Why Badmouthing a Property Rarely Works

I had a showing this week of a listing of mine where the prospective buyers were so negative about the property,  I wanted to tell them to get out and stop wasting my time.

It’s not uncommon for realtors to deal with buyers who don’t like a property. But only twice in my career have I ever had to deal with buyers who walked in the door and immediately began badmouthing everything they saw. In both cases, the properties were lovely: in fact, one sold for multiple offers.

But with this one, the ceilings were too low, the paint was too dark, the kitchen floor tiles weren’t new, the owners had paid too much for the kitchen makeover, they didn’t like the yard, the skylight, the upgrades — nothing was to their taste.

Imagine my surprise, then, to find out that they had come to an Open House at the same property a few weeks ago, hosted by one of my colleagues.

Now unless these buyers have nothing better to do, I can only assume they had an interest in the property. For some reason, badmouthing it either (a) made them feel better about not making an offer or (b) was a strategy employed to try to get a better deal. And if it was is (b), let me tell you, it  never works.

First of all, I’m the listing agent. I’ve priced the property at what I think is fair value. Coming in and telling me it’s “significantly overpriced” (as these buyers did), questions my judgment. And then asking me what I think it’s really worth implies I’ve withheld its true value from my clients.  This kind of approach is not going to persuade me to want to work with these buyers to help them get the house of their dreams. In fact, it doesn’t make me want to work with them at all.

I remember years ago doing a simulated negotiation exercise at Harvard where we pretended to be home sellers and buyers (I was a lawyer then) negotiating a house deal. The same strategy was employed by the “buyer” on the other side of the deal.

According to our confidential instructions, the “sellers” (us) had a bird aviary they loved. To try to knock the price down, the “buyers” told us not only that they didn’t want the aviary but planned to kill the birds. My negotiating partner told them to go to hell (using infinitely stronger language) and said she would never sell our house to them. That was the end of that negotiaton: she was furious. And it was only a simulation!

It turned out that according to their confidential instructions, the “buyers” wanted to run a bird breeding business: the very reason they were interested in the house was because of the aviary.

Why lie about one’s interests?

Well, some people think it will hurt them if the person they’re dealing with knows how much they want something. But I think that’s the wrong approach . I’ve had lots of deals where the very reason the deal closed was because buyer and seller clicked. And as I’ve said to my clients in almost every transaction, it’s easier to deal with people you like than people who are difficult, because if they’re difficult now, with the stresses of a real estate transaction, it will only get worse later on.

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2 Responses to Why Badmouthing a Property Rarely Works

  1. KarenO says:

    We bought our house with the offer that we could afford. It was quite a bit lower than the asking price, but we loved the home and decided to put in our top offer and explained that we were not trying to insult the sellers and that we loved the cozy little home and wanted to begin our marriage in it. In this case, the home was on the market because the sellers (six surviving children) had lost their father but all had their own homes and lives.

    I’ll never know for sure, but I think they may have decided to accept our offer rather than keep the home on the market because they knew that we would treasure their childhood home.

    • Peggy Blair says:

      Absolutely right. I had clients who won a multiple offer situation without having the highest bid because I told the sellers they loved the house and, when I found out that they were Newfoundland, mentioned that my clients were, too. By the time we were done, they were totally sold on having a young couple that shared their love of their home moving in, and I knew that deal was clinched even before the next agent came in with the next offer.

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