Influence is when you are not the one talking and yet your words fill the room; when you are absent and yet your presence is felt everywhere. — Temitope Ibrahim.
In 2001 I apprenticed myself to a veteran San Francisco realtor® with over forty years of experience. Though I held a freshly minted California real estate license in hand, I realized that a license did not make me a real estate professional. Perhaps having grown up in Europe where apprenticeships carry high value saved me valuable time from floundering.
Learning the real estate business from a seasoned professional woman proved an excellent decision. This lady was one of the toughest negotiators I have ever known. Her clients were high end, high maintenance clients who expected no less. I consciously entered the world of negotiations and diplomacy under her tutelage and mentorship. I am grateful and remember one lesson in negotiation that dazzled me.
On one occasion, Ms. Jones received a call from a buyer’s agent on one of her listings. The agent asked aggressive questions, then told Ms. Jones a story about a perceived issue of the upscale property. She stated that her buyer wanted to renegotiate the already signed contract. She gave no other reasons but insisted the issue was real and that it had not been disclosed.
Ms. Jones, an attentive listener, took it all in and scribbled down notes. She did not interrupt, thanked the caller when she finished—and hung up the phone. She shot me a look across the room, asked me to bring her the voluminous property file and took a deep breath.
Her client, the seller, received a call from her only twenty minutes later. She briefly explained the situation and waited for his response. He evaded responding but stuttered out a few informative morsels. When he was complete, Ms. Jones said one brief sentence to her seller: “I can only help you if you are honest with me.”
After what seemed a long time “alright, alright” followed. The seller laid the situation out for her. It turned out he feared that honesty about the undisclosed issue would have marred his property, netting him less. Ms. Jones reiterated his duty to disclose all known facts about the property. She also assured him she would negotiate hard for him. She started by telling the buyer’s agent the truth. Then she ceded a small but important concession about the transaction’s timing.
The buyer ended up leaving the contract in place. Why?
For several important reasons, the most important one of which was trust built upon good communication and integrity.
Not only the buyer and his agent walked away respected and satisfied. Some sellers would never have told their agent the truth, but Ms. Jones’ authenticity, non-judgmental approach, and expertise transmitted to her client. He became a client for life and sent many referrals Ms. Jones’ way.
Negotiating is an art and a science. Excellent negotiators are aware of this and hone their craft in both arenas. Whether you already are an excellent negotiator—in real estate or in another field—or whether you are a complete negotiation newbie, you likely appreciate the importance of negotiating well. You understand the importance of improving negotiations. Perhaps you already know that the ability to negotiate underlies everything you do in business and life. It spans deciding on a movie with your significant other, making sure your children complete their homework, or buying or selling a property.
The skill of negotiating gets you desired results. Negotiation in its simplest form is communication aimed at reaching specific outcomes. It does not matter whether such outcomes are better terms, more money, getting a certain job, or consummating a real estate deal.
However, negotiations range from non-dollar items to multimillion-dollar transactions. They are nuanced, simple, yet complex. They involve people, circumstances, facts, resources, and many other moving parts and changing circumstances.
The history of negotiation is as old as humanity. The role of negotiation and diplomacy penetrate every life—yes, diplomacy happens between regular people who are not, or not yet, ambassadors. Personality, mindset, attitude, vision, planning, preparation, and even courage defines those who are masters.
The book’s chapters set the stage for you to become a masterful negotiator versus shooting from the hip and operating on chance and luck. Topics presented include the role negotiations play in real estate transactions, how they influence them, and best practices to reach successful real estate agreements. Read an entire chapter about contracts, the true currency of real estate transactions.
Practical, the book aims to break through any pretenses. Simultaneously, it provides you, the reader, with negotiation fundamentals, strategies and tactics, common negotiating pitfalls, and ways to overcome any fears about negotiating. Find techniques, tips, a checklist, and other resources at your fingertips.
And one more thing: real estate transactions often involve large dollar amounts. And sizeable sums bring emotions to the surface. Most books written about negotiations in real estate focus on “analyze the numbers and base everything on them.” While that approach is fine, it lacks the many nuances that enter any negotiation, including those in real estate.
The pages you are about to read contain what I have learned about real estate negotiating over the past twenty years. I refine aspects of these teachings every day. These pages then contain what I value, and how the knowledge, experience and expertise captured in them enriches me in my profession - and in my life.
The Art and Science of Real Estate Negotiation is specific to real estate, yet many of its topics are transferable to other areas of your life. If you, like many people, are more interested than ever in the fascinating world of negotiations, read on.
I know that you may have read or are reading other books on the topic. That is great. I also know that “learning to negotiate” is trendy now. Many law firms and consultancies and prestigious universities offer negotiation courses and certificates.
Forever interested in the topic, I checked a few of these programs out. The Harvard Negotiation Project is one of them. Its name alone is prestigious, and its cost reflects this reality. Similar programs charge much money for knowledge, information and role playing.
Of course, it is wonderful if you attend one of these programs, but why not start with valuable information about negotiating that is specific to real estate and costs a tiny fraction?
Especially when this book aims to add value to your real estate buying, selling, and investing. I wrote this book to empower you to be a better negotiator. Once you read the book, I hope you agree that you are getting much more than you paid for. Ready?
Go ahead, turn the page.
 All names of individuals, colleagues and clients have been changed to protect their identity and to maintain confidentiality.