Real Estate Purchase Negotiability

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What's negotiable on a purchase?


The short answer is everything.

There may be standards and traditions in your area, the same as there are in mine. That doesn't mean they are not subject to amendment by specific negotiation. Once you get outside legal requirements, anything is subject to negotiation. As long as both (or all) parties concerned agree to it, that's the way it's going to be.

This is not to say that some things aren't better left alone. For example, if I was buying a property and the seller didn't want to pay for the policy of title insurance, as is traditional, I'd certainly think long and hard before continuing with the transaction. Furthermore, such behavior would certainly cause the price I'd be willing to pay to drop dramatically. If I'm helping clients, the same applies even more strongly. I'm going to tell them that this may mean the seller may not be able to deliver clear title.

This is also not to say that there may not be consequences as the result. For example, if I or my client is selling the property, and someone asks for a $10,000 credit towards closing costs, the lowest offer I'd accept would be at least $10,000 higher, probably $11,000, maybe more. Why? Because commissions and transaction costs are based upon the official sales price, not the sales price less that rebate to the buyer. The bottom line is that it costs at least $10,000 to rebate $10,000 thusly. A $400,000 offer that requires $10,000 in rebates isn't a $400,000 offer. It's a $390,000 offer at best.

In order for it to be a valid contract, the two parties have to agree in every particular. If there is not complete, total, 100 percent written agreement as to what is going to happen, there is no contract. Two parties haggling over whether one light bulb gets replaced do not have a valid contract any more than two parties haggling over whether the price will be $200,000 or $500,000.

Nonetheless, except for those very few things mandated in law, it's all negotiable. Specific negotiation can change anything that's not legally mandated, and most things with defaults specified in law. If you've got a gold bathroom faucet that you want to keep, a normal sales contract says that it stays by implication (it's a furnishing attached to the property and required for the property to function normally). But you can change this by specifying that you have the right to remove it in the contract. Now if they buyer is only buying the home because of that gold faucet, they can walk away or counter offer that it stays. Let's say you eventually agree that it will be replaced by another gold faucet. That's specific negotiation. The replacement will be required to be installed, equal in functionality and free of defects - unless you change this by more specific negotiation.

I've seen negotiation for personal property to remain, furnishings to leave, the disposition of existing tenants, allowing leasebacks to the prior owners, and just about everything else under the sun. If there's something about the standard contract you don't like, or something specific to this situation or this property, specific negotiation is how you deal with the issue. Furthermore, even if you don't want to change anything, the other side might. Indeed, probably more properties have further negotiations due to problems or issues raised by inspections than don't. Something is revealed to be not quite right, and the seller either has to make it right or negotiate with the buyer for acceptance in the current state.

This is not to say that as long as the transaction records the seller is golden, by the way. If the buyer can show reasonable evidence that the seller knew of the issue but failed to disclose it, that's a bone for the lawyers to fight over when it's discovered. Some sellers fight a losing battle over issues like this for years - and it ends up costing them far more money in the longer term. The buyer finds out something you should have told them after the transaction, that's a bad situation for a seller to be in. Better to disclose right away and be done with it. When the seller can prove the buyer knew the full extent of the issue and bought anyway, that's much better protection.

So make sure that if there's some issue you want resolved, the purchase contract resolves it completely and unambiguously. That contract is how the transaction is going to happen. If it's not there, you're at the mercy of the other party. They might see it your way. Then again, they might not.

Caveat Emptor

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Dan Melson published on June 9, 2007 10:00 AM.

Making Prepayment Penalties Illegal was the previous entry in this blog.

State of The San Diego Market June 2007 is the next entry in this blog.

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