Do you have an overpriced listing where the seller refuses to face reality? Do you have too many commitments and not enough time? Strengthening your “no” muscle can help you avoid trouble as well as enhance your image as a trustworthy individual.

With more than 1,000 Inman posts, Bernice Ross is a long-time contributor whose weekly column on real estate trends, luxury, marketing and other best practices publishes every Monday.

Do you have an overpriced listing where the seller refuses to face reality? Have you ever shown your buyers over 50 properties, and they didn’t purchase from you? Do you have too many commitments and not enough time?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, your inability to exercise your “no” muscle might be costing you thousands of dollars every year.

A primary way that real estate professionals create stress, chaos and confusion in their lives is due to their inability to say “no.” We worry about not appearing to be knowledgeable, or perhaps we simply react with the first thing that crosses our minds. The difficulty occurs due to our need to justify or explain our position.

Strengthening your “no” muscle can help you avoid trouble as well as enhance your image as a trustworthy individual. Here’s how to do it.

1. Say ‘no’ to the commission squeeze

Sellers often feel compelled to ask agents to reduce their commission. Where agents encounter challenges is when they attempt to justify why they’re worth a full commission.

The next time a seller asks you, “Will you reduce your commission?” answer with the following response that works surprisingly well: “No. Do you have any other questions?”

At this point, sit there quietly. Remember the old negotiation adage, “The first one who speaks loses.”

2. Say ‘no’ to being the attorney, inspector, mortgage broker, surveyor or title officer

For example, a buyer might say, “The roof looks terrible. Do you think we would have to replace it?” Or, “Is that the property line?”

The moment you attempt to answer these questions, you open the door to negotiation problems and to potential litigation as well.

Here’s a simple response that avoids these challenges: “I don’t know. Would you like the name of a specialist who can give you a definite answer?”

3. Say ‘no’ to justifying very low offers

Your buyer makes an offer that is substantially under the comparable sales and the seller says, “Why did they write such a low offer?”

Here are some common ways agents respond:

  • My clients wrote a lowball offer because there’s so much wrong with your property.”
  • “They’re from one of those countries where negotiating is part of their culture.”
  • “The comparable sales show that you are priced way over the market.”

The challenge with each of these approaches is that your explanation or justification does nothing to advance the negotiation. In fact, it might even make the seller angry.

A much better approach is to say the following: “When the buyers write a low initial offer, about half the time we do actually close the transaction. The only way we’ll know for sure whether this buyer is part of the 50 percent who will ultimately close on your property is to issue a counteroffer and continue the negotiation.”

4. Say ‘no’ to overpriced listings

Unless you’re in an overheated market, taking an overpriced listing usually results in a great deal of work with no commission.

The next time a seller asks you to take a seriously overpriced listing, here’s a “no” that generally stops most sellers in their tracks: “Thank you for taking the time to discuss the marketing of your property. Given the current market conditions, I simply don’t believe you can achieve the price you are seeking. I wish you the best in selling your home quickly and at the price you want.”

Stand up, extend your hand for a handshake, and smile. The key to using this approach is that you must be friendly and have absolutely no energy on the words.

Avoid being arrogant or condescending. In many cases, the sellers will stop you from leaving. If not, you have just said “no” to working three to six months with no pay.

5. Say ‘no’ to psychic vampires

“Psychic vampires” are those individuals who drain you of both your time and your energy. They can be another agent in your office who wants to gossip when you need to prospect, the lonely client who needs to talk to you five times per day or even a friend or family member who makes demands on precious work time.

Here are two examples of how to say “no” to psychic vampires.

When you see the office gossip coming your way, invite him or her to join you in cold-calling 20 prospects this morning. Alternatively, you can ask them if he or she would like to help you by buying raffle tickets from your favorite charity or help you with an upcoming garage sale.

This also works with the friend or family member who always wastes your time. Psychic vampires want to take your time without having to give back. If you beat them to the punch every time they call or approach you, they will soon stop bothering you.

For the sweet, but lonely client, schedule a specific time to talk to this person, and then call them at that time. Tell the person you have five to 10 minutes and then you have to leave for another appointment. Say “no” to talking to them at other times unless it’s clearly related to business.

6. Say ‘no’ to everything

If you really want to take a quantum leap in your ability to say “no,” try this experiment. Tell your friends, family, and business associates that when they ask you a question during the next 48 hours, you will be practicing saying “no.”

Also, avoid justifying or explaining your position — “No!” is a complete sentence.

By the way, when you do this exercise, you can reserve the right to change your mind and say “yes,” but only after first saying “no.”

For the next week, try exercising your “no” muscle. You might be surprised at how much calmer and happier you’ll feel.

Bernice Ross, President and CEO of BrokerageUP ( and, is a national speaker, author and trainer with over 1,000 published articles. Learn about her broker/manager training programs designed for women, by women, at and her new agent sales training at

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