When clients ask me why I like working in the Highlands, NC real estate market so much, I often answer this way: real estate, to me, is a giant puzzle to be solved – an opportunity to serve my clients by putting all the pieces together in such a way that they are thrilled beyond measure with the outcome.
A significant part of that puzzle is respectful, productive, and successful negotiating. While many of my clients are initially a bit anxious over the process, most of the time they soon fall right into the rhythm and find the discussions as enjoyable as I. After all, the process is not unlike a challenging strategic game — we are engaged in a thoughtful discourse, thinking three moves ahead, and anticipating the other players’ desires and needs.
So where does negotiating anxiety come from? Why do so many enter into negotiating an offer with so much negative baggage?
Of course, if either party is in a situation where they must buy or sell, they are going to feel a crunch of urgency that clouds their thinking and adds a significant layer of emotion to the process. In these negotiations, folks just want in or out – get it over with already! And when the pace of negotiations slows or stalls, imaginations start to race, filling in the void with all sorts of assumptions as to what is truly going on. Trust wanes and blood pressures rise.
Even in situations such as this, skilled agents can get the lines of communication reopened and back on track by remaining calm and curious (rather than coming from a place of blame and fear). By asking gentle, probing questions as to what the other party wants to have happen and where their fear and concerns may be rooted, one may quickly identify the once-hidden (and true) obstacles to moving forward. Reason reenters the picture, and all parties continue to work toward an agreement.
But what about those negotiating scenarios where there isn’t such urgency? Why does any negotiating scenario seem to cause us discomfort and stress?
Some have been taught that in order for a negotiation to be considered successful, one must clobber the “opponent” – the party or parties on the other side of the table. To those folks, negotiation is a matter of getting your way, having all your terms met, and forcing the other party to make all the concessions. In their view, a negotiation is not a matter of give and take with everyone winning; rather, it is a zero sum game. Coming from this perspective, then, no wonder some feel anxious during the negotiating process (either they are out for a “kill,” or they feel they are the ones being hunted).
I find negotiating success by learning early on what is most important to all the parties involved. Whether it is price, the closing timeframe, lack of complicating contingencies, or other terms, generally speaking, we can always find some common ground if we know what the other party wants to have happen.
Even a small toehold of mutual desire to find a workable solution can be enough from which to work. In fact, many times, that is just how we manage to scale the rock face of negotiations and get to closing – inch by inch.