How to Politely Handle Negotiations When Buying a Home

An African American couple standing outdoors on a sunny day on a residential street, with a young man holding a folder.
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You’re preparing to buy a new home. Whether you’ve already found “the one” and just need to get the deal done or simply want make sure you know how to negotiate when the time comes, you know being polite to the seller is the key to success.

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As a savvy buyer, you want to make sure you get the most for your money, and being rude or demanding will not help you achieve that.

“A residential purchase [or] sale is an emotional one for both parties, so it’s important to keep things positive if you want to achieve the best results,” said Daren J. Herzberg, a licensed associate real estate broker with the Babst + Herzberg Team at Compass in New York City.

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He said it’s always wise to be courteous and respectful to the seller.

“Most sellers have an emotional connection to their home, so it’s best to endear yourself to them by starting off with a compliment or two about what you love about the house and why you want to purchase it,” he said. “Never ever start off negative, as the seller will not create a positive association with you, nor be incentivized to have you ‘take ownership of their baby.'”

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Behaving in a negative, impolite or disrespectful manner toward the seller or their home will get you nowhere, Herzberg reiterated.

“In the course of negotiation, there will be time to politely address some negatives of the property when trying to achieve a lower price — after you’ve demonstrated yourself to be someone worthy of their home,” he said. “Instead of [saying] ‘We will need to remove that awful wallpaper,’ try ‘We will need to invest in some finish upgrades, so the home can realize its true value.'”

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When it’s time to talk numbers, Herzberg advised referencing hard data, which should include past sales and current comparable properties actively listed. He said it’s hard for the sellers to argue when you take this route, as numbers don’t lie.

“Most sellers will want to feel good about to whom they’re selling their home, and you will increase your chances of getting a better deal if the sellers like you — plain and simple,” he said. “I’ve seen sellers sell at a lower price to a buyer they liked, even when they had a higher price from someone who disgusted them.”

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Denise Supplee, a licensed real estate agent and property manager with Long and Foster, based in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, agreed that making a favorable impression on the seller can work wonders — especially in the current market, which leaves little negotiating power for the buyer.

“I had a buyer I am working with write a personal letter and include it with her offer,” said Supplee, who is also the co-founder of SparkRental.com. “She was recently widowed and I believe it helped her get the home.”

Additionally, Mark Washburn, a real estate investor and licensed real estate agent in Florida, Massachusetts, Virginia and the District of Columbia, said it’s also important to determine what is driving the sale and will satisfy the seller.

“You want to understand what things are cheap for the seller to give and valuable for the buyer to receive and vice-versa,” said Washburn, who is also a webmaster and blogger at Naples Condo Boutique.

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For example, he said this could include offering a fast close or a more delayed one to accommodate their kids’ school schedule.

More important than ever in today’s competitive market, Washburn said coming in with a strong offer is a must. He said many buyers are currently being advised to offer significantly more than the asking price, just to be considered.

“When the market returns to more traditional dynamics, however, this still holds true,” he said. “Insulting the seller from the get-go with a price that appears to be a joke can strike a nerve and end up being a waste of time for all parties.”

While receiving a “no” response or a counteroffer might be frustrating, Washburn said this is a standard part of the negotiation process, and shouldn’t be taken personally.

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“If you’re doing the rejecting, be polite — you are always free to walk away and don’t have to disclose any reasons for the rejection,” Washburn said. “If you’re on the other side of a counteroffer that was rejected and can take the time to respond, sleep on the next steps — the buyer or seller is not rejecting you — just your offer.”

Washburn also stressed the importance of getting prequalified, so you know exactly what you can afford — especially in a bidding war.

“It seems like common sense to never make an offer for a loan amount you won’t qualify for, but in the real estate climate today, it’s easy to get carried away,” he said. “Getting turned down at the last minute is not only impolite, it is a colossal waste of time on both sides.”

Negotiations can be a stressful part of the buying process, but try to keep your chin up and remain focused on snagging your dream home.

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Last updated: August 4, 2021

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