What to Say When Presenting Offers

Effectively counseling your sellers when an offer is made on their home can help you move smoothly to a close.

September 1, 2004

The moment an offer comes in on a listed property is exciting—for both the sellers and for you. Yet it’s also a time that’s fraught with risks. The seller’s hopes and dreams are starting to materialize, and emotions are running high.

Meanwhile, you may be a little nervous. You’ve hooked a fish, but it could always wriggle away if you aren’t careful about how you present the offer. This is particularly true if the offer is below list price. Knowing the correct things to say can determine the outcome of the negotiations.

Here are several tips about counseling your sellers to make the best decision about an offer:

Encourage cooperation.

Your first goal is to foster a spirit of cooperation and empathy. Humanize the buyers by providing whatever details you know about their situation. You might say, for instance, “This is a young couple, just married. They don’t have much money because they are just starting out. They liked the fenced yard and the park near your house where they can take their dogs, just like you do now.”

Defuse anger at low offers.

If the offer is disappointing, a statement like this will help sellers deal with their disappointment: “I know you’re upset by this offer, but remember that these people want to buy your home. They have taken the time to write an offer, and they are hoping you will say yes.”

Show concern.

Sellers may be a little suspicious of your motives if you seem too eager to take a marginal offer. Put yourself in their shoes by saying this: “That’s fine if you don’t want to take this offer as written. I agree it’s not what we hoped to get. I think I can get you a little bit more. If it were my house, I’d make a counteroffer. What would you like to do?”

Demonstrate expertise.

It’s important to stress your role as the expert and to explain the negotiation process, saying something like this: “You have hired me as a professional to advise you. I always recommend countering every contract that isn’t acceptable to you as written.  Remember, it’s human nature to try to get the best deal possible. You may want to counter a bit higher than the price you’ll accept at first, leaving yourself some negotiating room. If the buyer counters back again, you may have to come down a bit more.”

Analogies also are helpful in helping sellers understand the negotiating process: “Think of this offer as fishing. You had a very small nibble on the line. We have to get the fish up close enough to the boat so we can see how big it is. If it’s big enough, we’ll flip it onto the boat. If it’s not big enough, we’ll cut the line and try again. Look at this offer as a nibble. Let’s play with this a bit, and see if we can get this little fish to be a bigger fish by the time it’s close enough to the boat.”

Take the market into account.

In a strong market, you may want to advise sellers to counter aggressively. But if your market is softening, you may have to counsel sellers to accept a lower offer.Try this script if you’re facing that challenge: “If this were my house, I’d take this offer. It’s not all you hoped for, but it reflects the reality of the market. We’re in a declining market, and few sellers today are happy with the selling price. I’m trying to do the best job I can for you in the current market. You hired me to sell your home, and that is what I intend to do. With your best interest in mind, I would encourage you to take this offer.”

If the sellers think the offer is too low to even consider, encourage them to work with it by saying to them: “Don’t be upset at these people. Let’s counter. A reasonable counteroffer gets the buyers to do a reality check and helps us find out what they are really willing to pay. By countering, you’ll show good faith and keep the deal alive.”

All of these scripts are used by top-performing real estate professionals. Knowing what to say when offers come in on listings has helped them to better negotiate and get listings sold. With a little practice, these words can work for you, too.

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