Speaking the Buyer's Language
So you think that, since you speak English, and the buyer speaks English, you are both speaking the same language? Not necessarily.
There is language, and then there is language.
Each of us speaks one of five types of any given language, and some of us speak more than one. Let me explain.
From the time we are born, our brain begins processing as data everything we experience - every thing we see, hear, touch, small and taste makes a lasting impression. This is how we learn. Unfortunately, we do not all process information in the same way. Sometimes, we simply cannot. If a child has a vision impairment, less of his input comes from sight, and more from his other senses. The brain associates input with the method by which it is received. For a majority of people, sight is the predominant input device, followed closely by hearing, then the other senses provide the rest. If, however, the person has a vision impairment, the predominant sensory input device may be the ears, or maybe touch.
So, what does all this mean to you, the guy who just wants to sell his home? A lot!
People who grew up using sight as the predominant input vehicle will be sight oriented - they learn to depend more on visual stimuli than any other. To these people, what they SEE is most important. On the other hand, those who grew up depending primarily on their hearing to input data will place more emphasis on what they hear. And so on, through all five senses.
Now, if you want to capture someone's attention, and you want them to see things your way (persuasiveness), you must speak to them in the language they predominantly use - for example, sight-based language if the person is sight-predominant.
If, while listening closely to a person you discover he uses a lot of "sight" words, such as "I see by this that...", or "I try to envision (or visualize)..." etc., you can suppose he is sight oriented, and if you want to speak his language, you must base your speech on sight, as well. If, on the other hand, the person uses hearing-based language, he will say things like, "From the sound of it, I'd say...". Smell-oriented people might use phrases like, "Something smells rotten - I don't think he's being honest..."
By listening carefully, you can usually determine the primary sensory input device, and use that to help sell your home. Let's say your buyer uses a lot of words like "see, vision, color, pretty, gorgeous" etc. He is probably sight oriented. Hence, he can best be swayed by those assets and benefits that are most pleasing to the eye - the view, color schemes etc. Those who are touch oriented (you'll spot them, because they have to touch everything) will be more impressed by textures, rather than patterns. Smell oriented buyers can be best impressed by the smell of fresh-baked cookies in the oven, and other smells that seem to scream "homey".
By playing on the buyers' senses, you have a much better chance of closing the deal. By the way - it is always a good idea to make a batch of chocolate chip cookies just before a showing, or whenever a buyer is due to show up. If a buyer can envision (yes, I am sight oriented) the homey comfort of living in that house, he is more apt to buy it.
I once taught this strategy to a very doubtful real estate agent that I had worked with a few times. She was, to say the least, very skeptical, but since her sales were not anywhere near the Top 10, she promised to give it a try. Within 8 months she had reached Top Salesperson for her agency, and a few months later she opened her own brokerage. She claims that, knowing how to speak the buyers language made all the difference, and that selling homes had almost become easy.
I use this strategy all the time - not just when buying or selling real estate, but in any interaction with others - business associates, personal relationships and so on. Not only does it afford me the opportunity of having someone fully understand what I am meaning, it also puts them more at ease, not having to try and decipher what I am saying.
Other, more "traditional" tips for talking with buyers should not be neglected. One such tip would be to schedule showings according to the time of day that best highlights your home. If the afternoon sun plays beautifully with the color scheme in the living room, schedule your showing for that time. If your home is situated in an area that has a great view of the sunset, then that is when you want buyers to see the property. Don't be afraid to bring these nice features to the buyers attention, if need be, but be sure to phrase it in a way that highlights the benefits of those features. But don't be too enthusiastic - no one likes a pushy salesperson. Know when to hold back. Be brief, but effective.
Make sure that you disclose any major problems with the house before the buyer spots them himself. This prevents him from using such things against you during negotiations, but more importantly, it insures you comply with any disclosure law in your state.
Answer the buyers questions truthfully, and respectfully. If you do not have the answer, say so, and add that, since he will likely have an inspector look it over, you are certain he can answer the buyers question.
If the buyer notices a problem, but you have had the source of the problem fixed, tell him. Explain how it was fixed, and at what cost.
Many buyers will try to pump you with questions designed to learn your true motivation for selling. It is their hope that they can use this in their negotiations. Do not give the impression - true or otherwise - that you are desperate. Do not tell them that you have already purchased another home, as this will lead them to assume you must now sell quickly. Try to give the impression that, while you obviously want to sell, you are not under any pressure to do so. This, alone, may do more to influence a higher first offer than he might otherwise make. And, when the buyer does make a verbal offer, advise him that you will consider all offers made in writing by any qualified buyer. Insist on a qualification letter from his lender, before considering his offer.
Here are a few questions you should expect:
Why are you selling without an agent? If the buyer asks this question, he is hoping your answer will indicate that he will share in the savings, which he has every right to expect. It takes two people to make a sale. Also, a buyer must do more of his own work if no agent is involved, so he should receive some share of the savings. If he believes these savings will be shared, it will encourage further negotiations (your listing price, however, should not reflect those savings - let the buyer negotiate for them, so he can feel better about the deal he's getting).
Why are you selling? As mentioned earlier, this question is a not-so-subtle attempt to learn your level of motivation. Answer honestly, but in a way that does not compromise you, or give away your true motivation.
How long has your home been on the market? He probably already knows the answer, so be honest. But understand that, if the buyer asks this question, he knows that the longer a property has been on the market, the more apt he will be able to dicker you down on the price. If your home has been up on the market for some time, let him know that you would consider making certain concessions (the ones you have already planned on, such as seller financing instead of all cash if you plan to invest some of the money, anyway; or to offer to pay ½ buyers closing costs instead of reducing the price by his share of the non-agent savings - this reduces his out-of-pocket costs at closing, which is probably better for him). Know ahead of time how you will answer this.
How did you come up with your asking price? If you followed the earlier suggestions on how to price your home, you will easily be able to validate your asking price. Be sure to explain, in detail, how you arrived at your price, and why you believe it to be fair. Offer to show him either the appraisal, desk appraisal or the comparables you used to come up with your price.
Will you take less? If the buyer does not ask this question, he shouldn't be in the buying market! And it is a question that rightfully deserves an answer. Plan your answer before the buyer ever comes to see the home. A good, general response to this question is that you will consider any reasonable offer in writing, made by a qualified purchaser. If he pushes further, to test your mettle, you may want to hint that you want this to be a win/win deal for all parties, and that you would be interested in looking over his written offer. Do not make or suggest any possible concessions at this time, even if you planed on making them eventually - remember, the first one to mention price or terms will lose in the negotiations. Let him make the first offer.
If, at any point, the buyer asks how low you would go, or if you would accept "X" dollars, tell them that you would first need to see their entire offer, and a letter of qualification from their lender. There is no point wasting time and stressing out if the buyer cannot qualify for the amount of his offer, and until you see the entire offer, you won't know if the terms are acceptable.
If any meeting with a prospective buyer starts to become adversarial, or confrontational, calmly call an end to the meeting, and suggest you meet again at another scheduled time.
NEXT: More Negotiation Tactics