review from

Buying a home is virtually a college course in science and fine art: the science of smart shopping and the fine art of price negotiation.

But once most homeowners move in, they promptly forget every savvy maneuver they learned at the bargaining table. They go back to paying list price for home essentials when a little creative bargaining can pay off.

If you’re bargaining on price, rather than just shopping around, it may feel uncomfortable at first. Not to worry, said Adam Leitman Bailey, author of “Finding the Uncommon Deal.” “You have nothing to lose. If you’re going to ask people, ‘What’s the lowest price you’ll give me,’ they may not tell you,” he said.

Here are five examples of where your costs might not be as fixed as you think, with tips to help navigate the best price on goods and services for your home.

“When you’re buying a home, you’re comparing one home to another,” Bailey said. “When you’re going in to buy furniture, you can talk to two stores with the same couch and show a third store the cheaper price and see if they can beat it.”

One of his strategies is to ask to use the store’s computer. You have to get a manager at that point, he said. Show them their competitors’ prices on the same merchandise. “Many times they’ll beat it on the spot.”

Alternatively, you can also use your smartphone or wireless tablet. Or research prices at home and carry printouts to the store.

While two similar houses can be on different streets or have different features, Bailey said, “the great thing about a couch is name brands are name brands.”

Many of the techniques that work with furniture can also net a better deal on appliances. Get those model numbers, then hit the Internet, Bailey said. Research will net you not just the best price, but also the points of comparison among similar products.

As with buying a home, knowing what’s hot and what’s not with buyers gives you a negotiating advantage. So if an appliance comes in a few colors and you know one of them isn’t selling well, that might be a point for bringing down the price.

This is also a time when it pays to consider the quality of your information sources, Bailey said. “Just like with a home, you need a reliable seller,” he said. When you buy online, stick with big names you trust, he said.

Low-ball Web sites have their place, even if you wouldn’t trust them with your money. You still might be able to use that quote to persuade a store to lower its price, Bailey said.

“Some contractors will negotiate a price” on renovations and repairs, said Tom Silva, general contractor for the PBS shows “This Old House” and “Ask This Old House.” Silva advises homeowners to get specific about what they get for their money.

The low-dollar bidder might leave out some steps that would show up as poor workmanship years from now — and end up costing more. The guy charging a little more might have a reason. Sometimes a higher price might mean the pro is experienced or is planning for contingencies, Silva said.

And sometimes shopping cheap might not be shopping smart.

“Your house is the biggest investment that you make,” Silva said. “Yet for some reason, people want to get work done cheapest — to cut corners.”

Instead, to make a smart buy, “get bids, ask questions,” he said.

“It’s a competitive world,” said Leonard Ritz, a former contractor who is now an attorney with the New York firm of Adam Leitman Bailey, P.C.

“Consumers should understand that everything is negotiable in a real estate transaction,” said Barry Zigas, housing director for the Consumer Federation of America. “That doesn’t mean that you will get a professional to agree to change the fee. But it doesn’t hurt to ask.”

During one sale, Zigas negotiated a reduced real estate commission in return for doing some of the work himself.

Another topic to cover before you hire: If you have to lower the agent’s recommended asking price, how will he or she share that loss? Sample script: If we have to reduce the asking price, “let’s talk about how you might share some of that pain,” Zigas said. — this article

Published by