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Negotiating with your agent

December 06, 2009

Negotiating with your agent

Though home sellers have little to cheer about in the struggling California market, they do have the upper hand in finding experienced agents who are willing to deal on their commissions. Here are some tips:

Impress your agent: Before you even let agents in the door, spruce your house up to show you're "motivated" (a word agents love). If you're clueless that your place is a wreck, you may signal that the house will be hard to sell -- and you're not likely to get any discounts. "Pre-stage" the house for agents, and then listen to them tell you what more you can do to stage it for buyers.

Ask for it: Don't make it your first question, but be sure to ask agents what discounts they offer. Many consumers leave thousands of dollars on the table because they don't know to ask -- or can't be bothered to.

Find a solo agent: Consider hiring an independent broker/agent if you can find a good one in your locale. With lower overhead costs than agents employed by large brokerages, independents might have more wiggle room to cut you a deal.

Brush up on fractions: When negotiating an agent's commission, don't limit the discussion to whole numbers. Haggling for even a quarter of a percentage point can save you $1,250 on a $500,000 home.

Piggyback a deal: If you're selling and buying in the same area, consider giving the same agent your business for both transactions -- if you can get a substantial discount on the selling commission. You might have to sign a buyer's contract, also known as a "loyalty contract."

Grab cash equivalents: Experienced agents are networked with contractors, home stagers and financial experts. They can get you discounts on services and might even do some repairs free. Any money you don't have to spend to sell your house is cash in your pocket.

Make your problem their problem: If there are unexpected or unreasonable surprise expenses in escrow that you just can't afford, ask your agent if she'll rebate part of her commission to help you out. Or, if your agent ends up finding her own buyer (a dual-agency deal), ask for part of the commission to be rebated to you.

Source: Times research

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