10 Tips for Lie-Proofing a Home Closing, Pt. 1

It's a tense time – you've found the perfect house or apartment – and now there's no going back. You're negotiating everything -- from the price, to the move-out date, to that cool light fixture. But woven into negotiations are multiple opportunities for deception. How can you lie-proof the close?

I wrote my book "Liespotting: Proven Techniques to Detect Deception" to give ordinary people access to the professional techniques practiced by law enforcement negotiators and intelligence investigators. Here are the first five of my 10 tips for those crucial just-before-the-finishing-line days:

1. Be aware – you will be lied to. When the stakes are high, studies show that those given a chance to lie will almost always take that chance. And the bigger the sale (and the larger the potential losses) the more likely the parties involved in the transaction are to lie. Many who do lie when the stakes are so high, claim to feel little guilt – they see it as justifiable self defense. So keep your eyes wide open. The good news? With such high stakes, it's also easier to spot deception – the give-away clues are far more evident and easy to read.

Read on for more of Pamela Meyer's Liespotting tips.

2. Your best weapon – preparation. Assume your bargaining partner has Googled you, estimated your net worth and your salary and has determined whether or not you paid a fair price for your last house. Creepy? Maybe. Reality? Yes.

When you enter into a negotiation, you must prepare meticulously. Create a checklist:
  • What do you already know about the property?
  • What's the list of missing information you need in order to make an informed decision?
  • What information will you be expected to provide? Prepare it ahead of time so that you can focus on the negotiation process and not the data.
  • How does your negotiating partner perceive you? What specific beneficial outcomes would he get from a closed deal?
  • What is your real bottom line, assuming you won't get every concession?
  • What concessions are you willing to make?
  • What issues must be discussed?

3. Mentally rehearse the non-verbal negotiation. Deceptive parties will rehearse their words -- but rarely their gestures, yet studies show that 80 percent of communication is nonverbal. Imagine that you're sitting down, opening the conversation, asking questions, expressing disagreement. Athletes call this "visualization." They use it to prepare for upcoming competitions. You can do the same – so when you're in the midst of the real negotiation, it won't seem so alien, and you can concentrate on closing a fair deal.

4. Know what negotiators lie about. Research shows that there are at least four instances in which deception occurs:
Common Interests: Twenty-eight percent of us lie about common interests, saying things like "we are also in no hurry to close."
Bottom Line: Experienced negotiators know that a final offer is rarely a final offer. A walkaway point is often flexible, and there are few legal consequences (if any) to bluffing about it.
Elastic Information: Liars find it easy to justify distorting what's known as "elastic information" – things which can't be verified with certainty, like the cost of a renovation or the estimated time to implement it.
Material Facts: Both parties in a legal negotiation have an obligation to be truthful. Misrepresenting verifiable material facts is generally considered to be fraud. If you know that someone on your side of the transaction is mistakenly misrepresenting a material fact, you have an obligation to correct him. If you suspect that your bargaining partner is lying to you about an important fact, use your lie-spotting skills to dig deeper.

5. Negotiate face-to-face. One study that tracked deception on the phone, via e-mail, on IM's and in person, found that we lie twice as much on the phone than on e-mail, presumably due to the paper train that e-mail leaves. You can use e-mail to confirm difficult issues that were fully negotiated, but do the real negotiation face-to-face, when you are most likely to detect deception by observing your negotiating partner's body language. Find a relaxed, private meeting place and don't put the other party on guard. Ask questions in a friendly way until you have all of the information you need.

The next five tips will follow on Monday.

Pamela Meyer is founder and CEO of Simpatico Networks, a leading private label social networking company that owns and operates online social networks. She holds an MBA from Harvard, an MA in Public Policy from Claremont Graduate School, and is a Certified Fraud Examiner. She has extensive training in advanced interviewing and interrogation techniques, facial micro-expression reading, body language interpretation, statement analysis, and behavior elicitation techniques. For the book "Liespotting," she worked with a team of researchers over several years and completed a comprehensive survey of all of the published research on deception detection. The most interesting highlights from the research survey are included in the book, while additional new findings are regularly featured on her blog, www.Liespotting.com

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