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Knowing how to negotiate when selling a house can feel challenging, whether it’s your first home sale or your fourth. There’s setting your house price; dealing with counteroffers; and considering closing costs, loan and occupancy terms, contingencies, repairs, updates, and more.
Negotiating takes the art of understanding human behavior and the skill of an experienced agent with a keen awareness of the current housing market to guide you to the best deal for you.
During the pandemic housing boom, sellers held their position in the driver’s seat. But with recent market conditions — higher mortgage interest rates, declining home sales, and inflation — what does that mean for sellers?
To offer some insight, we’ve interviewed top real estate agents to round up some of the best real estate negotiation strategies when selling a house in 2024.
1. Know the housing market
The rise in mortgage interests that took off in 2022 has had a chilling effect on the real estate market. While the market still favors sellers as a result of record-low inventory, persistent high mortgage rates have placed affordability constraints on buyers.
All this adds up to sellers squaring off against buyers who are making their purchasing decisions more cautiously.
To stay in the driver’s seat, you have to have your price perfect or you’ll be chasing after the market; you have to be right there on that cusp.
- Sarah Carlson Real Estate AgentCloseSarah Carlson Real Estate Agent at Realty One Group Choice Currently accepting new clients
- Years of Experience 22
- Transactions 134
- Average Price Point $317k
- Single Family Homes 112
2. Keep your eye on the competition
To stay competitive, sellers need to keep abreast of trends of comparable nearby properties, also known as comps. “I always check right before the home goes on the market,” explains top agent Sarah Carlson from Blaine, Minnesota.
“You have to know what your competition is. To stay in the driver’s seat, you have to have your price perfect or you’ll be chasing after the market; you have to be right there on that cusp.”
Carlson also recommends being humble and pricing a little lower to bring in more buyers to compete against one another.
3. Enlist a top agent with rock-solid negotiation skills
A top agent who has negotiated many successful real estate deals knows the difference between a great deal and a poor one. “If the seller doesn’t have any experience in this market and someone comes in and says ‘I’ll give you full price, and I want you to pay a few thousand in closing costs,’ they might say, ‘oh, that sounds awesome,’” explains Carlson, emphasizing how price isn’t the only factor to consider when evaluating offers. “Agents know about things like appraisal gaps and escalation clauses to boost the sale, so if you don’t know what’s going on, you won’t get the most for your money.”
4. Keep your list of upgrades handy
Buyers often bring up things they don’t like about a property as a way to negotiate a lower offer. For example, they may not like the wallpaper, the color of the paint, or something else. “Be prepared and ready to counter by telling them the positives to the negatives to prove your house is worth the price,” advises Carlson. “You can counter them with, ‘Hey but I also put in a new furnace and a new AC.’”
Carlson says she starts out by listing what the seller has done. “That’s my job as a listing agent. I’m writing a huge list of all the updates and upgrades even before they come in the door because that counters any negatives.”
5. Swap personal items for closing costs
Carlson says trading personal property for closing costs is a negotiation strategy that can sometimes work. When a buyer points out an issue and tries to talk the seller into paying closing costs, a seller can offer an item they don’t really care about (or wish to move) of equal value.
As an example, the seller can say, “I’ll give you this hot tub or pool table” instead of paying your $5,000 closing costs. Is that stuff worth $5,000? Sure. Is it worth it to the buyer? Maybe.
6. Waive the inspection contingency with a pre-sale inspection
One of the biggest deal breakers is the inspection contingency clause. Carlson encourages sellers to do a pre-listing home inspection, especially in older homes to avoid buyers walking away or delaying the sale due to inspection issues. This way, sellers know about any issues ahead of time.
“Sellers will likely need to fix some things, but they’ll get a clean offer that goes right to pending when they do a pre-listing inspection,” says Carlson. “They won’t be waiting for a surprise after an inspection and have to do all those repairs.”
Carlson says if a seller hopes to get “a bunch of offers that aren’t contingent on inspections, a pre-listing inspection is the way to do it.”
On the other hand, If you don’t want to do a pre-listing inspection or get involved in hiring contractors for repairs, consider working the cost of repairs into the closing. “If there’s a list of repairs, we are proponents of giving a credit on closing costs or price, so the seller doesn’t need to do those repairs,” says Marc Takacs, a top-selling agent in Atlanta. Takacs explains that this also benefits the buyer, since it allows them to “control the quality and level of work.”
Last-minute tips on how to negotiate when selling a house
To stay in the driver’s seat, Carlson says you can set yourself up for success by making your home available for showings. This allows you to invite as many people as possible to come through the door. “Providing access is huge to stay in the power seat,” explains Carlson.
“Another way to stay in the driver’s seat is to get really good feedback right away,” she adds. “You can quickly change the game if you’re getting poor feedback and reestablish a price or fix something.”
“Always take great-looking photos and be in communication with your agent,” recommends Carlson. If you feel like you’re not getting your questions answered by email, and your agent isn’t answering the phone, set up a phone call.
“At the end of the day, it’s a personal relationship with the agent that gets the deal done,” says Carlson. “You have to get along, and you have to make things work to negotiate a successful close.”
Header Image Source: (Benjamin Child / Unsplash)