Real Estate Negotiation Tips For Selling Your Home From The Experts—But Not The Experts You’d Think

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Negotiating to get your house sold for the price you want is undoubtedly a battle. But when you’re armed with the right negotiating tactics, the battlefield can become your playroom. Like any trained warrior, that confidence boils down to one thing: the depth and breadth of your training.

Countless real estate negotiation tips from real estate experts are out there. But the difference between being an expert warrior and the expert warrior lies in getting a step ahead of what’s already “out there.” Welcome to your unorthodox training with experts in fields other than real estate—to take your real-estate-selling skills from average to…well, unreal.

Most people believe that real estate negotiation is nothing more than the conversation that happens after an initial bid has been made. That’s the number one mistake you do not want to make.

Real estate negotiating happens far beyond the negotiation table—and long before anyone ever sits down at it. Negotiation is in every action and interaction, every set up and even “screw up” (hint: there are no mistakes—but we’ll get to that later).

Here’s a lesson in game theory for those seller’s games you didn’t even realize you were playing, from experts you never imagined could help you sell your house:

an fbi negotiator shares real estate negotiation tips
Source: (Dzelat / Shutterstock)

1. Real Estate Negotiation Tips from The FBI Hostage Negotiator

The FBI’s hostage negotiation unit created the Behavioral Change Stairway Model to successfully navigate high-stakes situations. Turns out: whether you’re rescuing a hostage from a criminal wielding an assault rifle or rescuing yourself from a crummy deal, these negotiation techniques apply.

The Behavioral Change Stairway Model Consists of Five Simple Steps:

Active Listening: Listen to their side and make them aware you’re listening.

Empathy: You get an understanding of where they’re coming from and how they feel.

Rapport: Empathy is what you feel. Rapport is when they feel it back. This is how you earn their trust.

Influence: Earning their trust means you’ve also earned the right to work on problem solving with them and recommend a course of action.

Behavioral Change: They act. In a positive way.

Even if you think you’re already doing all these steps, chances are you’re skipping right to the last two. Most of us are hardwired to jump right to the fourth step by saying “this is why I am right and you’re wrong,” because we make the mistake of believing that logic is what changes minds.

But appeal to someone’s logic, and you’re unlikely to get a response. Appeal to their emotion, and you exponentially increase your chances of getting what you want.

So, how do you put steps one through three into action?

Concrete Action for Your Real Estate Negotiation:

Prove your listening skills by asking your buyer or your buyer’s agent open-ended questions (ones where the answer is never a simple “yes” or “no) and tailoring the way you show your house to the specific buyer.

Know they have a baby on the way? Decorate that room off the master bedroom in a way that suggests “nursery.”

Know your buyer works in the music industry? Be sure you have music softly playing to show off your home’s sound system during the showing.

Heard the buyer is wondering if your book collection comes with the cozy library? Set one of the most beautiful coffee table books open to your favorite page when they come by.

Connect with them on a human level, not just a business one. Business negotiations traditionally ignore emotional investment, pretending emotions have no place in business. While people tend to think this works to their benefit, it actually does the precise opposite. When you speak their emotional language, you can better sell the EMOTIONAL VALUE of your house.

a photo of football players as sports manager shares negotiation tips for real estate
Source: (Alora Griffiths / Unsplash)

2. Real Estate Negotiation Tips from The Sports Team Manager

When Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots in 2011, ended the NFL lockout, he claimed his primary negotiation tactic was establishing relationships of trust. He went over and above to develop personal relationships with everyone involved. It paid off when all the players were infinitely more willing to listen to what he had to say, and to work with him.

You can do this most effectively by connecting directly with your buyer. The problem is that many agents rarely allow this to happen. Still, even if you’re dealing only with your agent or your buyer’s agent, you can carefully plant the seeds for trust to blossom.

Here’s how: you gain a person’s trust by showing trust in them.

Concrete Action for Your Real Estate Negotiation:

Be open right up front about things you might not normally bring up with a buyer.Give them full disclosure about your concerns with your house upfront. Or at least make them think you are. Choose something that isn’t too small an issue but also isn’t too large—something that will cost only a few hundred dollars to repair. For example, you might say something like, “Full disclosure: I think there is some damage in the chimney that I doubt you’d even ever discover yourselves, but I’m going to go ahead and fix that up for you now.”

Make them aware that you’re aware of the comparables in your area. They’re already fully aware of the homes for sale similar to yours. You can even use our Home Value Estimator to pull some up for free. Speaking openly about their pros and cons is the ultimate power move—it shows you’ve done your research and you’re STILL confident that your house is the best one for them. It also shows you actually have their best interest at heart, too . . . which gains some serious trust.

A photo of a performer takes the microphone and shares real estate negotiation tips
Source: (Marcos Luiz Photograph / Unsplash)

3. Real Estate Negotiation Tips from The Improv Performer

The fundamental rule of improv comedy is rooted in two words: “Yes, and.” It is from these words that any scene can blossom into something not only funny, but genius. It’s as simple as it sounds.

