Real Estate Deal Analysis & Advice

How to Unlock the Surprising Power of Silence During Real Estate Negotiations

Expertise: Personal Development, Real Estate Deal Analysis & Advice, Real Estate Investing Basics, Business Management
42 Articles Written

Silence: It’s a boring topic to talk about, yet it can be one of the most important tools you can use to get ahead.

In the US we pride ourselves on how busy we are; we even brag about it. Sometimes I think we have a voice built into our heads telling us we need to be accomplishing something every minute of the day. The average teenager these days can chew gum, skateboard, talk on the phone, drink a latte, text, and score some serious Candy Crush points simultaneously.

Because we’re so busy and constantly multitask, we’ve become uncomfortable with silence. When silence kicks in, we quickly find a way to fill it because we’re not used to it. This need creates an advantage for you. If you can be silent and get truly comfortable with silence, you can create opportunities that will set you apart and help you achieve your goals. Let’s look at some examples.

Related: The Clever Psychology Trick You Need to Successfully Negotiate With Type A Personalities

Silence in Real Estate Negotiations

“I’ve often heard professional negotiators tell me that they could accurately predict the outcome of negotiations fairly early on using one simple clue: whoever has less endurance for silence loses.” –Olivia Fox Cabane, The Charisma Myth

When I send in an offer, the first thing I do is get the other real estate agent on the phone and ask, “Besides a million dollars, what else do the sellers want, and what can we do to help make this transition easier for them?” This is the most powerful question you can ask. And because we tend to be uncomfortable with silence, I immediately become silent. After about 1-3 seconds, the other agent will start to get uncomfortable with that little voice tells them they need to fill the silence. They will oftentimes say, “Umm,” “Let me think, hmm,” or “What do they want?” 

By asking an open ended question and then becoming completely silent, you accomplish two things:

  1. You show you actually care about what they want and
  2. They feel the need to start talking because they get uncomfortable with the silence.

This is when the information starts flowing.

It is amazing how much you can learn when you care about what they have to say and create a situation where they feel compelled to talk. It’s not a perfect strategy, but I have won several multiple offer deals (without the highest offer) just because I was the only one who cared about what the sellers wanted. Think about this for a moment: How often have you had someone ask how they could help you and then just listen intently without interruptions to what you have to say?

“One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say.” –Bryant H. McGill

Using Silence With Friends

“They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.” –Maya Angelou

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Thinking about the question above, when was the last time you sat down with a friend, someone who cares a lot about you, and they asked how you were and waited for you to finish? What if they asked you another question based on your answer to the first question and waited for you to finish again? Most of the conversations I have, even with close friends sometimes, it seems the other person is just waiting for their turn to talk. This has become common. 

Everyone wants to be heard, to have someone care about what they have to say. We can all accomplish better listening and in doing so, letting someone know you care. It’s a free gift you can give, and everyone who receives it will appreciate it. It’s well documented that most people forget what they talked about when they met someone, but they don’t forget the feeling they had about them. There is no better way to have someone feel good about you and remember the “great conversation” than to give them the gift of your attention. Just be silent for a little while.

Using Silence to Save Time

When I meet with new clients, the first thing I ask is, “What do you want?” Just a simple question–yet it almost always takes them by surprise. Most people go silent and don’t know what to say. You would think most people would already know what they want. Not the case.

Related: Strike Price vs. Goal Price: How to NOT Leave Money on the Table When Negotiating

I had clients, when I first started using silence, who had spent months aggressively looking for properties to no avail. One day I sat them down and asked what they really wanted. Not bedrooms and bathrooms, but what they really wanted. What was the most important thing for them? They thought about it for a a few minutes and came to the conclusion that they wanted to live close enough to a bar with pool tables so they could get a drink, play a few games, and not have to worry about a DUI. Wow. Within a week they were under contract on a new home. You can learn a lot of information and save yourself a lot of time if you can compel people to think about what they really want and tell you what that is. I can tell you real estate has little to do with the actual house and more to do with the location of the house.

Silence can work on anyone. Your boss, clients, coworkers. It’s seldom I meet people who can answer what what they really want. We just don’t take the time to think about it. If you can get someone to this point, you can go a long way.


There are only two things you need to know to accomplish more using silence: 1) Ask open ended questions and 2) just listen. People will love you for it and they’ll be more inclined to help you get where you want to go. Give it a try and let me know how it works for you.

What tactics do you use to get your sellers to open up?

Let’s talk in the comments section!

Brett Lee is a licensed Real Estate Broker in Portland Oregon where he helps people achieve a better future so they can do the things that truly make them happy. Brett is also a buy-and-hold investor, property manager and investment advisor.

    Tim Watts Residential Investor from Fort Worth, Texas
    Replied about 4 years ago
    Love it. I’ve been playing with silence when talking to motivated sellers, and I’m amazing how much information they will tell me. I really like your question you use with other agents. Mind if I use it?
    Brett Lee from Portland, Oregon
    Replied about 4 years ago
    I hope you do. If learn anymore please let me know. Silence is a work in progress.
    Joel W. Investor from Eastlake, Ohio
    Replied about 4 years ago
    Great advice Brett thank you
    James Green Wholesaler from Waldorf, Maryland
    Replied about 4 years ago
    @BRETT LEE pure platinum!
    Karen Rittenhouse Flipper/Rehabber from Greensboro, NC
    Replied about 4 years ago
    Yup – 2 ears and one mouth means listen twice as long as you talk. The art to successful negotiation is the ability to listen. Thanks for your post!
    David White from Edgewood, Maryland
    Replied almost 4 years ago
    Great quote.
    Bryan O. Specialist from Littleton, CO
    Replied about 4 years ago
    Hi Brett. Great article! I really think that silence is an amazing skill to have. I practice it with my halfling demon… er, daughter… but really need to bring it to bear throughout life. Thanks for a great read.
    Chris Duzan from Columbia, South Carolina
    Replied almost 4 years ago
    Great article Brett! I just added The Charisma Myth to my book list after reading this. I’ve heard about using silence in negotiations but I’m still fairly new at talking with motivated sellers and I feel like I still can’t handle the silence quite yet. It definitely makes since though and I will be practicing more on my listening skills rather than my speaking skills. Again, great article! Thanks for the post!
    David White from Edgewood, Maryland
    Replied almost 4 years ago
    I’ll also add The Charisma Myth to my book list. Thanks for the recommendation.
    David White from Edgewood, Maryland
    Replied almost 4 years ago
    Great article. I noticed I would cut people off sometimes during conversation. Now I tend to ask questions instead of always making statements. Its amazing how much information you’ll learn if you just listen.
    Cornelius Charles Investor from Oxnard, California
    Replied almost 4 years ago
    I loved this article Brett. Thank you for the information.
    Frankie Woods Investor from Albuquerque, NM
    Replied about 3 years ago
    This is fantastic advice. Thanks for sharing!