Buyers (and buyer’s agents) get frustrated by the communication they sometimes get (or don’t get) from the seller’s side, during an offer situation.
- The seller’s agent is duty-bound to follow the seller’s instructions.
- The seller’s agent may not disclose any information that is not approved by the seller.
- The seller’s agent’s goal is to get the best price and terms for the seller.
Respecting these obligations does not justify some of the unprofessional behavior that we sometimes experience. It is our hope that our clients have long memories and will never hire these agents when they go to sell.
Poor communication practices by seller’s agents
We run across sellers’ agents who don’t know how to communicate at least a few times every year. There are some agents that are too arrogant, disorganized, or disrespectful to perform the basic courtesies that we expect from professionals:
- Acknowledging that our client’s offer packet has been received.
- Informing the buyer’s agent when the offer is being presented and when we should expect an answer.
- Providing an answer, or an additional communication, at the time an answer is expected.
The vast majority of our clients are highly successful people. They are not used to offering $1M for something and not even having that offer acknowledged. Failure to do basic respectful communications can hurt the seller. When buyers are left hanging during a negotiation, it makes them tense. Tense people feel less cooperative, because they feel (and have been) disrespected. They have time to brood over why they may not want to pay more for this house.
How information from sellers’ agents helps our buyers
Beyond their acknowledging the offer and providing a negotiation timeline, we also try to get additional information from the seller’s agent. That information helps us position our clients’ offers so that they are most likely to be accepted. Since this also benefits the sellers, some agents get the authority to tell us some additional information about the bidding war in progress. For instance:
- How many offers have they received?
- Is our client’s offer at or near the top, middle, or bottom, in regard to price?
- Does the seller have specific needs that our client can address? Sometimes flexibility on timing or agreement to allow the seller to remove certain items can make a difference.
If their offer is head-to-head, or close to, an offer from another buyer, our clients often prevail. When seller’s agents are authorized to share with us the factors that matter to the seller, sometimes our clients are willing to satisfy them. Done respectfully, this is a win-win. Over the years, we’ve had a lot of these types of wins.
Why disrespect from sellers’ agents doesn’t work:
Agents are the communicators for the sellers and the buyers. When they are disrespectful, it can bring failure to their principals.
Sometimes, the disrespect is coming from the agent, which is unprofessional and a violation of their duty to represent the seller.
Sometimes the disrespect is coming from the principal (the buyer or the seller). Disrespect doesn’t work then, either. Here’s a story about a transaction I did. The buyer before us was disrespectful, and my clients benefited.
The sellers put their house on the market at a not-popular time of the year. This was before the recent seller’s market, but not during the last recession. The house didn’t show well because the sellers moved quickly and took their things with them: well, a lot of their things. They needed to sell in a hurry. One of the sellers had cancer and was in treatment.
A buyer (not us) made an offer on the house that was significantly lower than its market value. When it was rejected, they put in an offer that was even lower than that. They did this about three times, each time getting lower.
At that point, the sellers lowered the price and it fell into the price range of my client. The price was then below its fair market value by about $50,000. We saw it and they made an offer. After inspection, we negotiated more off the price.
It was at the point of negotiation after the inspection that the seller’s agent disclosed to me that this other buyer had been making the low-ball offers. She told me about the seller’s health. She had permission to tell me the seller’s bottom line. They would be satisfied to sell it to nice people at the price of the lowest offer by the bully. They hoped it would make him mad.
My clients got a great deal on this house, just by being decent people. They ended up keeping track of the seller until he recovered from his cancer. For all I know, they may still be in touch. Everyone won, except the person who was trying to cash in on someone with cancer.
This kind of deep discount, just for being decent, is rare. Being prepared and respectful, though, frequently leads to prevailing in a head-to-head or close competition for a house. That’s what we aim for.