Cornices, and how to Negotiate Effectively

A black and white photo of a ceiling with no cornice.

It's about meeting in the middle.


About six years ago a clean-shaven, slightly tired-looking real estate agent was showing me the third storey of what would eventually become my home. “Look,” he said. “There are no cornices.”

“Wow,” I said, while thinking, “What the fuck is a fucking cornice?”

I was a lot more vulgar in my late twenties. And as someone who didn’t like paying double figures for a haircut the concept of half a million dollars of debt hadn’t enthused me to the home buying process.

He pointed up. “Where the wall joins the ceiling, there’s no timber trim. That’s a premium feature.”

A cornice is much like a house penis. One of those pointless architectural things that I’d apparently never noticed in my life despite spending large chunks of the preceding decades with my head dangerously close to the average ceiling.

“What’s good about no cornices?” I asked.

“Well, they can get dusty. You won’t have to keep them clean.”

That was something I thought about from time to time during the six years in which I never cleaned my ceiling.

Now the time has come to sell my home, and before I can sell it I need to paint it because Nash has used most of the lower half of all the walls as a butt rest/scratching post. I thought buying a house was a financially exhausting process, and now I’m learning that selling was no ten dollar haircut either.

I don’t have any objection to spending money, despite what people might think. I mainly struggle with the concept of spending money for something where I could have, in a different way, achieved the same result for less money. I also don’t like it when people see a conversation with me as a potential medium for obtaining riches. So like a good introvert I turned to the internet for advice on finding a painter. I used a website called hipages, and I arranged three quotes. The three quotes varied a lot, which didn’t help with my decision making process. I know that painting the house is an investment into the price I will hopefully sell it for. Picking the cheapest wasn’t necessarily the best option. In the end I decided the best approach was to choose the most expensive option and try and negotiate them down closer to the cheapest rate. I figured the painter with the bamboo business cards and CRM system probably had the most margin built into the quote with which to work in.

I turned back to the internet for advice on how to negotiate. I read some good articles, and I’ll distill this advice here for you and myself for future reference:

Before you even start negotiating you should know what you’re willing to settle for. This should be realistic, otherwise you might make the fake Oakley salesman in a Denpesar street market-stall cry.

When negotiations open, steal any counterpoints from the other party before they can use them against you. I opened my call with, “I’m not trying to go for the cheapest option, but rather find the right fit for the budget.” Now I can’t be accused of being a tightarse.

Finally, you need to understand what the other party wants. Obviously they want all my fucking money. But they probably want other things too. This painter had a nice instagram page with a lot of posts, so they probably wanted their ego stroked. They also had a pre-sales team, so they probably appreciated sealing deals and hitting sales targets in the middle of the month. And they probably wanted streamlined work, which was something I could offer in the form of a house with no furniture to move, and no ceilings to worry about (because the dog’s butt does not reach that high). So not only did I mention the other lower quotes, but I commented that I was impressed by their ‘gram. And that I was willing to put a deposit down today, and that I could be flexible with dates.
And there was one other deal sweetener we hadn’t mentioned in much depth yet...

And that’s how I saved $700 on a quote for painting by having no cornices.

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