By: Dr. Gad Akwensivie
Every day, people have to negotiate a price for buying property. Sellers want to receive the highest possible price and buyers want to pay the least amount possible. But, how can a buyer bend the negotiation in his favor? In this insider article, DR. GAD AKWENSIVIE unveils10top negotiation tactics for buying property in Ghana.
Negotiating the purchase of a plot of land or a house is usually not just about money or the price of the property. Other issues such as the terms of payment, timelines and items that may have to do with the property may all be subjects of negotiation. Negotiation is about how to make your offer irresistible and attractive to the seller. You must learn how and when to throw-in sweeteners just to charm the seller during the negotiation process.
Do your homework
Enter the negotiation more informed than the seller. Get a Valuer to advice you on the value of the property. Certified Valuers of the Ghana Institution of Surveyors (GhIS) will also help you understand the market and to know whether, or not, you have the upper hand. In a buyer’s market, you (as the buyer) can easily walk away because there are many other properties to choose from. In a seller’s market, however, sellers have the upper-hand and tend to bluff. If you are negotiating the purchase of a 2-bedroom flat at say, Osu, Spintex, Dzorwulu, Labone, Dansoman, Kandaand Achimota, you should be mindful of the competition because you are n a seller’s market and it is most likely that there are more than two other offers on the table for the property. In that case, avoid making a low offer. If you are negotiating to rent, focus on reducing the contingencies such as the year’s rent advance.
Go behind and try to understand the seller: Is there a divorce? Is he planning to buy another property? Is he cash trapped? Is he relocating permanently? Is the property under distress? How long has the property been on the market? Etc. If the property has been on the market for more than 144days, the seller must be getting frustrated and desperate. Desperate sellers normally give off some signs and you should be on the look-out to determine how motivated he is to sell.
If you understand the buyer, you will have more leverage in the negotiation process because you can make compelling offers by focusing on his needs as opposed to his price.
Start off with a sensible and realistic offer based on the opinion of your Valuer, depending on how much you can afford but, avoid making extremely low and offensive offers with the aim of starting low, unless you are sure you are the only potential buyer for that property. From our interview, starting off with a very low offer irritates property sellers. They usually will write you off completely as someone who is not serious and whom they wouldn’t want to engage with for any further negotiation.
Make an unconditional offer
Property sellers in this country love unconditional offers and will choose an unconditional cash offer (what we call cash-down) even over a higher offer that is conditional (e.g. of a conditional offer is “I accept your offer but I will pay in 5 installments over 6 months”. This cash-down tactic worked magic in 86 percent of the transaction we studied, particularly if the seller is in a hurry, e.g. an Administrator, Executor or Lawyer who has to close a deal quickly in order to share the proceeds among beneficiaries.
An unconditional offer sends many signals
An unconditional offer tells the seller you are serious about buying his land or building and you even have the money ready and if he accepts your offer, the deal is guaranteed. This does not mean you should have 50, 100 or 500 thousand Ghana cedis in your car or bag. All you have to do is to arrange with your bank to ensure that the money can be assessed within a day or two. This old-school tactic really works.
Be patient when buying land or building in Accra, Kumasi, Sekondi-Takoradi and Tamale because, time can work in your favor. Keep in touch with the seller even if he does not accept your offer. For example, in July last year Mr. A put his 5 bedroom property up for sale at East Legon. He rejected our initial offer but we kept in touch with him. A couple of months later, he fell ill and decided to put the sale on hold until he recovered. Then sometime in October, here covered and decided to dispose-of the property. He accepted our offer he rejected earlier in July. Sometimes, sellers need to adjust to cash-down reality when it comes to pricing. Be patient – time can work in your favor.
If you are in a buyers’ market, one negotiation tactic is to put an expiry date on your offer. Tell the seller you are giving him up to 2pm on 15th June to make up his mind about your offer. This will put pressure on him to make a decision which wouldn’t be possible in a seller’s market where he most often will succeed by leaving his offer on the table because new prospective buyers will come soon. The seller will be in a haste to contact you if previous offers fell through after they had been accepted and the seller has begun to get frustrated. The seller who is now desperate will choose the easier option –to accept your cash offer.
Bluff with another property
Bluff with another property if the seller bluffs with a buyer. Property sellers in Accra, Kumasi, Sekondi and Takoradi will try to push you (buyer) to come forward. They will tell you that another buyer wants to make a down payment. This is a very powerful tool they use if they determine that, you love the property and also when you are within the asking price. Sometimes, it may be true that there is another buyer but 77 percent of the time it is merely what we call the “killer tactic”. In negotiating property in Ghana, be prepared for this killer tactic. Your response is to bluff the seller right back with another property when he bluffs with a buyer. A seller will not bluff again unless it is indeed true.
Allow flexible settlement dates
If for example, you are negotiating the purchase of a house or a business premises, offer the seller an extended or flexible settlement date if you can afford it. Settlement date is the day the deal actually closes and the property conveyed to the buyer. But this tactic can only work when you have done your homework and have found that, the seller intends to buy another house with money from the sale.
In 2017, I assisted a client to buy a mansion at Ahodwo, a suburb of Kumasi, using this tactic. We had information that the couple was planning to buy another property in Accra so we made a cash offer, offered an extended settlement date and agreed to pay substantial amount of our offer. We told them, that they could continue to stay in the house for another 6 months. Within the 6 months, if they found another property, they should inform us and allow us 2 weeks to prepare for settlement. The couple did not only accept our offer. They said we were “God sent”! Do your homework!
If you feel that the seller is buying time in order to shop around your offer, or is in talks with other buyers, you may put some urgency on your offer. This has the effect of forcing the seller to make a decision. It may also have the effect of closing out other buyers who are still in the process of conducting searches at the Lands Commission. This tactic requires expert guidance because it can backfire. Apply time pressure if you are sure that your offer and terms are acceptable. Liaise closely with your Valuer who is trained in applying these tactics.
Undertake a thorough inspection of the land or building. Also inspect the papers to identify costly defects. You should mention the defects early. It could be anything such as a plot prone to flooding or a crack in the wall. Remember, between 50-70 percent of buildings in Accra do not have either a building permit or a title certificate. Use all the problems you find to your advantage during negotiations. If the property is not registered highlight it as a problem. Support your worry with a report prepared by your Valuer. These will give you some leverage in negotiating for a lower price.
Have your budget under cover
Throughout the process, you should aim at luring out the seller’s expectation before giving any indications of your budget and judgment of the property. Don’t send signals that will work against you. The less the seller knows about your finances, the better, because, in most negotiations, if you show your hand first, you are most likely not going to end well. However, if you are at the end of your rope and sure that there are no competing buyers, you may come out with your budget. This has the effect of moving the seller’s focus from the property to your budget which will cause him to accommodate your offer.
Negotiating the purchase of your next property should be an enjoyable experience because now you know that having the ability to be patient will assist the process towards achieving a positive result. When applied properly, these simple tactics will help bend the negotiation process in every buyer’s favor. Good Luck!!!
The writer is a Landed Property Consultant and an expert in the Valuation of Land and Buildings for Sales or Purchase, Lease, Rental or Letting, Mortgage, Probate, Insurance, Compulsory Acquisition, Rating and Taxation. Tel: 0244-843-997, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org