How much are you willing to say about a previously turned down offer on one of your listings? This was the topic of last week’s Mastermind meeting at our office and it created considerable debate. Here is the scenario…. You have a listing that has been around for nearly two months. In that time you have entertained two offers. The first one came on offer night but it was much lower than the Seller’s expectations. Just after the third week, you terminated the listing and relisted it at a higher price. (This tactic has limited success but, depending on the time of year and a bunch of other factors, can help sell the property). Within days you received your second offer which was lower that the first offer. Now you are cruising in on month two. You are still getting lots of showings and agents are asking questions…why hasn’t it sold? have you been getting interest? AND… have you received any offers so far?
We had a rather entertaining debate at the office and on the local real estate Facebook group. One thread suggested that the listing agent has a duty, according to REBBA 2002, to say absolutely nothing. I find the logic incorrect on this. While our duty is to inform agents about the number of competing offers we are bound to keep the contents of competing offers confidential, but once an offer is rejected and expired, is it still our responsibility to keep the contents private? If you agree with that logic than you would have to agree that an expired offer is still, technically, an offer. I don’t believe that is the case. Plus I find it hard to imagine an agent responding to my question about other offers by saying “I can’t tell you”. In my mind that is a loaded response that immediately puts any possibility of a new offer off the table.
Another thread suggested that it was okay to divulge certain information about expired offers, such as price and terms (like conditions or closing dates) provided the Seller has given his permission. Generally this is not a bad answer but I don’t think it ticks all the boxes either. Essentially it suggests that the Seller is directing the listing agent to say something like “the Seller is hoping to get $1M and the last offer was only for $850k”. Clearly the agent is acting on the direction of the Seller but is he advancing his listing in any way?
While I recognize that we work under a strict code of ethics and the law, I believe there are a number of responses that work without implicating your Seller in a position of greed or being unrealistic. “We had two offers. One came really quickly and wasn’t what we were looking for, and the other had some conditions that the Seller was uneasy with” or how about “we were back and forth but in the end the parties just couldn’t come to an agreement”. and end the conversation with “we are still getting plenty of showings and traffic is high at open houses”. No lies, no disparaging comments. Simple truths. What you don’t want to say are things like “The offers didn’t meet my clients expectations” or “both offers were below market value” or “my clients expectations are too high” or ” my client is looking for $X (even if directed by your client to say so)”.
I am reminded about the saying that a good agent will say more by not saying. That’s a valuable lesson to be learned. I believe it is alright to say that you had two offers, but, if pressed about the contents it is okay to be vague. Don’t fall into the trap of saying too much especially if you are asked about price. Simply direct the potential agent to do their own research on comparable solds in the area and let them determine value. 20 years ago our market was much different. Properties stayed on the market for months so naturally agents would ask about previous offers and yes, we would speak the truth. There was true kitchen table negotiating with candid discussions while not giving away too many details. My advise, strike a balance between saying something and not saying anything. That may sound strange but the reality is that human nature should be your guide. People want what others have or want. If you say that there has been interest and offers then potential buyers want in on that action.
Mark McLean is the Broker/Manager at the Bosley Real Estate Queen St W office, the Immediate Past President the Toronto Real Estate Board and a director at the Ontario Real estate Association . The opinions expressed here do not reflect the opinions of TREB, OREA or Bosley RE