Negotiation Know-how

Don't be clueless when negotiating the price of a new home

If we were to tell you Cher Horowitz from Clueless is one of our business heroes, you’d probably tell us we’re totally buggin’.  But even if she pronounced “Haitians” “Hay-tee-ans,” our favorite Calvin Klein-clad princess knew how to negotiate – a skill which is not just critical in buying and selling real estate, but in life.

Everything, these days, is negotiable and the bennies are huge.  But according to a LinkedIn survey, 39 percent of American women feel anxious when it comes to negotiating.  What gives?  Nuts and bolts, negotiation doesn’t fit the feminine ideal.  As women, we’re encouraged to put our relationships before our personal agendas, and we don’t want to experience push back, e.g. being called “bossy,” when we ask for what we want.

Okay.  So this approach is about as useless as searching for meaning in a Pauly Shore movie.  And the irony is, women are naturally great negotiators.

Here’s the scoop:  negotiation is like a dance, not a poker game.  It’s about getting what you need and want, while not neglecting the other person’s needs and wants.

And unlike the Murrays and Joshes of the world, women are better able to see negotiation for what it is – a collaboration rather than a competition.  Our natural skills like intuition, social bonding, empathy and creative problem solving work to our advantage to not only even the playing field, but tilt it in our favor.  Sorry, boys, but it’s not bias.  It’s science.

Deal-making can be tricky, but if you know what you’re in for, you’re a lot more likely to come out with what you want.  Here are some tips we’ve assembled to help you do just that.  These pointers should keep your anxiety at bay, get $10,000 knocked off that transaction price and ensure that “Rolling with the Homies” is stuck in your head for the next two days.  You’re welcome.

 1.  Preparation

Highlight and star this one.  You’ll want to know everything – from current market trends and forces; to average home prices in the area; and of course, everything about the property itself.  But also make sure you know as much as possible about the person you’re talking to and their motives.

Are the sellers two retirees who signed up for a condo in Florida already, and need to get out ASAP so they’re not paying for two properties?  Sure, he seems responsible, and he’s a dead-ringer for Jon Hamm, but has the interested buyer been pre-approved for a loan?  These are the kind of things you want to know.  The more knowledge you have of the hidden interests of the other party, the better off you are.

 2.  Listen

Some of the best negotiators ask probing questions and they stop talking.  If this tip seems kind of nebulous, a good rule to remember is the 80/20 Rule – listen 80 percent of the time and talk 20 percent of the time.  Listening will also make the other party feel respected and build trust, which is a crucial part of negotiation.  Someone should pass this tip onto our mothers, boyfriends, pets, co-workers, massage therapists…

 3.  Check Your Ego at the Door

Show about as much emotion as a rock.  Don’t take anything personally, and avoid getting emotionally attached.  Be willing to give up things that don’t really matter to you in order to create a feeling of goodwill.  Concessions keep the negotiation moving, and just by keeping the talks alive can actually help seal the deal.

 4.  Put Yourself in Their Shoes

Fingers crossed, they’re purple clogs.  Think through the issues from the other party’s point of view before you begin discussions.  You’ll be better able to predict what their objections will be, which will help you prepare educated and well thought out answers.  Think, too, about who has the leverage.  If the seller has five buyers clamoring for one special property, that’s one thing.  If the seller’s business just went bust and you heard about it on the news last night, that’s quite another.

 5.  Seek a Win-Win Outcome

Go into the negotiation seeking a compromise that will make everyone happy.  Also, try to determine what’s most important to the other person, because it may not be tied solely to price.  For example, timing might be the most important thing on their end, while price is most important on yours.

 6.  “Think I, Talk We.”

“Think I, Talk We” is a phrase coined by Sheryl Sandberg in Lean In, and it means going in with a very clear sense of what you want and why you want it, but in actual conversation, taking the perspective of the other party and showing them why the negotiation is valuable for them.  We like-y.

 7.  Look For Commonalities

Be on the lookout for things you share in common.  If you can find a common interest or common ground with the other person, they’ll be more apt to work with you. They almost 100 percent like Clueless, so you can talk about that.  Hey, don’t say we never gave you nothin’…

 8.  Be Yourself

Don’t forget what Mel Gibson said (or was it that Polonius guy?): “To thine own self be true.”  Women negotiate most powerfully when they negotiate like women, not like men.  Stay authentic.  It will produce a better outcome in the long run.

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Natalie Holtz
Natalie Holtz is an avid blogger and freelance journalist living in San Diego. Her work has been featured in regional magazines and by online publications such as WordPress' Freshly Pressed, Elephant Journal and Quarterlette. Inspired by her real estate-saavy grandmother, Natalie dreams about owning a house with a clawfoot bathtub and a garden. She is also passionate about empowering others to live their best lives through her writing. For more on Natalie, visit her blog http://thesurferstokeproject.com/.
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