Feelings and Facts
I love negotiation. It lies at the heart of the real estate business: the back and forth which leads to a successful outcome. I am not a scorched earth negotiator, but I have always understood the fundamental truth that negotiation is as much an emotional as a rational dialogue. As with economics, the role of feeling – be it excitement, the need to save face, or the desire to have someone else value what is ours the same way we do – is increasingly recognized as a central aspect of the dialogue. The assumption, popular in the early postwar period, that both economics and negotiation could be treated as purely facts and figures has fallen out of date. Every agent knows that people do not always make the best economic decision for themselves, either in the stock market or in the purchase or sale of a home. Other factors intervene.
My wife recently sent me an article from the Harvard Business School Newsletter on precisely this topic (read the article here: http://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/7560.html ). The article makes points I have been emphasizing for years in the negotiating seminars which I teach. In particular, it recognizes the value of using all the tools available to you, both quantitative and qualitative, to arrive at the best deal. For us as agents, that means first and foremost the rigorous decision to keep OUR emotions out of the transaction.
The purchase or sale of a home is a critical life decision. It represents stability, a sense of place and belonging – core issues in most peoples’ lives. So there is bound to be feeling involved, sometimes a lot of feeling. Buyers almost always feel as if they are compromising, no matter the price range. It rarely happens that a property PERFECTLY aligns with a buyer’s criteria. Something has to give. On the other side of the table sit sellers with years of emotional investment in the place which has become their home. And almost always, especially if there are men involved, the need to be seen as tough complicates the landscape of the deal.
Buyers often purchase a property completely different from the one they set out to find: different size, different outlook, different location. Sellers often select a purchaser whom they like, who reminds them of themselves, even if it involves a lower price. And as agents, our job is to advise these buyers and sellers so they make the best possible total decision for themselves; that means the decision with the most financial, emotional, and honorable return. Depending on the transaction, and the individuals involved, the balance between those factors will be different. And the tactics we, and they, deploy to obtain those rewards will be different. There are take-no-prisoners negotiators out there; usually, as agents, it is our job to soften their message so it does not alienate the other side. There are anxious, indecisive negotiators who vacillate; with them we often work to stiffen their resolve and create a negotiation plan which we can see through to the end.
We as agents have many tools in our own toolboxes. We can be accommodating, we can be sympathetic, we can be persistent, we can even play hardball once in a while if the circumstances demand it. But every stance we take should be strategic, not reactive. Our job requires that we counterbalance the reactions of the principals to see past the immediate emotions to the optimal outcome. The best of us are always balancing feelings and facts.