This week’s post is courtesy of negotiation consultant and blogger, Chad Ellis.
During a recent family visit my father reminded me of an unusual house near where I grew up. It was a lovely house with a good-sized yard next to a pond. Perfect for a family, and many families happily bought it. In fact, the house was bought by a new family almost once a year, for what always seemed a bargain price. Most families sold the house within a year of moving in.
Nothing was wrong with the house, per se. The problem was that the yard and pond were the summer home for a large flock of geese. During the warm season they would arrive and spend the next few months defecating all over the yard, turning what looked like a dream into something quite less pleasant. When the geese had gone, the new owners would look at their mess of a yard, clean things up as best they could, and put their lovely house on the market.
In my last post we discussed the importance of information. Clearly the buyers of this home lacked a key piece of information. But why? Buying a home is a big deal — for most of us it’s the biggest purchase we’ll ever make. Paying 10% more than you have to is a huge loss as is buying a house you decide you can’t keep. Even without the Internet making research fairly easy, it would have been relatively easy for home buyers to learn about the history of the Goose House. So why didn’t they?
In my experience, there are two reasons people enter negotiations without key information. First, we don’t make a list of what information we’d like to have. Second, we become extremely reluctant to ask questions.
If anything, this problem escalates with major purchases. The same person who will check movie reviews before putting $10 and an evening at risk will do little or no preparation when buying a house or negotiating salary at a new position. Having more at stake sometimes makes us less willing to prepare, perhaps because it’s more frightening to admit a lack of knowledge when it comes to something important. If this sounds like you, make extra certain that you commit to asking the sorts of questions we discussed last time. Then, when you consider about how you might go about acquiring that information, be aware of the options that make you uncomfortable — and spell out the costs and potential gains of that option. An experienced buyer’s agent you trust can help you to identify the tough questions you need to ask and will know how to ask and where to look to get the answers.
If the buyers of the Goose House had done that, they might have learned about the house’s history…and avoided a costly mistake.
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