How to Negotiate

Most people don’t know how to negotiate.  Even in the most obvious situations where compromise is expected, most people feel too awkward or embarrassed to negotiate.  In the real estate business negotiating is a daily activity.  Successful realtors become skilled at handling the myriad of situations that require careful negotiations.


Early in our careers we were told that everything is negotiable.  Most of us feel uncomfortable at the thought of being put into a situation where negotiations are necessary or might be prudent.  In some cultures negotiating is more acceptable and expected than in others.  In those cultures people are very comfortable with the whole process and take pride in their negotiating skills.


Top level business people, world leaders, and diplomats are all  involved in negotiations on a daily basis.  Very specific training and skills are required to be successful at negotiations.  Some of us feel that trying to haggle over the price of something is rude.  It doesn’t have to be rude, embarrassing or difficult;  it is  how you approach the subject that makes the difference.  It’s not so much what you say that is  important, it is more in the way that you say it.  If you become comfortable at negotiating on a daily basis you will become more confident in the process.  You would be surprised at how many things you can purchase at a more reasonable price if you know the right things to say.  And, if it doesn’t work you have lost nothing.


Whether it is in business, politics, or shopping, negotiating should result of a win-win proposition for all parties involved.  Naturally learning to negotiate comes easier to some people than to others.  Most of us need to learn the basic skills and then practice them.


In the last couple of years, the Bay Area real estate market has been heavily weighted as a “Seller’s” market.  Inventory has been historically low and many buyers are competing for the same property.   You may not be able to negotiate on price. Quite the contrary, prices are often driven up with substantial over bids.  But, even in this market sellers often have other needs that are important to them and these needs can provide the basis for negotiations.  


Realtors become comfortable with the process of negotiation due to the daily situations we are exposed to.  Over time it becomes more natural, and non-offensive, and it actually becomes fun.  The better you become at it the easier it becomes to be effective.  If you’re really good, most of the time the other party doesn’t even realize the process they have just gone through with you.


This article was originally written for and appears in the San Francisco Examiner. Eric Ruxton and Larry Aikins are the owners of Terrace Realty Inc. and Terrace Associates Inc., in Redwood City. Terrace has been in business for  60 years and in addition to being an independent Brokerage Company, also owns and operates rental properties.