You Can Use Being Surprised to Your Advantage

When you think of surprises and personal finance, expensive repairs or last-minute emergencies come to mind. But being surprised doesn’t always have to turn into a negative experience.

Here’s an example from a recent negotiation we underwent to get our current apartment:

In late February, with our lease on the old place almost up and family circumstances changing (i.e. new baby), we were on the hunt for a new place and a different location.

By chance, there were apartments in my in-law’s area for rent and they were just the right price. The units were slightly smaller than where we were living, but they were laid out more effectively and the unit also featured a garage.

The lack of storage in the unit itself was more than made up by the extra 200 square feet of garage space for anything we couldn’t fit upstairs. Perfect.

We agreed to the deal and showed up for the lease signing. Things are rolling along fine until the owner “mentions” that she wants to make sure we know that we’re not getting a garage. “Oh, Johnny didn’t tell you?” (Johnny is our property maintenance guy). No, he didn’t.

My wife looks at me and looks back at the landlord. I’ve been screwed too many times before. I tell her we’ll have to think about it and get back to her, then walk out. We call back the next day to offer her two choices:

  • Reduce the rent by 15% and we’ll take it as-is (not really what I wanted to do).
  • Make the garage available and we’ll move in (it was being used as owner’s storage).

Can you see the extra leverage I got by being so upset that this sprang up as a surprise? The landlord could clearly see that she was going to have to sweeten the deal to close it.

And sweeten it she did. The garage was cleaned out three days later, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Surprises don’t always have to work against you. When the ball is in your court, don’t pin your back against the wall and act helpless. Turn the situation to your advantage by using the surprise as a distraction!

Have you ever done something similar? I’d love to hear about it!

Photo by Mary and her camera

2 thoughts on “You Can Use Being Surprised to Your Advantage

  1. This isn’t exactly the same kind of situation, but I was doing a freelance project for a company a few years ago and they suddenly moved up the deadline by a couple of weeks. Ordinarily I’m more accommodating in situations like this than I probably should be, but I had just been to a talk on negotiating salaries and decided to ask for more money to compensate for the tight deadline–and I got it!

    I’m sure that negotiating for more when the parameters change is a no-brainer for lots of people but for me it was a real eye-opener that I didn’t just have to take whatever was offered. Thanks for your post!

    1. What an awesome example. I’m in the design field too, and I can relate in how hard it is to say STOP!, I need more money to move up this deadline. Thanks for sharing!

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