Understanding Negotiations Part III: Email Delivery

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Understanding Negotiations Part 3: Email Delivery

In Part I of Understanding Negotiations I discussed viewing negotiations from a rational stance. In Part II I studied the Emotional side of the process.

If one has been a real estate agent for more than ten years, he may recall the days when most offers were presented to the Seller and listing agent by the selling agent, in person. At least it was that way in the Northwest since I started back in 1985. But now, with the ability to transfer documents online, by email, with twitter, or in the cloud, many sellers, listing agents and often, even buyer’s agents, have elected the “no personal contact” style for negotiating offers. Although this is neither a good thing, nor a bad thing, it is a change in the way we do things and, in order to stay current, we should know the subtleties of each.

Back between 2002 and 2007, when multiple offers were the rule of the day, selling agents would line up with letters to the seller from the would-be buyer telling all about their children, their pets, their hopes and their dreams. Eventually it seemed to reach an overload point and listing agents and sellers asked that the offers just be faxed, and eventually emailed. Now that method is almost universal.

Email delivery of contractsUnderstanding this detached, or asynchronous, process is important for agents to grasp in order to succeed. In face to face meetings, those in the discussion have the opportunity to gage each other with consideration of body language, eye contact and voice inflection. But with email delivery of a contract, all that can be relied on are the factual details in the contract, unless the presenter learns and practices the various methods to enhance such presentations.

Face to face presentation allows for parallel processing of terms where ideas are offered, discussed and decided while everyone is present. In contrast, in an email exchange, principals receive one set of terms, and usually have time to consider and discuss on their own, and then respond, allowing time for the other party the same courtesy. In one instance there is time and opportunity to ask questions of clarification, while in the other, the printed word is taken at face value.


Some things to consider in Internet based negotiation:

  1. It is easy to misjudge the opposition and apply to them characteristics they do not have as a reaction to terms they have presented. The concept of manners and socially acceptable behavior are harder to gauge when the negotiators do not physically meet.
  2. In email exchanges, more diverse information may be presented, but it is difficult to gauge the relative importance of the various ideas put forth.
  3. It is difficult in email exchanges to determine which person, which personality, is dominating the discussion.
  4. In email negotiating there may be less cooperation to seek out solutions than there is in face to face meetings.
  5. In the hope of not missing any salient points, a party to the negotiation may dilute, in an email, the most important issues of the contract.
  6. The issue of trust. Is an email negotiator more likely to lie than when negotiating in person because of the separation of the principals, or less likely, because what is written is retrievable?

There are certain abilities required to be a successful email negotiator.

  • Writing skills come to mind. One must be able to clearly state their desired position. Spelling, and grammar do count as an indication of the likelihood that the negotiator has the ability to follow through.
  • One must be patient, and have the ability to wait for an answer. Because the negotiations are not face to face, waiting for a response takes some discipline and self-control.
  • To respond too quickly can also be a mistake, for the other party may think that you have not give due consideration to the proposal. 
  • Building rapport in face to face meetings has a more natural process that we have learned over time. With texting Obama and Hector Cafferata shake handsand especially twitter (140 characters per message) electronic presentation of ideas may not include the “shaking of hands, how is it going” stage that sets the tone for a negotiation. Be careful not to forget that rapport is important.
  • Demonstrating in responses that you understand the other position validates that position and the other person. Call it E-empathy. Learn it. Practice it.

One day, I expect that some negotiations will be carried out “in the cloud” with principals and agents gathered around the virtual table discussing various terms and conditions. I expect that there will be a mute or privacy button which allows seller and agent or buyer and agent to discuss items privately.

Wherever it goes, a continuous studying of negotiating, reading about negotiating, and practicing negotiating will serve the realtor well throughout his career.

Posted by





Glenn Roberts



Comments (8)

Mitch Gover
BidOnRealty.com - Orlando, FL

Good evening Glenn.  Part III is a doozy.  Very well written and to the point.  As we all know, the only thing we can count on is change.  Thanks for a great post.

Apr 07, 2011 01:47 PM
Leslie Ebersole
Swanepoel T3 Group - Saint Charles, IL
I help brokers build businesses they love.

Hi Glenn. I received the book, thanks! I hope to get through it this weekend and I'll check in again,

Apr 07, 2011 02:20 PM
Glenn Roberts
Retired - Seattle, WA

Mitch - Thank you.

Leslie - The book is your to keep or pass on. Gled it got there. I was a little slow in getting to the PO.

Apr 07, 2011 02:26 PM
Sharon Alters
Coldwell Banker Vanguard Realty - 904-673-2308 - Fleming Island, FL
Realtor - Homes for Sale Fleming Island FL

Glenn, I have been in real estate 11 years and we almost never discuss contracts in person. It is over the phone and via fax and email. It's just the way business is done nowadays. I can't ever remember a time when people presented everything in person. Just too much going on to run to someone's house, or to catch them at home when we all can meet when there are deadlines.


Apr 07, 2011 05:02 PM
Glenn Roberts
Retired - Seattle, WA

Sharon - I miss the days. Taking that time to schmooze, and impress, and explain, and bargain...that was where you earned your salt. Faxing and letting the listing agent present it to the seller is, IMHO, lame.

Apr 07, 2011 05:09 PM
Sharon Alters
Coldwell Banker Vanguard Realty - 904-673-2308 - Fleming Island, FL
Realtor - Homes for Sale Fleming Island FL

Glenn, I admit I first read about this practice on Active Rain and I was shocked. To think of both agents being together when a contract was presented - well, it's just not done here in Jacksonville, nor was it done in Orlando when we lived there. It does seem lame to email and fax when you compare it to IRL negotiations. I think a lot of contracts that go away would be successful if the selling agent were allowed to present their case. Sometimes I wonder about controlling listing agents...


Apr 08, 2011 02:05 PM
Glenn Roberts
Retired - Seattle, WA

Sharon - I'm sorry to see it has gone away for the most part. From my experience, I know of many cases where the listing agent just didn't explain it like I would. I remember my first listing (I was in Minnesota at the time and the LA would present to the seller), and when the offer came in I blew it. I was brand new and I was telling the seller what to do...before I asked him what he wanted to do. Sale failed. Had the skilled agent who wrote the offer presented it, the seller would have taken it, because he did, later.

Apr 08, 2011 04:57 PM
Tni LeBlanc, Realtor®, J.D.
Mint Properties, Lic. #01871795 - Santa Maria, CA
Tenacious Tni (805) 878-9879

Thank you for the perspective Glenn. 

 Since I received my license in 2003, I never presented offers in person.  Certainly a different type of scenario.  I do usually follow my email presentation with a phone call which helps A LOT!  Tone of voice means a lot and I feel like people have to hear your voice to "hear" your offer properly sometimes.

You have offered some important considerations for emailed offers.

Apr 12, 2011 12:37 AM