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How to negotiate against your clients

As with most of the geniuses who write here, I have been very busy with business recently. 3 contracts and 2 offers on the go tonight, and another two offers coming up in the next two days. Being this busy is a good problem to have!

Being in the middle of 5 sets of negotiations has made me aware of some not-so-sharp negotiators out there.

I just received a call tonight from a Realtor who has a listing we submitted an offer on earlier in the day. It’s a nice small condo in a historic building in town.

Wait, let me rewind a bit.

Last night the Realtor calls me, and practically begs me to bring an offer on the property. He went out of his way to tell me that his client was ‘motivated;’ when I asked if there was wiggle room in the price he said I should ‘bring her an offer’ & ‘I can probably get a deal together.’

[That’s real-estate-agent-speak for “bring me a below list price offer”]

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We put in an offer, at 93.5% of asking price. A recent comparable in the complex sold at 97.4% of asking price. The unit is the smallest in the building, is vacant, has been through an offer which fell apart already AND has been sitting on the market for over 70 days. Good combination for my buyer right?

I think our offer was fair given the circumstances; clearly if the unit was priced right it would have sold already !

Anyways, the Realtor calls me up tonight, after viewing the offer at her office. He asks me, with an incredulous tone in his voice, ‘why did the offer come in below the list price?’

I decided to list all of the fundamental reasons for our offer, including how we arrived at the price we did (and believe me, a spreadsheet or two was involved in our deliberations!). I pointed out that there were no other offers on the table right now, that the unit is sitting vacant, and that other units in the complex are being sold while this one sits unsold, passed over time and time again.

I did not however remind him that he told me his client was ‘motivated’ and ‘looking for offers.’ I didn’t think it would be polite 🙂

He finally came to his senses and decided he’d recommend his client counter the offer with a price below the list price. Negotiation – a novel concept in real estate ?

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Moral of the story: If you tell me to bring a low offer, I’ll bring a low offer – and I’ll get it for less than you wanted to sell it for.

What things have you seen co-operating agents do recently that have cost their clients money ?

Written By

Benjamin Bach is a REALTOR with Keller Williams Realty in Kitchener Waterloo, Canada (home of the Blackberry) and shows people how they can avoid a mediocre retirement by building wealth through smart Real Estate Investments. You can find out more at



  1. Vicki Moore

    December 3, 2007 at 7:26 pm

    Yesterday an agent in my office called for advice. Should she write a below asking offer on a house that had only been on the market a short time. My first question: Who’s the listing agent? When she told me, I said absolutley. You have nothing to lose. He’s not a very strong agent. Then she listed all of the things that he had told her about the seller; all things that would help her in negotiating against hime. Duh.

  2. Jeff Brown

    December 3, 2007 at 10:07 pm

    A large part of my earnings each year are boosted significantly by dealing with, (no offense intended) house agents.

    One of my assistants once suggested we buy a captain’s bell to ring every time we negotiated a deal with a local home seller.

    Sadly, San Diego is closed of to me, as I won’t put clients there any longer.

    What Benjamin experienced is true in 4 of 5 agents in my experience. It will only get worse (better?) in the next year.

  3. Athol Kay

    December 3, 2007 at 10:57 pm

    I get asked these questions all the time by people at open houses.

    “Will the seller accept ?”

    They always get huffy with the explanation that I can’t really tell them that, so now I just say all offers have to be in writing and start reaching for papers with the fine print.

    But I’m obviously just expectted to fold up like a goddamn napkin. Are we really percieved as that pathetic as a group?

  4. Benn Rosales

    December 3, 2007 at 11:01 pm

    The Lord aside, they simply percieve themselves as all knowing, the google told them so.

  5. Brad Coy

    December 4, 2007 at 3:23 am

    I run into agents all the time that misrepresent their clients.

    Recently I visited an open house (first one for the property) were the listing agent (whom, I had never met before) let me know that if I brought him an offer we could have it for 20k under asking.

    This was done without any prompting or telling him I had somebody interested in the property. Do you think he is doing his client a disservice?

  6. Jim Danson

    December 4, 2007 at 5:13 pm

    I have had similar experiences with agents who seem to not look after their client’s best interests. They contribute nothing to our industry. They are just looking for a pay cheque.

  7. Chris Johnson

    December 5, 2007 at 11:19 am

    Worst story–I had three offers from the same agent working–and she asked to borrow money from me that I could withhold from future commissions and threatened to take all of her buyers away if I didn’t. Nothing has topped that in my career.

  8. Athol Kay

    December 5, 2007 at 1:07 pm

    LOL Chris, that’s hysterical.

  9. Maggie

    December 6, 2007 at 3:23 pm

    I don’t know if this is ridiculous, so much as unexpected. Last night I had an offer coming in on my listing, which was priced right on the money for a timely sale. The buying agent gave me a blank offer….and when I asked what price the buyers were offering she laughed, telling me that was the blank one in case it went into multiple offers….then proceeded to give me the “real offer” which was a ridiculous low-ball. Knowing there was a blank offer, gave me the ammo to know that the buyer was obviously willing to pay more. We signed back $1,000 less than list price, and I proceeded to argue my justification. She didn’t argue back (which actually threw me off!), but rather said she couldn’t disagree with a single thing I had said. In the end, sold it for $1,000 less than list because we stuck to our price!

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