Negotiating to buy a house: how to play the experts at their own game.

A recent article in the Daily Telegraph was based on a set of tips from a London estate agent with 34 years’ experience of what works and what doesn’t.  I read it with interest, curious to know how well his experience ties in with the concepts I propose when I train Negotiation Skills.  Here are his top 5:

1.  “When putting in an offer, say the price and then nothing.  Silence.  Any comment you make puts you at a disadvantage”.  I totally agree.  People should negotiate with the “two ears, one mouth” ratio in mind, and making your offer and shutting up (whilst not blinking and maintaining a neutral facial expression) is the way to do it.

2. “As a vendor, never tell your agent the absolute lowest price you’ll accept.  As a buyer, never reveal the highest you will pay.”   Again I agree completely. Giving away your worst positions from the start means that lazy agents will go straight to them, leaving you with no room for manoeuvre.  State your Ideal and Realistic positions, but not your Fallback.

3.  “Don’t complete on a Friday.  The banks will be shut all weekend: awkward if there is a problem.”  Spot on.  Negotiation is about flexibility, and it makes sense to create as much room for this as possible.  This means allowing plenty of time and  having other options available.  I call this the BANANA approach, about which I have blogged and YouTubed before.

4.  “If, when you make your bid, the estate agent makes a “fffffsssss” noise by sucking on air, ignore it – it’s the oldest trick in the book to make you instantly raise your price.”  Oh yes, all those tricks for making things look painful are a cynical ruse to take advantage of the weak negotiator.  Certainly ignore them, and if anything try doing a few back.  “I’ll have to have a think about it” works quite well, as does a pout and slow shaking of the head.

5.  “Write a regular newsletter to all those involved – agents, solicitors, surveyors etc – highlighting who’s not pulling their weight.  No one likes to be shown up.”  Great idea: embarassment is a powerful emotion and will tend to encourage action!

In summary, I’m relieved to find that there is a 100% fit between the theory and practice.  That’s a relief!  I’ll finish with a true story about a colleague of mine who used to train Negotiation Skills as well.  One day he told me he was going to buy a new car, and use the opportunity to test out all the negotiation theory for real.  “I’m going to try every trick in the book and see if they work.”

So off he went: gave himself three months to buy it, played dealers off against each other, walked away several times, lied, smoke and mirrors, lots of ffffffsssssing, the lot.  (The photo is not of him, by the way, and any similarity with the real salesman is purely coincidental!)

Eventually he did the deal, and he came into the office to tell me how pleased he was with his new Golf with all the bits on.  “Sounds great”, I said.  “One thing, though:  how do you know you haven’t left any money on the table?”  “Ah”, he said, “I don’t, do I?”  So I suggested he go back and check.  Which he did.  Back to the dealer, and said “I’m not here to renegotiate, as I’m delighted with the deal.  However, I train in Negotiation Skills, and I would love to know how well I did.  Do you mind me asking?”  The dealer paused, (probably ffffffssssssed a bit) and then said: “Well, you did your bit, didn’t you?”  Of course he wouldn’t tell him how much better he could have done, but left him wondering.

So annoying, isn’t it:  Perception is Reality, and if you perceive that you’ve done a good deal, you’ve done a good deal in your own mind.  Not neccessarily in the mind of the other party.  Dammit.

Happy negotiating.

About Michael Brown Training

I'm a business skills trainer, facilitator and coach. I've been helping people to learn for 16 years, working all around the world on topics such as Negotiation, Conflict Handling, Sales, Leadership, Consulting and Personal Effectiveness. I'm an ENFP, constantly looking for new and inspiring things to do. I love my job for its variety and the stimulation I get from it, and spend most of my time seeing how far we can go with the subjects we work on in the training room. I've recently started a new venture in making video on how NOT to do things, which you can find at
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One Response to Negotiating to buy a house: how to play the experts at their own game.

  1. Pingback: Negotiating with your own children | Wakey wakey!

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