Negotiating styleAs world travelers know, there are many ways to approach negotiation, and different “rules of engagement” too. Things can go awry over the smallest or biggest things.   Sometimes conflicts arise because the home buyers or sellers and their agent(s) have different ideas about the right or wrong way to engage in negotiations.   Some of it may be cultural, some of it may be professional training or personal choice.  But unless you discuss it with your Silicon Valley Realtor, this could become an unintended area of conflict, stress and upset.

Win Win or Win Lose?

Many Silicon Valley Realtors believe in a “win win” negotiation style, meaning that they want everyone to be happy in the end. Why is this the case?  Why should they care if everyone is happy – why not only their own clients?  There are a lot of reasons, but here’s a big one:  happy home buyers and sellers do not sue each other.  It’s one thing to buy or sell and close the deal, it’s another to make sure that the post-sale experience does not go into a meltdown.  That’s when things get both very interesting and very expensive.  (To say nothing of the fact that mail won’t be forwarded, help won’t be forthcoming with quirks of the home after settlement if you end your purchase or sale on a sour note.)

Some Realtors, and some consumers, will tell you that “win win is for wimps!”  And they mean it.  For these folks, their winning means someone else is losing.  Perhaps painfully. it is a very aggressive approach to haggling.  But they somehow hope that the losers don’t quite grasp the situation and will remain chipper and happy about it.  This hardball approach is often reflective of a highly competitive person or team. Only one can be at the top of the pinnacle – so there can only be one winner.  In some cases this is a cultural approach and no ill intent is planned.  A few times I have seen home sellers or buyers engage in this way and simply have no idea that they were being extremely aggressive.

One Offer (take it or leave it) or a Week’s Worth of Counter Offers?

Another angle to consider is the initial offer versus what the buyer or seller will really accept.   Some home buyers will write up one contract and that is their final, highest and best offer.  Others will come in extremely low (insultingly low or otherwise lowballing), expecting to go back and forth until exhaustion sets in for all parties some 15 counter offers later.  Of course there are other angles too, and lots of subtle nuances between these extremes.  The main point is this: if you are expecting to go back and forth at least 3 times, but your agent wants to write an offer and have it accepted immediately, you’ll be best off to discuss this upfront.

Keep It Simple

One way to frustrate everyone is to switch gears in the middle of haggling (the only issue was price, but then someone introduces other terms after several counters), or worse, to try to negotiate when the time for that is long past.  In the latter case, the agent should explain that there’s really just one or two times for bartering. One is with the initial purchase offer and the other is if there are surprises with inspections or the appraisal value.  If you want to negotiate every inch of the way, you will risk alienating both the other side and your own agent, and finding the whole idea can backfire badly.

There are many ways to shop and try to get the best deal.  Please just remember that culturally, expectations can vary.  I remember when I first moved to Italy in 1979 and I went to the open air market in Florence for some fresh fruit.  I learned very quickly that the American method of shopping with our hands was not OK. In fact, you only touch the fruit if you’re buying it – and even then, most of the vendors wanted to handle it themselves. So too with purchasing more expensive items – from country to country and even area to area, customs and norms are different.  It’s best to hire an agent you respect and trust, one you can discuss things like “negotiation style” with before you find yourself writing or reviewing your first offer.



Q & A: Negotiating

Q & A: Negotiating and Closing a Good Deal





  • Mary Pope-Handy

    Silicon Valley Realtor, selling homes in Los Gatos, Saratoga, San Jose, Silicon Valley, and nearby since 1993. Prolific blogger with a network of sites.

    View all posts