• Don't just push your clients, persuade them.
  • Give your client permission to do the opposite of what you want; it lessens resistance to doing what you want.
  • When you push, they push back. When you give them all the choices, they make a better decision.

When it comes to mastering negotiations, you can learn a lot from one of mine that went wrong. I represented an investor who was selling a rental property that had been extensively remodeled.

The first-time buyer did not speak much English. The inspection was done, and we completed all the repairs that were requested. However, the buyer came up with additional issues. So, my contractor and I met the buyer’s agent, the buyer and his extended family at the property one evening.

I speak enough Spanish to communicate with a construction crew but not enough to handle real estate negotiations. The native language for the buyer’s agent is Spanish, so she did the talking. That agent works part time in real estate, but mostly runs a music school, so I did not have the most experienced counterpart for our negotiations.


A little background will give you a better impression of the buyer’s lack of understanding of construction. When they went through the house to check the repairs, he sent a cousin into the attic to look at the work on some electrical junction boxes.

No one told the cousin to walk only on the ceiling joists. I bet you know what happened when he walked on the sheet rock. Right — he fell through the ceiling.

So, the buyer wanted to cancel the sale because the house was not built strong enough. He thought you should be able to walk on the sheet rock. If not so sad for the buyer and seller, this phone call would have been funny.

The buyer was concerned about the roof because there were some old, dry spots in the attic where there used to be leaks. The roof was old, but it had been repaired, and it worked. My contractor and I did a quick calculation of the cost to replace the roof and got in touch with the owner.


We gave the buyer’s agent a proposal that would give the buyer the funds to replace the roof with the same purchase price. In other words, he was getting a house with a new roof for the contract price that was based on a house with a decades-old roof.

You think this is an easy sale to make? Think again.

The buyer’s agent began to push and push the buyer. I could not understand all the words, but I understood enough of them to be able to follow her presentation. More importantly, I could tell the tone and the body language.

The agent was pushing, and the buyer was pushing back. No one said the choice was up to the buyer because the agent was busy pushing for the solution she thought best — the only answer, in her mind.

It would have been better if I had more skill in Spanish, so this was a lack of talent on my part to help with this situation. The better way to help the buyer come to a good result would have been to give him permission not to buy the house.

In other words, the buyer would feel better if the presentation was to persuade him to come to his own conclusion after telling him that the full range of choices was open to him, including not buying the house.

If the buyer’s agent had given the buyer permission to do the opposite of what she wanted, the buyer would not have felt that he was being bulldozed into a conclusion that he questioned.


The buyer canceled the sale. The seller kept his earnest money and made him pay for the repairs to the ceiling. Instead of getting the house he wanted with a brand-new roof, he lost the deposit money and all the money spent on the inspection and financing.

Whenever you are trying to persuade a client, give the client permission to do the opposite of what you want. This eliminates the client’s resistance to the conclusion that you want.

You aren’t pushing the client to the conclusion, so he or she isn’t spending energy pushing back. Instead, he or she is looking at all the choices and will be much more likely to come to a good decision — instead of concentrating on showing that he or she cannot be pushed.

In case you are wondering, we sold the property again with a much better transaction.

Tim Burrell is a Realtor with Re/Max United, and he solves agent’s negotiating problems at www.NegotiatingConsultant.com. You can follow him on Twitter @BurrellRealtor and Facebook.

Email Tim Burrell.

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