"Whoa, whoa, whoa!" my son, Tristan said. "What are you doing with those butterscotch brownies?"
"I'm taking them to my meeting," I said.
"No you're not," Tristan objected. "Those are tomorrow's lunch."
"Lunch?" I scoffed, "You can't make a lunch out of a dozen brownies." I know that,"Tristan countered matter-of-factly, "but it's what I can TRADE for them that's important. Last time, I got two packs of chips, some candy and a Gatorade. Your brownies are in high demand!"
Hmmm - that's not exactly the lunch I was hoping for, but I get his point just the same.
Not surprising, "trading" one thing for another is part-and-parcel of most Real Estate transactions these days as well. No sooner is a seller celebrating their successful "pending" sale, than I have to remind them that the deal isn't over yet. In fact it's just beginning . . . .
With inspections and appraisals still ahead of us, it isn't uncommon for buyers to return to the table and expect a little "horse trading" should the inspections uncover new material facts about the property - or even when they don't. This can come in the request to reduce the price, OR as a "punch list" of corrections, OR in the form of credits at the close of escrow - OR in combination.
(Whoosh! That's the sound of the wind being let out of your sails!)
Relax and let the process unfold. Try not to project about what might or might not happen or get defensive about your lovely home - especially prior to any requests or demands. Buyers are legally entitled to inspect any and everything - even when you have already thoroughly documented the condition of the property. And what's more, you want them to. Inspections not only inform the buyer, they protect the seller from potential litigation down the road. (It's much tougher for a buyer to claim misrepresentation if they have fully inspected on their own.)
Once presented with something in writing, ask yourself if the demand is reasonable and if it is, agree to the reduction or try to find a meeting place in the middle. If you feel the request is unreasonable, then politely reject the addendum altogether or with a "knick-knack paddywack, give the dog a bone (this old man came rolling home)." Either way, do your best to stay politely engaged on some level and above all else, keep the exchanges unemotional. This isn't personal - it's business. Frankly, it's no different than asking the local Mercedes (or Prius) dealer to throw in the mats when you purchase a car.
If there is something you desire in return, now may be a good time to take advantage of the opportunity to trade something you want for something the other side needs in order to move forward with the sale, such as a few more days to move out, access to the garage after the close of escrow, or a full release of all contingencies. This is the time to trade tit for tat.
While this part of the transaction might come off more bitter than sweet, to many sellers, the reality is that in the current market, it is almost unheard of for a buyer NOT to come back and ask for something. Unless your home has sold in multiple offers (that still occasionally happens BTW) or has a firm back-up buyer in second position, you will fare better if you deal with the offer currently in front of you, than risk losing it and coming back to market with questions along the lines of "Why did the sale fall apart?"
Should you take offense at the inspection process and pass on offer number one to pursue offer number two (assuming there IS another offer waiting in the wings) ALL new discovery will now be part of any future transactions on the property. In short, you either deal with the findings now - or later - but they aren't magically going away and chances are they won't be overlooked by another buyer either.
Take heart - this isn't a problem, it's a solution! The fact that the buyer hasn't walked away and is still actively engaged in purchasing your property is a REAL opportunity. Don't jeopardize the sale over something as petty as pride or as destructive as denial. ("We always lived here without bolting the foundation, so why shouldn't they?) Don't assume your standards of risk apply to the next homeowner - they don't!
If we look at everything as an opportunity (as opposed to a problem), then the trading that results in the sale and transfer of your home can be ultimately very productive and within reason, almost any demands can find a meeting point.
Even if they aren't quite as sweet as my butterscotch brownies!
Julie Gardner, has been writing The Perspective for 14 years and has published more than 500 essays. She is also a frequent contributor to the Sound Off column in the Real Estate section of The San Francisco Chronicle.