Negotiating & Etiquette

The Power of Mutual Respect: Coffee Talk

May 3, 2019

It was the smallest deal- in terms of the sales price- that I have represented in 15 years. And it was one of the largest in terms of everything that makes a transaction enjoyable and fulfilling. The property was a two-bedroom coop in a senior living community, situated in a converted 1930s schoolhouse. The unit was being sold by the children of the owner in an estate sale. I was referred to them by another agent. Although the complex is located in Westport, a town thirty minutes from Greenwich and one that I have not worked in before, the children were comfortable with my background and particularly liked the fact that I have held a nursing home administrator’s license and understand the elder population.

In my first call with the son, Tom, he lost no time to suggest that we meet in person– not to go over details of the listing yet– but just to get to know each other.  I suggested the cafe at Terrain, a Martha Stewart-like shop with lots of greenery and tablescape. “Too fancy”, Tom said, “I’ll meet you at the Westport Diner.” So, over cups of coffee, the retired policeman and I got to know each other in an unhurried, no agenda’ed, old fashioned way. The hour we spent together established a level of trust and comfort that would hold us in good stead throughout the lifecycle of the listing.

The sales process was not as quick nor as easy as either sibling had envisioned. When their mother had bought her unit, there was a waiting list for the building. But the advent of assisted living, other senior housing options and aging in place, has changed demand for the schoolhouse. It took marketing creativity (on my part) and patience (on theirs) before a buyer was identified and passed board approval. Like many transactions today, there were issues that arose from the building inspection. Nothing was a problem for Tom.   His perspective was an inclusive one and he approached every request from the buyer, from an air conditioning unit not properly functioning to a scratch on the front door with a “Not A Problem” response.    

What stuck in my mind throughout the process is how simple and enjoyable a transaction can be when it is uncluttered by emotion and comes from a place of respect and wanting to do the right thing for the other guy.

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