Tips and Traps When Negotiating Real Estate: Why Would a Seller Want to Counter?

Offer and Counteroffer: Why Would a Seller Want to Counter?

As a seller represented by an agent, you probably don’t have much of a handle on what kind of a person the buyer is. (That’s the rea­ son I sometimes recommend face-to-face negotiations.) Rather, you have to judge partly by what the agent reports, but mainly by what the buyer does. You have to watch the buyer’s actions, and these are in the form of an offer.

Not long ago a friend of mine was selling a house that was in dire straits. The house was on a steep hillside and built on an old streambed. During the rainy season, that stream came back to life, and over the years it had eroded much of the foundation of my friend’s home. The house now teetered precariously on what was left of the foundation. My friend knew that his only chance of sell­ing was to find a buyer who would be willing to take the property “as is” and fix it.

TRAP

Any time you see a house advertised “as is,” you can figure it has big problems. Although some agents advise all sellers to sell “as is” as a way of protecting themselves against buyers’ later coming back with a lawsuit claiming some defect wasn’t disclosed, I don’t believe such a course of action will work. Whether a house is sold “as is” or not, the seller still has to disclose all defects to the buyer. All that happens when a seller tries to sell “as is” is that you’re put on notice that there’s something seriously wrong with the property. As a result, you’ll probably want to offer much less for it.

TIP

If you’re a seller, it’s usually better, in my opinion, not to sell “as is.” Just disclose all problems and if there’s something in particular that you don’t want to warrant, make sure the buyers sign off as being aware of that particular defect when they accept the property.

Therefore, when my friend got a purchase offer for a ridiculously low price, he countered by including a paragraph in the sales agree­ment that said the buyer was fully aware of the foundation problems and accepted them. He also asked a higher price.

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The first two buyers that offered were scared away by the counter. They had hoped (without much reason) that the seller would either sell for just the value of the land or fix the problem as part of the sale.

The third buyer, however, had experience in building construc­tion and was fascinated by the challenge posed by my friend’s house. He accepted the paragraph regarding the foundation problems and proceeded to negotiate a price that he felt would be justified given the condition of the property. My friend, the seller, had achieved his objective of finding a buyer who could handle the problem and would not want so low a price as to be buying the land only. Ultimately, after going back and forth many times, a deal was signed.