Negotiation 101 : It never hurts to ask… Or does it?

Negotiation is key to real estate transactions

It’s a Seller’s Market. You might be tempted to think there is NO negotiation because, well… the Seller wants full list price (or more) and if you don’t give them that, they will get it from another Buyer. Maybe. But negotiation isn’t all about price, so even if the scenario of competing offers has you writing a bigger check, you still have terms to agree on and most sellers have a list of wants and needs, just like you do. It might be possible to agree on or trade concessions to get a Contract that meets needs regarding occupancy dates, closing time/date, inclusions, inspection items and more. 

Heck, why not ask for a lot more than you need or want, just to have things to negotiate away again?!  Hold your horses! Be careful going down this road. You might have heard “It never hurts to ask” from some Realtors, but I’m disagreeing. Sometimes it does! It really does!

Listen to this:

Mr and Mrs X are divorced. They share custody of their son.

Mr X is now living with Mrs Y. She has partial custody of her son with Mr Y too. The XY household sometimes has no kids in it, sometimes has 2 kids in it, sometimes has 1 of the 2.

Mrs X picked up her son from Mr X and discovered head lice. She informed Mr X that lice treatment was on the shopping list and suggested that he check Mrs Y’s son for lice too. Mr X asked that Mrs X take their son to a Dr for a professional diagnosis. Mrs X agreed, only if Mr X would also attend that appointment so he could hear it from the Dr himself and then they could agree on treatment. Mr and Mrs X agreed that the cost of their sons appointment and treatment would be shared – as was normal for them.

Mr X showed up at the doctors with Mrs Y’s son and asked to be seen by the doctor at Mrs X’s appointment. The doctor was busy and annoyed that the expectation of treatment for two patients in one appointment was thrust upon him. The kids had to be kept apart in case Mrs Y’s son was still lice-free. Two treatment rooms were necessary. Mrs X was embarrassed that the doctor thought she had some knowledge of Mr X’s plan. Mrs Y’s son was not even a prior patient of this clinic/doctor and everyone was scrambling to obtain even the most basic patient info from him.

It really did hurt to ask in this case. It is unreasonable and carries an air of entitlement when a patient shows up without an appointment and expects treatment on the spot. And did I mention Mrs Y’s son also had a serious pre-existing condition that the doctor had to work with? Is it any wonder the Dr felt disrespected and taken advantage of? 

Five minutes later, Mr X decided to try it on again. Mrs X was ready to leave with her son and payment needed to be discussed. Mr X began the conversation by saying  “So are we treating this as one appointment for two kids?” Mrs X thought she heard Mr X ask her to pay half of his stepson’s appointment and treatment and asked for clarification, only to have that confirmed!

Did it hurt to ask? Yes. Mrs X was quick to remind Mr X that she is only paying for the child she had. Going forward she took her annoyance at Mr X and used it to help give him clarification on a number of other boundaries that also should have gone without saying. 

What happens when you ask for too much? Some people think the Seller (or other party) simply has the right to say no and that there is no lasting damage. I disagree. When the request is personal – when the person feels you are acting entitled or demanding their time or money or cooperation without offering enough in return or explaining your very good reason – they are offended. Trust is lost, credibility is lost, good will is lost. OPPORTUNITY for bettering a relationship and putting together a win-win deal is lost. 

A little self awareness and a smidgen of personal responsibility will go a long way, IF the asker is willing to back pedal expediently.  It takes spectacular negotiation to get back to the place you were in before that bell was rung because you cannot unring the bell, as the saying goes.