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Negotiating is a complex business for luxury real estate agents, whether they’re setting expectations with the buyers and sellers they represent or coming to terms with the team on the other side of the table. Great negotiators often focus on a select few guiding principles to direct them in their approach: a good strategy is simple, effective, and keeps everything in perspective.
We spoke with three accomplished professionals about their go-to advice for a successful negotiation: Paul Maranger and Christian Vermast are both Senior Vice Presidents of Sales at Paul & Christian Associates of Sotheby’s International Realty Canada in Toronto, while Neyshia Go is a Senior Global Luxury Estates Advisor at Sotheby’s International Realty – Beverly Hills and Montecito. Here’s how these leaders make a deal.
Start with a little shadow boxing
Paul Maranger: Think of all of the work you do to get to the negotiation table as akin to getting your home ready for a party. The negotiation is the party; it’s the fun part. It’s where you can really shine. It’s also where you can add the greatest value to the client offering.
So we practice. We research. We then model how the prospective client might respond. Modeling is key. Take the time to predict what the prospect’s various responses will be. ‘If they say X, we’ll respond with Y. If they say A, we’ll respond with B.’ Lay out the various outcomes and practice what to say for each situation. Be flexible in your response.
Remember that the one who speaks first loses. Agents have a poor habit of talking too much—in negotiating, sometimes the less said, the better. And though it can be difficult in a heated negotiation, try to remain emotionless. Many agents become angry or frustrated at the process. Let the negotiation unfold: sometimes it just takes time and calmness.
Treat it like a game of questions
Christian Vermast: Always ask your client questions, then rephrase their response for further clarification into another question. It’s not about being evasive. It’s about really fine-tuning the key points and weeding out what’s unimportant to them.
For example, if a prospective buyer loves a house, but not its location, you might start the conversation by asking, ‘You mentioned that you don’t like the location. If a similar home were available in a different location, what would that location look like?’ They respond. You would then ask, ‘Would you be willing to pay more money for that location?’ What you’re really trying to discover is what is important to them: location or money. Think of a negotiation as a structured conversation.
It’s all about drilling down. Let’s take another example. You’re meeting four siblings who are selling their elderly parents’ home. Who is the decision-maker? What is important to each of those siblings? Start with high-level questions like ‘How long has your family lived in the house?’ and ‘Were you all raised in the house?’ It may appear as small talk, but it’s really about starting a conversation, distilling the responses, and seeing what’s a priority for each person.
Find your own unique approach
Neyshia Go: When I started in real estate 10 years ago, I was finishing my last year of college and I was green to negotiating. I had the opportunity to watch other agents and mentors, and ultimately used the perspectives and strategies that most resonated with me. It took some time, but I eventually developed my own personal negotiation style. I think every agent needs to first acknowledge that the best negotiation style is the one that comes most naturally to them.
Craft your own brand of negotiating that feels right to you. When you’re able to speak with conviction because you’re prepared and confident in the argument you’re making on behalf of your client, you have become the best agent and representative on their behalf.
Personally, I like to educate using facts, data, and logical empathy to achieve my clients’ needs and desires. Remember to listen, pause, and form a strategy before moving forward. And don’t forget that you’re on the same team. Understanding the other side is the best way of being able to find a solution that makes everyone happy.
Agents strive to ensure clients on each end of the negotiation are satisfied, but there are always objectives that they aim to achieve. By adhering to simple—yet nuanced and effective—strategies, you can successfully navigate even the most contentious or complicated conversations and accomplish your collective goal: to buy and sell the home.