Do you find yourself justifying your services or your commission to your clients? If so, there’s a simple way to stop: Ask a great closing question.

The trap that many agents fall into when they work with their clients is going into defensive mode when their clients raise an objection or ask a question. A simple strategy for turning this around is to turn the tables and ask the clients a great closing question. Here are three of the most common questions you may hear when you’re negotiating with sellers.

1. Why is your price so low?

Agent: "Mr. and Mrs. Seller, currently there are 10 months of inventory on the market in your price range and location. This means that you have a 10 percent chance of selling this month. The probability that you will not sell is 90 percent.

"Consequently, you have an important decision to make. Will you position your property where it will be in the top 10 percent that will sell next month or will you position your property where it will still be listed next month? It’s your choice — what would you like to do?"

This dialogue contains a number of important points. First, notice that the response explains the current market conditions. It then gives the sellers a choice of pricing their property where they will be in the top 10 percent of the best-priced properties that will sell or the choice of still being listed next month.

The second thing to note is that the agent turns the choice back to the sellers. This is a critically important point. It’s the sellers’ house and it’s their decision. One of the biggest reasons that agents get pushback from their clients during negotiations is that the agent acts as if the agent is the owner.

Agents also sometimes act as if "I’m the expert, and if you don’t agree with me you must be stupid." These two attitudes are usually the biggest reason that sellers elect to hire a different agent.

2. We paid $300,000 for the property, plus we put in $50,000 worth of upgrades. We need at least $350,000 plus closing costs if we’re going to sell.

Agent: "Mr. and Mrs. Seller, the real estate market is like the stock market. For example, if you purchased stock at $100 per share three years ago and today it is selling at $50 per share, you wouldn’t be able to sell your stock in this market.

"The same is true in our current real estate market. Homes with amenities similar to yours are currently selling between $280,000 and $300,000. Consequently, you have two options: You can price your property where it will sell in this market or you can wait until the real estate market improves. It’s your choice — what would you like to do?"

As in the previous dialogue, this script explains the market conditions and then turns the decision back to the seller. Most people understand that stock market prices change. A stock that has a high value now may plummet in price at a future date.

What many don’t realize is that the real estate market is subject to similar fluctuations in price. More importantly, as in the stock market, it is the buyers, not the agents or the sellers, who determine the ultimate price.

3. Will you reduce your commission? The other agent from your office was willing to take our listing at 5 percent.

Agent: "To obtain the highest possible price, you need a powerful negotiator — wouldn’t you agree? So how powerful do you think the other agent will be in helping you negotiate the highest possible price on your property when he couldn’t even negotiate a full commission on his own behalf?"

Most agents become defensive when they hear this objection. The moment you have to start explaining your position, you have lost control of the negotiation. This is one of the reasons that the dialogue above is so powerful. The agent doesn’t have to explain why he or she is worth a higher commission.

Instead, the question turns this back on the seller. If the other agent was really weak, how effective will that agent be in being a tough negotiator on your behalf?

An important point to note is that if a seller questions you on your commission, in most cases it means that you haven’t demonstrated your value. The best way to handle this is to meet the objection long before the seller ever raises it. To do this, put together a list of all the services you provide, including those provided by your company.

Be sure to include the websites where your listings appear, a single-property website that uses the seller’s address as the Web address (URL), as well as other services that you may offer such as video. Place a red check mark by each service you provide. Leave two or three blank columns for the seller to compare what other agents offer.

If the seller does decide to interview other agents, it’s highly unlikely that he or she will be prepared to discuss the various programs included on your list. This simple approach can often eliminate almost all commission objections.

Do you need more help with taking control of the negotiation situation? If so, don’t miss Part 4 of this series that looks at how to handle offer presentations.

Bernice Ross, CEO of, is a national speaker, trainer and author of "Real Estate Dough: Your Recipe for Real Estate Success" and other books. You can reach her at and find her on Twitter: @bross.


What’s your opinion? Leave your comments below or send a letter to the editor. To contact the writer, click the byline at the top of the story.

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