Keep your emotions in check when negotiating for a property

Mal JamesOctober 19, 20110 min read

None of us like to be lied to or feel we’ve been fooled – and very few of us want to be beaten in a deal.

Buying a home is a significant emotional experience – and for many buyers there’s an extra emotional stress when we start dealing with agents and negotiating.

Selling agents are masters at managing buyer emotions. They’re quite capable of bending the truth when it’s in the interests of their client – the seller. As a buyer though, being at the other end of that manipulation can be incredibly unsettling.

When it happens – or rather, when we perceive it is happening – we feel a charge of emotion. We feel we are losing balance and self-interest and ego comes into play. Emotion builds up inside us and we change chemically. Our decision making processes alter – not necessarily to our benefit.

Feeling that we’re being lied to undermines our trust in the salesperson and in the whole buying process. I’m not dealing with that lying salesperson, we think. I’m not buying my home through an auction because it’s unfair.

That’s what you feel. However misdirected emotion can cause intolerable stress, leading to poor decisions, which can result in missing what should have been bought, paying way too much or buying the wrong home just to get rid of that stress.

As buyer advocates, the technique we use to help buyers maintain their equilibrium while knee-deep in difficult negotiations is to ask themselves some questions about how they are responding to the process. Only by being a master of your own responses can you remain in a balanced state to have the best opportunity to make the right decisions.

Ask yourself: Is it the action of the agent or your reaction to it that is causing you angst? The way you react to an agent’s manipulations may well be what is creating the emotion, increasing your stress and potentially lessening your outcome.

And if you are feeling outraged by what you believe are an agent’s lies, consider whether you as a buyer, haggler or negotiator are not also capable of the same when it suits your own interests.   Is your role as a buyer really more noble than the role of a selling agent?

For instance, if a selling agent asks me if my client has any more money to give in this deal, I don’t say yes, not if I feel the deal can be done there and then at that price. Is me telling the agent ‘no that’s the absolute limit’ a mis-truth, acceptable salesman’s puffery or a straight out deceitful lie?

From the other side, if as a buyer agent I knew I could buy this home at $2,000,000 but instead answered truthfully when asked the more money question as yes actually I have $2,080,000 or $2,340,000 have I committed a greater sin of deceit?

Should you even presume that your relationship with a selling agent will be based on trust? After all the deeper the relationship, the greater the emotional effect of the lie. But why would you try to form a normal trusting relationship with the specific people whose allegiance is completely to their client and whose role is to create conflict amongst buyers (auctions) and to minimise buyers’ interests where that benefits their client, the seller? (That role has legitimacy according to the Estate Agents Act and Common Law).

Why not form those relationships with people whose role is to minimise your conflict and to maximise your interests!

Selling agents are not bad people. They engage in techniques to maximise the interests of their client (the seller), most of which are legal and that you yourself would engage in, if you were skilled enough to do so.

Feeling aggrieved about being manipulated or feeling that you have been lied to by an agent rarely helps you.  All it does is make you emotional, alters your chemical balance and changes your decision making processes generally for the worse.

You can minimise the “lying effect” and the emotional roller coaster responses by engaging professional buyer representation, acquiring a deeper understanding of your main goals and good questioning technique when you hit the bumps along the way. All of this hopefully leads to a different, more beneficial perspective of what it’s all about – buying the right home not about “getting the agent”.

Mal James is principal of James Buyer Advocates, which advocates on behalf of buyers of property over $1 million. Mal writes weekly auction reports, advice and in-depth market analysis on James' website.

Mal James

Mal James is principal of James Buyer Advocates, which advocates on behalf of buyers of property over $1 million.
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