An Uncivil War

Kristn.jpg (A Bloodhound Blog/San Diego Home Blog simulcast). 

Negotiator: one who arranges for or brings about through conference, discussion, and compromise.

Bully: a blustering browbeating person; especially : one habitually cruel to others who are weaker; a hired ruffian.

As agents, so much of our value to our clients stems from our reputation among peers. As listing agents, pre-sale, we market homes, hold open houses and generally get the word out. As agents representing the buyers, we identify and show properties; we make the introduction. When a buyer identifies a property and it is proffer-the-offer time, however, many agents on both sides of the table consider this a call to arms, time to don the pith helmet of negotiation and browbeat their “opponent” in the name of representation.

What many agents forget is that the parties are not the Blue and Gray on opposite ends of a battlefield, but are real people who have everything in common. You have a side that wants to buy and a side that wants to sell, and the agents’ roles are to bring them together through negotiation of a treaty that satisfies all involved. Ardell DellaLoggia spoke to this last summer and, while I suggested then that the negotiating table scene in her Norman Rockwell portrait was the stuff of fantasy, the underlying argument was dead on.

Steve called my attention this week to a full-page ad in San Diego Magazine taken out by a local agent. It begins well enough, “Good deals can be found, but great deals are negotiated.” But here is the first paragraph:

The real estate market has changed. As an exclusive buyer’s agent in San Diego for the past nine years, I’ve witnessed the evolution first-hand. Given the current market, I firmly believe that lowball offers and strong arm tactics with the seller should be expected from a buyer’s agent. If your present agent is uncomfortable with pressuring the seller due to the fact that someone might not like the offer, come to me.

“Strong arm tactics” and “pressuring the seller”? I bet “trash talking” is among his list of services as well. As an aside, our Donald Trump wannabe, our “exclusive buyer’s agent”, has listed  two homes this year. As another aside, he has represented buyers in a whopping five transaction during that same period, but that is beside the point. He obviously finds the bully approach one that will strike a chord with his audience, and undoubtedly believes that this will create value and success for both his clients and for him. I beg to differ.

George H. Ross, Donald Trump’s long-time adviser and attorney, describes the keys to real estate negotiating as finding common ground, building trust, building rapport and creating satisfaction. I would suggest by negotiating in this spirit you will not only enjoy more success in the matter at hand but in future dealings. Many, many times I have found that my reputation alone was the key to my client’s success. While representing buyers in multiple offer situations, I have had many occasions where my approach and reputation made the difference (“I would rather work with you”). Most recently, I was hired to take over a listing that had languished on the market for six months under the watchful eye of the Neighborhood Specialist, who it turns out nobody liked very much. My first call was from an agent saying, “Thank goodness you got the listing.” It sold in one week and closed escrow 18 days later.

If you’re going to skin a cat, don’t keep it as a house cat. Marvin S. Levin

So, agents, have at it with your “strong arm tactics”, “lowball offers”, and general tough-guy approaches. Nobody wins in a cat fight. If, on the other hand, agents respect and like working with you, they will respect and like working with your clients, and that’s when everybody wins.

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