Deal Me In

Chris Birds, Partner with Boxall Brown & Jones, looks at one of the fundamentally important issues in selling or buying a property – the deal.

There is currently an awful lot in the news about negotiating. In Europe the Brexit negotiators are sharpening their pencils while on the other side of the Atlantic President Trump would have us believe that he is the best negotiator who ever walked the earth.

In fact selling houses has more to do with negotiating than just about anything else – the better the negotiator you have on your side, the better the deal you get. The trouble is most people aren’t too comfortable negotiating the purchases and sales of their own homes. That’s why they get someone to act for them – an estate agent.

Negotiators should never be confused with hagglers. Anyone can haggle. The government, we hope, will not be haggling our future away with the EU. Instead they should be carefully and painstakingly figuring what the EU wants most and then trying to work out how we can give them what they want at minimum cost and maximum benefit to ourselves. At the same time the UK team should be making demands that are realistic, as unrealistic demands just annoy the other side and then no one gets anywhere.

In the end both sides will compromise a little here and a little there. Neither side will end up with all that they want – although each will claim that they have. But both sides will reach an agreeable level of what they do want. Everyone will come away happy – or acceptably so.

At first there will be a few threats – or sanctions – as those in the negotiating business call them. These will reach the press. Most headline arguments will be limited to the first initial skirmishes – just to show serious intent. But this is also sabre-rattling theatre for the sake of the folks back home. Then tentative proposals will be put to sound out the other side. This will lead to counter-proposals. Slowly, point-by-point, day-by-day, progress will be made. Each side will review and confirm what has been agreed as it goes along so there will be no doubt or question in the future. Watch the Brexit negotiations carefully. They will unfold this way. All negotiations do.

Good negotiators have years of experience during which they learn the tricks of the trade. Whether the negotiation is for world peace, releasing hostages, buying or selling business conglomerates or simply debating which film you will go and see with your partner or friend on Saturday night, all negotiations run in roughly the same way – argument, proposal, counter-proposal, agreement. We are all good at negotiating to some extent – children perhaps best of all, as they never back down and tears make a good sanction. But how good are we at multi-hundred-thousand-pound deals when it’s our own money at stake? Then it can often get too personal. That’s where many do-it-yourself negotiations break down – over small points of petty principle which prevent both sides from following a clear and dispassionate path to the desired end.

So why is a good estate agent so important? Because he or she will be a skilled negotiator. Without a skilled negotiator an already complicated house selling process can fast become an impossible one. If you think that buying and selling a property is hard when you use an estate agent, just wait until you try to do it without one.

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