When your home is for sale, getting an offer from a possible buyer brings a surge of relief and excitement. However, this pivotal step is just the beginning of the long road to closing the sale. After the initial offer, you and the buyer begin the process of negotiating a mutually agreeable sale price and other conditions.
As a seller, the pressures of the sales process and an upcoming move may cause you to make mistakes in negotiations that could prevent you from getting the highest possible price for your home. Here are some strategies to keep in mind as you review offers from buyers:
- Consider your strategy as early as possible in the selling process. What is the lowest price you would be willing to accept? Do you have any time constraints? What items do you feel are non-negotiable? Although these may change if your home is on the market for a long time, having a clear idea of your minimum acceptable terms will help you decide which offers are worth accepting or countering.
- Trust your realtor. Even if you are a skilled negotiator in your professional life, it is best to leave negotiating with the buyer to your realtor. He or she represents your interests and has the knowledge and experience needed to help you achieve the best possible outcome.
- Learn about current market conditions—as well as the buyer’s circumstances, if possible—in order to better understand your relative bargaining power. For example, if there are not many similar homes available for sale in your area, and you know that a prospective buyer wants to get settled into a new home as soon as possible, you can probably assume that you will not have to make many concessions. On the other hand, if there are several comparable homes for sale and you are under pressure to move quickly, you may need to give in to more of the buyer’s demands.
- Knowing that the buyer will likely use information that you are urgent to sell your home against you in the negotiation process, try to stay as private as possible about the circumstances surrounding your move. If you have a tight deadline, are struggling financially, or are coping with other difficult circumstances like a divorce, withholding this information from prospective buyers and their realtors will help you maintain the upper hand as you strive to reach acceptable sale terms.
- Consider bargaining chips other than price. While both buyers and sellers tend to focus on finding an optimal sale price, there are several other factors that can be used for leverage in negotiations. For instance, you might agree to make repairs, leave behind furniture or appliances, or pay the buyer’s closing costs.
- Act swiftly when responding to offers. Even if you are disappointed by an offer, remember that a lowball price may just be part of a buyer’s strategy. Depending on buyers’ moving timelines and how much they like your home compared to others they have seen, they may be willing and able to agree to a much higher purchase price. However, the longer you wait to make a counteroffer, the more likely the buyer is to lose interest or find another home.