When Buying a House When Do Negotiations Start?

I encounter more realtors who love to refer to themselves as “Top Negotiator”.  When I challenge them to explain what makes them “Top” they inform me that they are good at getting what they want at the negotiating table.    No negotiator in any field would ever first of all ever make such an unsubstantiated claim and secondly if you are waiting to get to the negotiation table then you have long missed any opportunity to secure a deal.  I have met some great realtors and one thing they all have in common is you will never see them use a ridiculous marketing tagline of “top negotiator”.

To answer the question of when do negotiations start, they start the second the homeowner puts their home up for sale.    Let me outline the stages of any negotiation process:

The listing agreement

The listing agreement

The Opening

First day of any house which is listed for sale you will get an insight of what’s the seller’s position.  It’s easy enough to see in their list price, what chattels are included/excluded and whether they are looking for a 60/90 closing date.  What we have is a starting point and from here forward the seller/buyer negotiations have begun.  It should be noted, that this opening position was built from weeks of pre-listing analysis and discussions.  From the seller’s view they have timed their release to better reinforce their negotiating position.


The listing outlines in broad strokes the seller’s position, then as a potential buyer it is now up to you to determine your position.  Here is where you will pull comparable sold properties, determine if the house fits your needs and wants, examine physical condition of the home, and include neighbourhood and other important metrics.  During this discovery phase you will determine whether this home meets your criteria or not.    If it delivers then you will prepare a counter offer, if not you will continue your search.

Negotiation buyer cartoon

Counter Opening

The next stage of negotiations is when you have two parties and both have written proposals.  There has to a realistic proposal on both sides or else you are what I call “JUST FEEDING THE GOAT”.   A true counter offer builds from the discovery phase and outlines the buyer’s position.   What you will find is some issues can be mutually agreed to, but there will also be positions where both the buyer and seller positions are not in alignment.  Differences should be expected, but what you now have is an opportunity to start a dialogue.


Devising Solutions

Now is the time for some heavy lifting.   It will soon be apparent that there is some obvious areas of commonality, so both the buyer and seller can then focus on facets of differentiation.  Negotiations will fail if both parties become so entrenched in an issue where neither side is willing to discuss potential solutions.  Here the listing and buyer agents have to creatively look how solutions can be put forward which are acceptable to both sides.  Remember, what brought both of parties together is they ultimately have the good intentions of making a mutually satisfying agreement. shaking_hands1

Reaching Agreement

In my experience getting to this stage of an agreement can take a couple of hours or a couple of weeks.   The key to reaching an agreement is keeping the dialogue open and moving forward, however, it will only be fruitful if you only have one or two minor issues of disagreement outstanding.   Nothing feels better when both buyers and sellers both feel they have reached a satisfying deal.  One where both parties got what they wanted in relation to key issues, but were willing to compromise on other details.

The best deals is one where everyone negotiated fairly and everyone walks away a winner.