Seller:​​ “What! Is this buyer insane? They really think my home is worth $10,000 less than list price because it has dining room wallpaper! Tell them I will reduce the price $1,000, that is my bottom line!” 

Buyer: “This seller must be stuck in the '80s — please inform them that wallpaper is NOT the only issue. On HGTV I hear every day that any home without granite countertops is considered totally outdated. $10,000 was the minimum it will take for me to update this home!”   

This is an all-too-familiar scene in the daily lives of residential real estate agents, and it requires negotiation expertise and finesse to ever end up with both parties in mutual agreement. In my opinion, the negotiation process is the single most important reason that all buyers and sellers need the services of a professionalRealtor.

As Realtors, our No. 1 objective in negotiation is to achieve a win-win scenario for both parties in a real estate transaction. We are trained negotiators that know how to diffuse emotional situations and unrealistic expectations. There are, however, many pitfalls that both buyers and sellers can avoid that will greatly benefit them in getting to the “YES” in real estate negotiation.

One major pitfall for buyers to avoid is offending the seller with a low-ball offer. I often joke with clients that consider making such an offer by saying, “I thought you loved this home and wanted to buy it?” While everyone wants to pay less than list price, buyers need to understand that “deals of the century” are rarely available. This is especially true for homes in the Pine Belt that are priced at market value and are in good condition. All properties are not distress sales or foreclosures. As a buyer, allow your Realtor to present you with recent comparative sales and show you statistical data that will guide you in making that all-important first offer.  It is extremely difficult for a buyer and seller to ever meet in the middle with a negotiation that starts too low. Many buyers risk totally losing out on a great home by using this low-offer tactic.

For sellers, be realistic in responding to offers. I always encourage sellers to counter an offer — even a ridiculous one. Sellers should keep in mind that other parts of the offer may be of more importance to the prospective buyer than price alone.  Sometimes items such as closing costs and possession may play a key factor for buyers when a few thousand dollars on the price is not that huge of a concern.

Another major mistake sellers often make during the negotiation phase is to be immovable too soon in the process. Granted, there does come a time when there are no more concessions that a seller can or should offer, but that point does not need to be in the first response back to a buyer. Any movement on the part of the seller is seen as a positive and gives the Realtor an opportunity to present something of value back to the buyer.

Finally, flexibility should remain a key word for both buyers and sellers. Often the most difficult negotiation is not over money, but the move-out/move-in date. Even when these dates have been established at the beginning of a contract, they are still subject to change. Because of unforeseen delays in the lending process, these days the closing date never seems to be etched in stone.   A delay in closing can result in extensive rescheduling of possession dates for all parties.

An experienced Realtor knows how to keep the ball rolling during all phases of the negotiation process which often is still on-going even until the moment of closing. Good Realtors know how to get both buyers and sellers to that all important “YES” in a negotiation by keeping all parties focused on the overall objectives.

Happy home buying or selling!

Melissa Key is president of the Hattiesburg Area Association of Realtors. Contact her at melissa@woodlandrealtyinc.com