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What to do when the offers come in -- Page 2

If you do it yourself, "Don't be emotional; don't get personal about it, don't get insulted," says Eric Tyson, co-author of "House Selling for Dummies." "It's someone else's money and they're not going to be throwing it at you," he says.

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Ridiculously low-ball offer? Say "no thanks" and move on.

When you know the buyer
What if you have to negotiate with someone you know? Almost one-third of owner-represented homes are sold to friends, relatives and acquaintances, according to figures from the National Association of Realtors.

Shell once sold a home to the friend of a friend who was also going to be a co-worker. "I found it awkward to negotiate in person," he remembers.

"So I suggested, and they agreed, that we do it all on e-mail," Shell says. "You can do it without taking too much risk of offending each other.

"It made it a little more objective and rational," he says.

It might also be another one of those situations where you want someone else to handle the face-to-face dickering. "I think I would have bargained harder with a stranger," Shell says.

Multiple offers
One of the best (and most confusing) situations for an owner is interest from multiple buyers. If it happens, make the most of it. "Get multiple bids and play everyone off each other until someone wins," says Shell.

Shell sold a home in Boston, back in the 1980s when the market was red hot. "We posted an asking price of $250,000," he recalls.

Two parties were interested. The first offered the asking price. He then went to the second couple and told them that the current bid was $250,000 and asked: Do you want to bid? They came back with $275,000.

Shell then went back to the first group. "They were outraged," he says. "They said, 'We bid the asking price. How could you not give us the house?'"

But you can't let buyers guilt you into lowering the price. The value of any home? What the seller can get.

Dealing with a buyer's agent
Just because you don't have an agent doesn't mean your buyer does not. How do you feel about negotiating with someone who bargains for a living?

"They obviously have a lot of experience negotiating," says Tyson. "But you have the upper hand if you have the house their client wants." And "don't say anything to an agent you wouldn't say to the buyer," he advises.

You know what price you want. Just be willing to walk away.

Some tips for keeping it simple:

  • Don't let anyone turn negotiations into a marathon. Ask buyers to cut to the chase. Then accept, decline or tell them you'll consider it. If the offer is too low, you can simply state why they're not in the ballpark. But don't let them turn your explanation into an opportunity to wear you down. You're in charge. That means you control the price, any access to you and the house, and the amount of time you're willing to give them.
  • An offer isn't really an offer until it's in writing. Unless a buyer is willing to put a pen to paper, don't waste your breath negotiating.
  • Talk price only. Want to simplify the negotiations? Don't let the buyer cloud the transaction with haggling over points and closing. That's a financing issue, and it's not your problem. You set the price for the house. If a buyer needs to renegotiate his financing, let him take it up with his bank.

Know yourself
Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. If negotiating isn't your strong suit, it might be worth the money to hire an agent.

Are you a people pleaser; someone who wants to make sure that everyone leaves the table happy? "That's the kind of person who ought to have a professional," says Shell.

Buyers will try all kinds of tricks including disapproval, outrage, threats, wheedling, sob stories, and even tears to get the price and concessions they want. If you can't keep a cool, detached demeanor, either cut them loose or bring in a pro.

"When you're selling your own property," says Shell, "your own personality as a negotiator will be much more of a factor then if a broker is doing it."

Dana Dratch is a freelance writer based in Atlanta.

-- Posted: May 16, 2005
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