Real estate negotiations reached a boiling point? 3 ways to diffuse clients’ emotions when stakes are high

Don't let your deal fall apart over lowball offers, last-minute contract additions

Colleen FischesserThis post by Colleen Fischesser originally appeared on the Trulia Pro Blog, a blog for real estate professionals on Trulia.com. Follow Trulia Pro on Twitter: @TruliaPro.

Several years ago a listing of mine had a near-death experience — that is to say, negotiations nearly reached a terminal point … over an office chair.

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Negotiations image via Shutterstock

I should preface the story by explaining this happened back in 2008, when buyers were a hot commodity with a plethora of listings to consider. The buyer and seller negotiated back and forth until we were all cross-eyed with changes. Finally, the buyer accepted the seller’s counter … kinda, sorta. There was one small addition on what I had been told was a signed-off contract. The buyer suddenly decided she had to have the seller’s desk chair in the home office, a personal item that had not previously been mentioned anywhere in the contract.

After peeling the sellers off the ceiling, I quickly realized their indignation wasn’t just about venting. They were seriously willing to kill the deal. They were that mad. Their anger was about to lose them a well-qualified buyer and a strong offer in a weak market.

We all know the homebuying and selling experience is stressful and fraught with emotion; however, when those emotions run high, sometimes clients will make a decision that isn’t in their best interest. It’s the real estate professional’s role to cut through all of that heat and headiness and bring the clients back to a place where, while probably still mad at the lowball offer or over the moon in love with a brand-new home in a school district they did not want that’s overpriced, they are able to make an informed, educated decision about a major financial decision.

So how do you diffuse emotions in a real estate transaction?

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Here are a few things that have worked for me in the past:

Bring their focus back to the beginning

Why did they decide to take on this process in the first place? Lower payments? Need more (or less) space? Finances? Kids? What’s their “why” for selling or buying?

Often, reminding them of their “why” will at least give them pause to step back and consider if their priorities have changed. If they have, fine — but they need to make that decision consciously.

Use anecdotes

Personally, I think anecdotes are a real estate agent’s best friend. If you’re new to the business and don’t have any (or many), borrow some. Other agents in your office would love to share stories from their experience. File these away to pull out when needed. Anecdotes are like scripts, only better. Because they are true experiences, they don’t come across as practiced and will be genuinely received.

In the case of the “office chair” transaction, I empathized with the seller and then quickly shared the story of an offer I had written back in my rookie days. It had some of the most ludicrous requests imaginable (and this was in the day when we presented offers in person to the seller, ouch!). It helped the sellers understand they weren’t the only ones who had ever felt like they were being taken advantage of and that real estate negotiations can just be, well, odd.

Debunk the “winner” mentality

Whenever parties to a transaction begin to think in terms of winning or losing, I know I’m in for a rocky road ahead. If/when this ever comes up, I’m quick to explain that a real estate transaction should be a win-win for all parties. After all (I say smiling), we’re not an Olympic sport … yet. Nipping this mindset in the bud is a huge step towards preventing hard feelings and high emotions.

Our clients may go through only one or two real estate transactions in their lifetime, whereas many of us have (or will) do this hundreds of times. Serving as a sounding board and the voice of reason is just one more hat we wear, one more skillset we bring to the table. And, ultimately, it allows us to see the best emotion in any sale … a happy new (or former) homeowner.


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