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Strategies for effectively working with agents

When working with an agent, it is to a negotiator's adventage to keep the following in mind:

1. Shop Around
     Do not assume that the first agent you meet is uniquely qualified to represent you. Ask
     the agent what he/she expects from you, and what will enable him/her to successfully
     represent your interests.
     Ask the agent about the nature of the relationship and    what obligations, if any, you have
     to one another.
For example, some Principal agents (like myself) have easy-exit clauses that
     enable clients to relieve us of our Mandate in the event of non-performance.

2.  Before meeting with your Agent, know your BATNA (best alternative to a negotiated
Do your homework before meeting with your agent. Prepare questions to ask
     your agent that will allow you to test the soundness of your BATNA, but do not give away
     your BATNA.
For example, a seller may say, "I would like to find out from you what average
     sales prices are for similar properties in the area".

3.  Communicate Your Interests to your Agent without revealing your BATNA
One of the most challenging tasks for a negotiator is to communicate his/her interests,
     priorities and preferences without giving away his/her BATNA. You can help your agent
     to help you most effectively by listing, in order of priority, your key interests and what
     you percieve to be the alternatives within each of those areas of interest. Anticipate that
     your agent will, in so many words, ask you about your BATNA. When this question comes
     up (and it will), focus the conversation onto your priorities (eg. "I am not sure how helpful
     it is to tell you the most money I am willing to pay for the house you showed me today.
     However, I do want to emphasise that I am really interested in a home within this school
     district area, and a double garage. In fact I would be willing to pay more for those features
     than a master suite and an updated kitchen").

4.  Use your Agent to help save face 
     Sometimes, negotiators make what they regard to be perfectly reasonable proposals that
     have the effect of insulting the other party.
     When this happens (and if your opponent is an emotional type), negotiations may start
     on a losing course. In an agent-mediated negotiation, you can attempt to salvage damaged
     egos and relationships by blaming your agent.

5.  Use your Agent to Buffer Emotions
     In keeping with this point about saving face, agents  can be an effective emotional buffer
     between parties who may either dislike one another or are irrational types. An effective
     agent will put a positive 'spin' on the communications by each party and effectively 'tune into'
     each parties needs.

Questions that potential buyers should ask their real-estate agents
1.  How will you find me homes?
2.  How can you leverage my down payment, interest rate
     and monthly payments?

3.  How long have you been selling real estate - full time?
4.  What can I expect in terms of communication?
5.  Does your contract have an 'easy exit' clause in it?
6.  Will you reduce your commission if necessary?