How to Negotiate Your Next Multifamily Deal: Mastering the SPY Technique

This article dives into the world of multifamily real estate negotiation, offering insights and strategies to close your next deal on favorable terms.

The Importance of Negotiation

The ability to negotiate effectively is crucial in any business venture, and real estate is no exception. It’s not just about getting the lowest price; it’s about understanding the needs of all parties involved and structuring a win-win scenario.

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The SPY Technique

The core of this article is the SPY technique, an acronym that stands for:

  • S – Seller: Begin by understanding the seller’s motivations. Why are they selling? What are their financial goals? What are their pain points? By actively listening and asking questions, you can uncover their true needs.
  • P – Property: Assess the property itself. Does it align with your investment criteria? What repairs or renovations are needed? Understanding the property’s value is essential for making informed offers.
  • Y – You: Evaluate your own needs and limitations. What’s your budget? What are your risk tolerances? Knowing your own bottom line is crucial to avoid getting caught up in bidding wars.

Examples of Successful Negotiation

The article presents two real-life examples of successful multifamily deal negotiations using the SPY technique.

  • Example 1: Seller Finance Note Creates Win-Win

This example highlights a deal where the seller wanted to sell quickly and easily without alerting tenants or paying high broker commissions. The buyer, by understanding these needs, offered a seller finance note with a higher interest rate, allowing the seller to receive ongoing income while deferring capital gains taxes.

  • Example 2: Respecting the Seller’s Legacy

Another example showcases a situation where the seller, a proud owner who built the property, desired a buyer who would appreciate and maintain his work. The buyer, understanding this motivation, went beyond just offering a price and built rapport with the seller, ultimately securing the deal.

Additional Negotiation Strategies

The article offers a few additional tips for negotiation:

  • The Nibble Technique: Don’t let the seller (or buyer) keep making small, concessionary requests. Counter with your own requests to maintain a balance.
  • Focus on Interest-Based Negotiation: Move beyond positional bargaining and focus on solutions that address the underlying needs of both parties.
  • The Flinch: When presented with an initial offer, a well-timed flinch can subtly convey your surprise (without revealing your bottom line) and encourage further negotiation.
  • Low-Ball Offers with Permission: Consider presenting a low-ball offer with the broker’s permission, especially in a buyer’s market, to potentially spark a “come to Jesus moment” for the seller and encourage them to reconsider their asking price.
  • The Door Knob: If negotiations stall, be willing to walk away. Sometimes, politely indicating you’re ready to move on can shift the power dynamic in your favor.


The article emphasizes the importance of active listening, empathy, and building rapport during negotiations. By understanding the seller’s motivations and employing the SPY technique, you can increase your chances of securing a win-win deal in the multifamily real estate market.

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