Permission to Lowball . . . Denied

As a listing agent (representing Sellers), I sure seem to be parrying a lot more of what I’ll call “verbal probing” these days.

The gist of all the questions being lobbed by Buyers’ agents:  “would the Seller consider an offer significantly below the current asking price?”

Thrust — and Parry

As experienced agents know, the only appropriate response to such a question is, “please put it in writing, and I’ll do my best to get a serious, prompt response.”

That’s because verbal agreements aren’t binding, and signalling that your client will in fact accept a discount from the list price virtually ensures that any written offer will come in  . . . even lower.  

Hence, rule of negotiation #1:  never give away anything for free.

Three Theories

Which still begs the question, why are so many Buyers’ agents wasting listing agents’ time engaging this way?

I have three theories:

One.  More inexperienced agents. 

“Newbie” Realtors still think that verbal probing is effective.

And I suppose if the listing agent happens to be a newbie, too . . .  they may even be right!

Two.  Buyer’s market.

By now, most Buyers have been conditioned that it’s a Buyer’s market, where they call the shots.

Except that in many Twin Cities neighborhoods these days, that’s no longer true, thanks to tightening inventory, a firming economy, and rock-bottom interest rates.

Bottom line:  many Buyers are “singing from the wrong hymn sheet,” as they used to say.

Three.  Overpriced listings.

Which isn’t to say that there aren’t overpriced listings out there.

In fact, the Twin Cities housing market this Spring is as sloppy as I’ve ever seen it:  lots of stale, (still) overpriced homes, mixed together with well-priced, well-marketed homes destined to sell quickly (note:  of course, none of my listings meet the former profile). 

If a home is dramatically overpriced, an offer substantially below the list price isn’t a lowball.

However, it may still offend the (unrealistic) Seller.

So, the Buyer’s agent engages in verbal probing, futile as it may be.

P.S.:  In my experience, it’s best to waive Buyers off of obviously overpriced homes.

When a Seller is truly ready to sell, it’s usually pretty apparent.

And engaging with them prior to that point is simply a recipe for frustration and wasted time.

About the author

Ross Kaplan has 19+ years experience selling real estate all over the Twin Cities. He is also a 12-time consecutive "Super Real Estate Agent," as determined by Mpls. - St. Paul Magazine and Twin Cities Business Magazine. Prior to becoming a Realtor, Ross was an attorney (corporate law), CPA, and entrepreneur. He holds an economics degree from Stanford.

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