07/06/2011 06:31 pm ET Updated Sep 05, 2011

It's Not Stealing, It's Dealing

"I'm selling my house, not mugging anyone," vented a homeowner who's been trying to sell since March. Optimistically, he thought he'd discuss hiring me as his attorney. Pessimistically, he griped about the way potential buyers reacted to his asking price. "They seem offended, you know? Like I'm stealing their money."

Thinking his dialogue with buyers might become less confrontational if the listing price matched the marketplace, I asked what similar houses were selling for in the area.

"Oh, it's not my price," he said dismissively. "The price of my house is fair. It's just that the whole real estate market is full of half-ass buyers who treat sellers like criminals."

While I could understand his frustration, I replied that a "half-ass buyer with a full checkbook" could be persuaded to purchase if his house were priced "a bit more competitively."

That's when the tension and aggravation of the past four months erupted. The homeowner ticked off his grievances about the real estate sales process, filled me in on weekends that passed without a showing, and weeks with no-show appointments. I heard about an empty open house and an ongoing stomach full of indigestion. Mostly what I heard was his irritation with ersatz buyers who paraded around his house with their noses in the air (and apparently, only half of their derrieres). "Why do these buyers talk like I'm selling them some lemon of a used car?"

His real estate agent warned him to stay away from showings, chiding him for paper-thin skin. She wanted to "revisit" the price, but why drop the price if the buyers didn't drop the disrespect?

He was not pleased when I said that I agreed with his agent's advice. "Look," he said. "I get it that no one has to buy my house. But do they get that every seller isn't a rip-off artist?"

Based on my conversations with likely buyers, I can picture some who strolled though this homeowner's house. Potential purchasers look around at the glut of inventory and declining prices, and then instinctively flex their muscles. Some make considered and courteous offers, but others believe their best negotiating tool is a mallet. While pound! pound! pound! might pulverize the price set by a foreclosing agent, a hammer to the head of a homeowner hurts.

I'm not advocating that buyers pay more than the market requires, nor encouraging home sellers to let their feelings stand in the way of a business deal. Still, if you're a buyer chafing at the inflexible stance adopted by the homeowners you repeatedly encounter, it may be wise to examine your negotiating style. If you don't picture the seller having one hand over your mouth and the other in your pocket, you may soon find yourself shaking his hand and pocketing the keys to your new home!