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What Kind of Stupid Question is That?

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I have a fantastic listing right now. The condition is pristine. It has been well maintained the entire time they have owned it. (They didn’t suddenly rush to complete a bunch of work just before it went on market!) It’s a dream listing. Staged, clean, beautiful. After carefully reviewing comparable solds we priced the home appropriately.

So, I hosted a broker/Realtor open the first Tuesday after we listed the house. I served lunch, and we had a nice turnout. All was going well, and an agent looks at me in front of a bunch of other people and says, “So, how do you think the house is priced?”
(Insert screeching brakes sound effect here…)

Wait, What Did You Just Ask Me?

I am representing the sellers here, they are my *clients*. Am I really going to say anything other than, “Just as it should be priced”? I’ve actually heard agents answer that question with, “well, I wish we’d priced lower.” (Yes, you just breached your duties to your client.) I looked at the agent, a colleague, and said, “Are you serious? What kind of question is that? You know that I’m representing the sellers and I helped them price the house.”

Now, if he was asking before he was writing an offer with clients, I could appreciate ‘fishing’ for a feel for pricing. (I’d answer the question the same way, but still.) But this agent was looking for ‘shop talk.’ I’ve sat in for sales meetings where agents have announced new listings, describing them with the square footage, bedrooms, bathrooms, community info, etc, and then a disclaimer of how it’s priced a little high, but ‘gosh you need to come see it.’ Gee, if your sellers were listening in on that, how do you think they’d respond to you instantly weakening their future negotiating position with a potential buyer’s agent in that room?

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Bumped into an agent who asked about this same listing, wanting to know if it was still available. He’s seen the home, knows the market. I told him we had just reduced the price. “Well, that’s still out of my client’s price range. I’ll wait a couple weeks to show it to him until you reduce the price again.” I guess the idea of showing the client some homes that are actually in his price range would make entirely too much sense…

And the original agent, who questioned the pricing..when he heard that we’d lowered the price, insisted that you have to lower a price by at least 10 percent for it to matter. I guess the comparables and current market conditions aren’t important… Strangely enough, I’ve yet to have a listing that at least one other agent didn’t vocalize that they thought it was overpriced.

Don’t Even Go There With Me

Let me just say this…I’m here in this business to help my clients buy and sell houses. I’m not going to the office to drink coffee and complain about my clients. I’m NEVER going to complain about my clients, especially not in front of another agent who could potentially be on the other side of the negotiating table for a transaction that includes them. If I don’t agree with the way we have a listing priced, I’m sure as hell not going to tell you that. I’m not going to agree with you if you start to explain why you think it should be lower priced…why would I want to have that conversation?

Honestly, if I wouldn’t be comfortable with my sellers (or buyers) overhearing every conversation I have with another agent or potential buyer about that listing, then I’m saying something that I shouldn’t say and am not representing them to the best of my ability.

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Written By

Heather is a Realtor with Century 21 Redwood Realty in Ashburn, Virginia. She's also the 2008 VARBuzz Blog Brawl Champion, mom to four fantastic kids, and the wife of a golf professional. If she had free time, she'd probably read a good book or play golf. You can find her on twitter, @hthrflynn, or writing on her blog,



  1. Dan Connolly

    November 4, 2008 at 6:39 pm

    I have taken this concept a little further and will no longer give feedback when I show a house. Why would I give the Seller honest feedback if I thought it was priced right? That would weaken my Buyer’s position if they wanted to offer less. If I told them that the decor was wrong they may get insulted and that may spoil some future negotiations…there are lots of examples where my chatting with the listing agent may hurt the chances of my client, the buyer.

  2. Jim Duncan

    November 4, 2008 at 6:46 pm

    Turning the question around – do you ask that question of sellers’ agents when you’re representing the buyer?

    I know I do – it’s amazing what one can find out 🙂

  3. Kevin LaRue

    November 4, 2008 at 7:15 pm

    I too have always wondered why agents ask me and my other colleagues that same question. What is the point of even listing a home if you are going to give away your negotiating skills by telling potential purchasers your thoughts on pricing? I am glad to see I am not the only one who feels this way. I have never responded to them the way you have, but I just might do so the next time it comes up! Thanks for the great article!

  4. monika

    November 4, 2008 at 7:20 pm

    If you wouldn’t say it with your clients standing there listening …then don’t say it all.
    Now when I’m a buyers rep I always ask and you’d be surprised at the answers I get for the sellers reps. Scary!

  5. Matthew Rathbun

    November 5, 2008 at 5:29 am

    They ask the question, because they are representing their Buyer’s interest.

    Kudos to you for not falling for it, but in ABR we TEACH Buyer Agents to ask all they questions they can. I know it doesn’t sound fair, but to the degree that you are protecting your clients, so should be the Buyer Agent.

    Agents ask, because most Listing Agents answer.

  6. Paula Henry

    November 5, 2008 at 7:09 am

    I hear this all the time and it works when you represent the buyer. We always have to remember who we work for.

    If we are overpriced, the market will soon tell us without any input from me, as the seller’s agent.

  7. Elaine Reese

    November 5, 2008 at 7:17 am

    Another question that is often asked, by agents as well as open house guests, is “why are they selling?” The true answer most likely will put the seller at a disadvantage.

    My standard answer to that question is “they’re moving”. It’s not sarcastic, yet let’s them know I’ll not be going further with the seller’s background.

  8. Ginger Wilcox

    November 5, 2008 at 7:29 am

    I think the buyer’s agent does have a duty to ask all the questions, and the seller’s agent has a duty to keep their mouth shut! While you may never complain about your clients, I am always surprised at the information many listing agents are willing to disclose!

  9. sabrina Huang

    November 5, 2008 at 7:41 am

    For the market we are in right now, things change monthly if not weekly. For some area, using sold listings for CMA to determent new listing’s price is no longer truthful (when the sold data was months old and few Pendings). If the seller want their house sold quickly, it’s very likely the home need to be priced lower than the current actives (because they are unsold) and pendings when the market is going downward.

    “I told him (an agent) we had just reduced the price. “Well, that’s still out of my client’s price range. I’ll wait a couple weeks to show it to him until you reduce the price again.” I guess the idea of showing the client some homes that are actually in his price range would make entirely too much sense.” Honestly, when there are bunch overpriced listings, buyers’ agent will show buyers listings that are a little bit over their price range, especially when those listings has been on market for a while. I done that and I watch all these overpriced listings reduce their price for a few times depends on how realistic the sellers are.

    Buyers’ agent and seller’s agent wants different things for their clients. THE question needs to be asked if I was buyer’s agent, but I don’t need to tell if I was seller’s agent.

  10. Heather Elias

    November 5, 2008 at 7:54 am

    Wow, look at all the responses! Yes, absolutely if I was representing a buyer, I’d ask that question too (and probably a few more.) My issue was that this was a fellow agent at a broker’s open, in front of about 10 other agents. He wasn’t representing a buyer in a negotiating position. So why ask that question in front of so many people?

    And Sabrina, of course I look at actives on the market when pricing. But I tell my sellers that the appraisers are going to look at sold listings, not actives….so that data is pretty important. (In my market, the steep price drops have leveled off.) Also, the agent that made the comment about the price range for his clients was talking *significantly* out of their price range, and would still be so with another reduction.

    This post isn’t so much about the communication that happens at the negotiation point, but the day to day conversations that happen between agents that can compromise their clients’ confidentiality..

  11. Lisa Sanderson

    November 5, 2008 at 7:02 pm

    There are no stupid questions, only stupid answers. We just need to *think* before we speak-glad to hear that you do that, Heather!

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