It can only help a buyer to get on seller's good side


October 18, 1992|By ELLEN JAMES MARTIN

Robert Irwin wanted the hillside ranch house. But he didn't care whether he got the green glass chandelier in the dining room. Knowing the light fixture was prized by the home's sellers, he didn't even try to get it in the deal.

The moral of the story? In the end, Mr. Irwin says he may have paid hundreds less for the house because he didn't demand an item of sentimental value to the sellers. Not wrangling over small items of personal value is one way a buyer can get on the seller's good side, says Mr. Irwin, the author of several books on real estate.

"Hurt the seller's feelings or insult him and that could translate into a higher price or lesser terms for you," he says.

A smart buyer recognizes the importance of the seller's emotions in the deal-making process, realty specialists stress.

Suppose, for instance, that you're buying a split-level surrounded by rose bushes. The bushes were given to the seller by Grandma Nellie, now deceased. And the grandson's heart would ache if he couldn't take them to his new home. A buyer who demands to keep the bushes may only hurt himself in the end, realty experts say.

"A lot of sellers have sentimental feelings when they let go of a house and these can influence a deal," says Lou Occhionero, sales manager for Coldwell Banker's Parkville office.

Besides steering clear of disputes over personal items, here are other ways to get on the seller's good side:

* Try to have your agent book you to see a home when the sellers are there.

Granted, most listing agents caution their sellers against being present when a property is shown. The fact remains, however, that many sellers are present for showings -- especially on weeknights. And, from the buyer's perspective, there are advantages to meeting a seller.

"When you strike up a conversation with the seller, he'll see you as a real, flesh-and-blood person, not just a deal. And that can help," advises Mr. Irwin, author of "Tips and Traps When Buying a Home," a McGraw-Hill book.

Believe it or not, some sellers are more willing to compromise on terms with buyers who are friendly. For some, there is an understandableurge to let their property go to "nice people" -- an urge that could make them more flexible in the bargaining process with those whom they have met personally, Mr. Irwin says.

* Never say anything negative about a home in the seller's presence.

If you believe you can whittle down the seller's price through affront, you are mistaken, real estate specialists caution. All this strategy does is wound the seller's pride. A more winning strategy is to offer sincere compliments about the place, they say.

* Avoid absurd low-ball offers unless you're playing a numbers game and aren't serious about one particular house.

Last year, realty specialists allow that there was a lot of padding in the list prices of many homes. By 1992, however, most sellers had sobered up to the realities of the buyer's market -- as they've become apparent in many communities today.

"The prices are getting more real now," says Bruce MacDonald, an agent with ERA-Caton Realty in Ellicott City.

Most sellers offering their property at a fair market price will be insulted if you come in with a drastically lower offer, points out Mr. Irwin.

If a tour of like for-sale properties tells you the home you've targeted is fairly priced, your chances of doing better at the bottom line are usually enhanced if you come in no more than 5 to 10 percent under asking price.

There is an exception to this low-balling rule, however. A rare seller will be desperate enough to sell at any price. If you're relatively indifferent to the exact property you purchase, you could get the seller to accept your well-below-market offer.

* Let the home inspector be the one who delivers word that a property you're buying needs repairs done by the seller.

There are many good reasons to obtain a professional home inspection on a house you've offered to buy. By making your contract offer contingent on a thorough inspection, you're able to avoid a costly error. Even if the problems found can be rectified and you go through with the purchase, you're better off knowing about them before you commit.

From the buyer's perspective, the beauty of engaging a home inspector is that this neutral third party can deliver bad news on the home without you being its bearer, says Mr. Irwin, the real estate author. "Let the home inspector be the villain," Mr. Irwin says.

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