A home buyer skilled in negotiation should possess several tactics in their arsenal. However, you may have never heard (pun intended) one of the most powerful tactics. The use of silence in negotiation can earn you more money per word then Arnold Schwarzenegger in The Terminator. Observe and enjoy.
Once upon a time, I represented the buyer of an apartment complex. The seller of the apartment complex was also the real estate agent selling the property. The asking price was $1,050,000. I went to tour this apartment complex without my buyer and at the end of the appointment, I inquired as to the asking price. The owner/agent said “It is $1,050,000.” I employed a technique called cringing. I said “A million fifty thousand!! My buyer can’t pay that. That’s way too much! And then I was silent. He kind of shifted uncomfortably for a few seconds as the silence became unbearable, and then he said “Well, the best I can do is $960,000.” He came off the price $90,000 in less than 20 seconds.
Suppose that, rather than staying silent and letting the seller speak next, I began talking again. What do you suppose the odds would have been of him conceding a significant chunk of money? Probably not very high. It is likely he would have let me keep talking and tell him what my buyer would pay and then use the cringe tactic on me. Silence is one of the most effective techniques in a negotiators arsenal yet one of the most difficult to master. Why is this?
Silence is difficult to master because being silent in the presence of another person is uncomfortable. The next time you are with someone, be completely silent for 15 seconds. Not while the other person is talking. When there is a break in the conversation or a verbal serve directed at you, wait 15 seconds before your return shot. You have probably just experienced the awkward silence. And you were doing it on purpose. Imagine if you didn’t know this was a game and someone employed this technique on you. The anxiety that builds up is enough to make even the most introverted person babble uncontrollably. That is the power of silence.
When you are negotiating for your home and you employ a tactic or make a verbal offer, go mute and don’t speak again until the other party speaks. Make it a game if you like and see who blinks first. Once the silence becomes uncomfortable to the seller, they will likely start talking and if they continue, they will likely negotiate against themselves or give you an advantageous piece of information. They may reduce the price if you have used a tactic or they may accept if you have posed an offer. But even if they don’t make a concession, you have lost nothing by trying it, not even air from your lungs. You may just be surprised at how much you can gain.
Josh Gwin is the author of The Expert Home Buyer Negotiation Course, the proven effective negotiation course for home buyers. He has extensively studied real estate negotiation and international negotiation through Harvard Business School, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and the World Trade Organization. He is a real estate Accredited Buyer’s Representative (ABR) and has negotiated hundreds of deals across multiple industries.