Negotiating Offers: You Can’t Buy if You Don’t Play

There are multiple versions of the same question that listing agents always seem to be asked … “Are the sellers motivated?” … “Will the home appraise?” … “If we wrote an offer at X, is it worth the try?”

And the answer to these and other questions, almost universally, is write something up and we’ll see. Because it’s not up to me to give away information to the buyer or buyer’s agent – ever – if it’s going to be to the detriment of my seller and run afoul of my fiduciary responsibility to them.

As a listing agent, at least once I jumped off the relocation hamster wheel at Century 21 and stopped taking useless listings for the sake of the “big picture” and the “relationship” with the relo companies, I’ve made it a point of not taking a listing that can’t sell. This doesn’t mean I haven’t pushed the comps to the limit if market conditions dictate, but it does mean I’m not going to set a price which I believe will preclude a particular home from selling.

What’s in a list price? Everything and nothing.

For some sellers, it represents the price they fully expect to receive for their property and they’ll hold to that price come hell or high water. For others, the list price is the beginning point for negotiation assuming the market’s granting them that kind of flexibility without lowering the number of buyers who’ll take a look.

How can a buyer know the difference? Honestly, you can’t … not without writing an offer to see where the seller’s heart is at. (I can quote Tupac right here but I’ll pass … I think you get the point. And there’ll be no tears in the end …)

So, buyers, save yourself a little bit of time … it’s possible you can find a listing agent who’ll vacate their fiduciary responsibility to tell you what you want to know but the odds are slim. Better to check the comps and write what you believe is a fair offer and see what happens. Because at the end of the day, you can’t buy a home if you don’t jump in and play the game.

Jonathan Dalton

Jonathan Dalton is a 40-plus-year resident of the Valley and has been helping folks buy and sell homes since 2004. He can be reached at 602-502-9693 or info at


  • Chris Butterworth 8 years ago

    Well said, JD. Very true.

  • Rod Rebello 8 years ago

    Agree, but it’s also my fiduciary duty as a buyer’s agent to ask the questions. As you indicated, not all listing agents are as clear about their client duties as you are :).

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