing her mind. Rather than force her to see my side, I accepted her views. I had to explain to the other agent what was going on, and we made it work."

Overall, Dunsten says, "It's OK to be fair but firm with the other agent. And, follow up, talk through the process with the other agent, keep the lines of communication open. As author Herb Cohen says, 90 percent of negotiations fall apart because of a misunderstanding."

Tracey C. Velt is an Orlando-based freelance writer.

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