Big Time Negotiator

To get past a somewhat sticky wicket in our escrow negotiations, the Buyer of our SoCal house requested a rare face-to-face with us. This gentleman was a small business owner and by my quick take, fancied himself a wheeler-dealer. I was not a novice at this, but am not nearly so competitive as the opposition was here (admittedly, others might view it differently).There are four rules of negotiation, I’ve been told:

  1. Control the table.
  2. Throw out a bogus issue to scare the opponent and muddy the water.
  3. Don’t make the first offer.
  4. Get what you want, while helping the other party think they got the best of you.
I asked Debby to sit at the head of the table as a preemptive measure. The Buyer came into the room and immediately plunked his stuff down there also, and Debby moved it over to a side chair. Round 1 to the Seller. The Buyer then introduced the ringer, coming at us with a long discussion about the safety and quality of the chimney. Of course, that had never been an issue. We acted surprised that this was now introduced and answered politely. Buyer presumed his ringer would unsettle us. We did nothing to persuade him otherwise. Then came the inevitable. The Buyer asked us to suggest a compromise to force the first offer to be from us. Rather than ducking or deflecting, we suggested basically what we wanted, but switched the conversation to purely monetary terms rather than issue terms, whereby we would not actually do any of the four disputed repairs, but rather would credit the buyer some amount in escrow. The four requested repairs had been estimated, and I suggested splitting the cost, stressing that the money was the issue. The Buyer, who measures winning by money, came back with a 65-35 split, taking the two ‘smaller’ issues completely off the table. We agreed, trying not to act too ebullient. The Buyer left happy because he thought he finished strongly, winning rounds 2-4. We left happy also, sale completed.We spent 0.15% of the sales price to ensure a done deal, with no open-ended tasks remaining on our plate. That seemed important when selling an 82 year old house, where any attempted repair can lead to other problems and unintended consequences. Good insurance, I believe. That was roughly our goal. All’s well that ends well. And since each party thinks they gained a win, it was likely a draw.


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