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What does your Realtor do for you? Well, many things, but a lot of what we do is negotiate contracts – either on behalf of the buyer or of the seller in the purchase or sale of a home.  I have taught classes on negotiation skills.  Because I am also an attorney (a former litigator) I have a lot of experience negotiating deals.

But recently I took a class from a professional mediator about negotiating.  Jennifer Keaton owns One Mediation, a mediation firm based here inAtlanta, and she made some great points about negotiation that are well taken, a great reminder, and applicable to any type of negotiations, including real estate.

First, every contact with the other side conveys information – so pay attention to every contact.  Most importantly, you do not have to mean or rude to “win”.  After all, haven’t you heard that you get more flies with honey than with vinegar?  Particularly in real estate, often a more emotional negotiation, this is important.  Being professional and polite does not mean you cannot be tough and represent your client well.  In fact, make sure your agent is one who is respected and liked by other agents.  Agents want to work with other agents who “play fair”, and that will serve you well when coming to agreement.  Also, say you do not come to agreement on a given negotiation.  Timing matters – a seller may get more motivated, a buyer may find a greater source of funds – in other words, the deal may work, just not right now.  If you have kept a congenial relationship, the other side may just come back, offering more.

Another important point is that knowledge is power.  With information, your arguments actually hold weight – without the hard facts, you have no ground to stand on.  When an agent is representing a buyer, that agent should marshall the LOWEST comparables and be able to discuss them with intelligence to convince the seller, hopefully, to accept less than they would otherwise.  Similarly, an agent representing the seller shouldmarshallthe HIGHEST comparables available to help convince the buyer that they are getting a great deal (which every buyer wants and expects).

Also: be creative.  Every negotiation is not all about money.  What else can your client offer that is of value to the other side?  Perhaps a seller will take less for the home if you close quickly.  Or if they need more time, if you will close later.  Your agent needs to ask questions and pay attention to the nuances of the other side’s needs and wants; that can certainly help ease the parties to agreement.

Finally, stick to your plan and stay the course.  Do not walk away without offering your “walk away” offer.  But if you give a “take it or leave it walk away” offer, make sure that is exactly what it is.  If it is not, you lose credibility.

In this market, great negotiation skills mean more than ever.  Make sure your agent has them!