Neil Jenman | 20 December 2012

The 10 ways to negotiate a better deal in property: Neil Jenman

Most communication involves negotiation. Aside from ‘splitting-the-difference’ most people don’t know a lot about negotiating. They are not very good at getting very good deals for themselves.

One of the most important things to remember when negotiating is to ask lots of questions. Very often, you need to ask questions of yourself. Why do you want to buy? How much do you want to pay? When do you want to have it? Try and remember what the writer Rudyard Kipling once said: ‘I keep six honest servants; they’ve taught me all I know. Their names are what, why and who. And when and where and how.’

Most people make the mistake of thinking that negotiation is a complex science. It’s not. It’s usually just two people both trying to get the best deal for themselves: the person who is selling and the person who is buying. And there is no honest reason why both sides can’t reach a price which makes both of them happy. Here are 10 of my favourite points about negotiation.


First, don’t even consider ripping off the other person. If you’ve got a good product that’s priced higher than it can be bought elsewhere, then you’d better have a very good reason to justify your higher price. What are you offering that the other seller is not offering? If nothing, then all you’ve got to offer is price. If you are in a price war – as so often happens today, especially with cars and white goods – there’s only one way you can be sure of winning. Guarantee the best price.

That’s right; don’t just say that your price is best. Guarantee it. If they buy from you and later (within, say, 30 days), they see it advertised cheaper with someone else, then say you’ll refund the difference. I love honest guarantees in negotiation. They instantly move you closer to closing the transaction and they make you feel good. You don’t go away with that nagging feeling that maybe you could have got it even cheaper elsewhere. So this sort of negotiation is simple. If you’re the seller, offer the best price possible. If you’re the buyer, do some research and get to know the prices.

There is, however, one wonderful seven-word question which you should ask the other party, regardless of whether you are buying or selling. That question is: ‘Is that the best you can do?’ You’ll be astounded how many times this soft little question saves you a stack of dollars. One final tip on this question: Ask it a second time with one more word added. Once you’ve got what you are told is ‘the best’ that can be done, ask this eight-word question: ‘Is that REALLY the best you can do?’

I estimate that the first time you ask this question, you’ll get a better deal at least 50% of the time. The second time you ask the question – with the word ‘really’ added – you’ll get a better deal (in total) about 75 per cent of the time.

 Finally, the most important word in negotiation is ‘fairness’. It’s the first and final rule.