When improvising, if your scene partner were to say “The horse you bet on lost.” and you reply, “I didn’t bet on a horse! We’re at the bank!”—you’ve just killed the scene by denying the reality your partner set up. Instead, you’d want to say something like “Oh no, I needed that money to save the farm!” With this answer, you’ve inherently said “Yes” to your scene partner’s choice “AND” added a new piece of information to make the scene go somewhere else.

“Yes, And” is what takes improv scenes to fun places because it’s the primary tool used to create instant depth in relationships between characters.

In business, people often think they are saying “Yes, and,” but they’re really usually saying “yes, but.” These are not interchangeable. At all. Think of when people have said “yes, but” to you.

“Yes! That’s a great goal! But it will never work.”
“Yes! That’s a great dress! But do you really want to wear it tonight?”

“Yes, but” is a denial, not an affirmation. Even worse, it often feels unnecessarily patronizing.

Negotiation is like improv in that you always want to keep the conversation going forward—moving somewhere else. Responding with “yes, and” as often as possible shows you’re not only listening to your buyer, you’re addressing their concerns rather than glossing over them and turning the conversation immediately to your own concerns.

Concrete Action for Your Real Estate Negotiation:

When the buyer expresses a concern or a want, simply decide ahead of time that you’re going to respond with “yes, and” no matter what it is they say. This doesn’t mean that you’re agreeing to whatever they’re asking of you. It signifies agreement in the sense of understanding.

Here is an example.

A buyer says: “Your living room is so relaxing. Could you throw that furniture into the deal?” You don’t want to sell your living room furniture, but you recognize from this statement that what they’re seeking in a new house is relaxation. You acknowledge that desire and build on the other ways they could achieve that if they were to buy your house.

You reply, “Yes, the whole house is so peaceful—such a sanctuary away from the city—and I totally get it: my relaxation time is so important to me. That’s why I chose to live here myself . . .” and you list the reasons why your house IS relaxing.

You can go on to say the furniture is not for sale, but show them why that is not crucial to what they really actually want or perhaps throw in something else to sweeten the deal.

a photo of a magician helps sellers learn real estate negotiation tips
Source: (Nathan Dumlao / Unsplash)

4. Real Estate Negotiation Tips from The Magician

Every magic trick has one thing in common. Spoiler: it’s not magic. It’s misdirection.

Actively manipulating the attention and focus of your audience is what makes room for the “magic” to happen. What’s more? The magician walks away getting exactly what he wanted, and the audience applauds him for it.

A way to utilize misdirection during a negotiation is to simply change the subject. Negotiations don’t always focus on one single figure—there are typically several issues that need to be settled.

By changing the subject at key moments of disagreement or stalling, you can bring new perspective to the issue that was causing the standstill. After hopping around from issue to issue, both parties will usually find themselves quicker to compromise. Why? Because the deeper into any negotiation you get, the more you want it to be over.

Concrete Action for Your Real Estate Negotiation:

Change the subject during negotiations with your buyer or agent when things aren’t going as you’d like or as they’d like. Here’s how that might work:

Let’s say your buyer refuses to budge any higher on the purchase price and are about call of the deal completely. Change the subject to the closing date, conveyances, or the home inspection. By the time you get back around to the price, you’ll find your buyer might will be far more willing to compromise than they were before.

Real estate negotiation tips from CEOs.
Source: (HomeLight)

5. Real Estate Negotiation Tips from The CEO

The CEO may seem like the closest to what you’re doing when you selling your house: negotiating a business deal. But there’s a reason to distinguish between the CEO—the business mogul—and simply the businessman. Risk. Of course, you don’t want to risk your sale in any way. But no high-powered executive ever got anywhere without taking some risks. In our case, the only risk you need to take is the move to feign risk.

Every CEO that’s experienced any form of success will tell you a huge part of their job is taking risks, and parading that risk-taking to others so that they might be inspired to take a risk themselves and invest or partner or fill-in-the-blank.

Selling a house is no different. You want your buyer to feel your house is a safe choice for them, but a risky choice for you. No need to do any risky business yourself, but you can definitely Tom Cruise it and do some acting.

Concrete Action for Your Real Estate Negotiation:

When you go into a deal with a list of things that you say are important to you, the more items you have on that list, the more pawns you have to play throughout the negotiation game. That’s why a major key is including items on your priority list that actually are not priorities for you—in fact, they could maybe hold very little value for you. This allows you to make concessions at key points that aren’t really concessions.

Illustrate the ways in which you’ve taken risks with your home. For example, you overbuilt for your area, you installed an RO water filter, you tinted the windows to preserve furnishings, etc. Showing the risks you’ve taken and how well they’ve paid off in the home make a buyer feel like they’re getting a pretty safe end of the deal.

Walk into your next battle knowing you’ve got the advantage of not only the real estate guru, but that of five other gurus too. Remember that real estate negotiation begins the moment you decide to sell your house. It goes beyond what you say to your agent or your potential buyer—negotiation lives in every action. So when you’re ready to do business, show that you mean business by utilizing the Behavioral Change Stairway Model, Robert-Kraft-level-trust in your potential buyer, the power of “Yes, and,” the magic in misdirection, and the very safest version of risk-taking.

You’ve got all the training you need. The next step? Share this article with your real estate agent and put your newly acquired training into action.