I know that one of the toughest things for a beginning investor is negotiating deals. We are often our own worst enemy when it comes to this. For the most part, I think that when we envision good negotiators, we see smooth talking individuals with an answer for everything. For many of us, this is a horrifying vision because smooth and slick does not come naturally to us and, if we're honest, we don't want to come across that way. So how do we negotiate a good deal when we don't have the gift of “slick”, and we don't want to become “slick”?
I do not consider myself to be a smooth and slick negotiator, but believe that I'm pretty good at what I do. Negotiating didn't come naturally to me, but came together over time and with practice. There were two things that made me a good negotiator and can help you as well.
First, you must be willing to stop talking and listen. When dealing with someone in this business, whether you are the buyer or the seller, you need to sell yourself. You can not sell yourself without listening to the other party's needs. Listen for what is important to the other party and then show them that you can address it. In my negotiating, I keep the other party talking as much as possible. When they run out of things to say, I ask another question in hopes of learning a hot button of theirs. When I hear it, I ask a question that acknowledges I heard their needs. An example would be as follows:
Seller: “My house needs a ton of repairs, but I can't afford to fix them in order to put the house on the market. Plus, we can't really live here anymore because the water is coming in through the roof.”
Steve: “So basically you need someone like me who is willing to buy your home as it sits right now to help you out. Is that true?”
My question to the seller acknowledges that I heard their need, provided them with the benefits of dealing with me, and got them to acknowledge that dealing with me would be good for them.
You Must Listen, It's Very Important!
The second thing that will make you a good negotiator is knowing, without hesitation, what the deal needs to look like to be a good deal. Other investors often ask me how I get such good deals and I tell them that I'm not willing to pay above a predetermined amount. When dealing with sellers, know what your top dollar amount is. For example, if I walk into someone's home and know I will only spend $150,000, then I'm firm in my convictions and all of my questions are leading the sellers toward selling me their home for $150,000. I don't negotiate up because the sellers say that they need more money. Once they acknowledge that I'm the person to help them, we need to come to the price that I'm willing to pay in order to help them. If the sellers tell me that they want $170,000, I don't give them $170,000 because they say that is what they need. I stick to my guns and tell them the advantages of dealing with me. Price eventually becomes secondary to the seller and dealing with me, the person who is guaranteed to solve their problem, becomes most important.
Be firm in your conviction of what you need to pay. If you are only hoping to get it for a certain amount, you will pay more every single time. I get good deals because the price that I have in mind is all I'm willing to pay. As long as the number keeps coming in my direction, I will negotiate until it reaches the level where I need it to be.
To be a good negotiator, you need to learn just a couple of things. First, listen to the other party, and second, know what it is you are trying to accomplish before going in. If you don't know, the other party will get their way. As far as being smooth is concerned, your flow will get better in time. Just focus on getting what you want and listening to the seller in order to lead them where you want them to be.