Selling guide

Real estate tips: how to negotiate as a seller

Game face on, it's negotiating time.

Last updated: 1 February 2023

It’s the moment you’ve been waiting for – an offer, or offers, have come in on your home. This is definitely a moment to celebrate in your property selling journey, but the work’s not over yet.

What you’ll learn:

  • Your options when you receive an offer on your home.
  • What you can negotiate on.
  • How negotiations vary with different sale methods.

Your agent and lawyer will help you navigate the negotiation process once you have an offer, or offers, to consider, but they’ll be looking to you for your instructions, so do your homework first.

Receiving an offer: your options

When you receive an offer, you don’t have to respond by a certain time but the norm is within a few days.

If the offer is low and unattractive: you can just decline it. In the current market, a lot of buyers are going to try and “lowball” vendors, and if you don’t think they’re serious you can just say no.

Good enough to start the negotiations: if the offer is in the neighbourhood of what you would accept, you’ll most likely put in a counter offer and see if you can raise the number to something you’re happier with.

So good you accept the offer: if you’re pleasantly surprised by the offer on the table, you’ll consult with your advisers and see if it’s worth counter-offering to get a bit more. If they say that’s the buyer’s top dollar, then accept and think yourself lucky.

Although this may not be how they do it on telly, all offers you receive will be in writing. You’ll hear your agent urging buyers to “put it on paper.” They’ll fill out a sale and purchase agreement which you’ll most likely see attached to an email sent by your agent. As the negotiation process continues, this document will be changed, figures crossed out to show the latest offer and counter offer.

It's exciting when an offer comes in, but you need to keep your head in the game.

How negotiations vary with different sale methods

Negotiating at auction sales

All things being normal, your auctioneer will be the only one involved in the sales process, but there are two ways negotiations might happen at an auction. If you have listed the property with an “unless sold prior” condition, this may attract an early offer prior to the auction date. In some circumstances, you can accept the offer, but you’re more likely to be advised to make this the first bid at the auction and to bring the auction date forward.

If the property doesn’t sell at auction, it’s “passed in” because it doesn’t reach your reserve price. Then, you’ll be able to negotiate with the highest bidder. If these negotiations fail, you may find conditional buyers want to negotiate soon after the auction too.

Negotiating sales by tender

Unless you’ve put, “unless sold prior” in your marketing, you’ll look at all the offers on the tender date and you’ll normally have five working days to decide if you’re happy with any of the offers, or if you want to try negotiating. Any agreed changes are initialled on the tender document.

Negotiating deadline sales

Similar to tender sales, you can either wait until the end date to consider all offers together, or, if you’ve put in an “unless sold prior”, you can accept or negotiate on an offer while the property is still listed for sale.

If you're selling your home privately, you'll be relying on your own sales skills to negotiate the best deal.

Negotiating when the property is being sold “by negotiation”

By negotiation is a popular method of sale in the current market, and, in this case, the seller sets an asking price or gives a price range and buyers are encouraged to make their offer at any stage. Sellers can attach various conditions to the sale, such as a suggested settlement date, though there’s no end date for offers.

The satisfactory completion is a common buyer condition you may have to accommodate.

Common areas people negotiate on

The most common things buyers and sellers both negotiate on are:

  • Price
  • Settlement date
  • Chattels
  • The completion of a building report
  • A professional property valuation
  • The sale of the buyer’s house
  • Confirming finance
  • Time to arrange insurance

There are things you can do to help speed up this process as the seller. You can:

  • Negotiate shorter time frames: if the buyer wants to add a condition, you can ask them to commit to a shorter time to complete it by.
  • Be helpful: make it as easy as possible for professionals like valuers and building inspectors to come to the house so these necessary visits are ticked off.

Once the conditions have been met, the agreement goes unconditional. In this current market, buyers may try to haggle on price again before going unconditional. These conversations will happen between your lawyer and the buyer’s solicitor.