If the Seller Were French He'd Slap My Face Twice With a Glove

Real Estate Agent with Elizabeth Anne Weintraub, Broker DRE #00697006

sacramento listing agentAre listing agents prone to sabotaging their own real estate transactions? It's easy to do. I almost did it. And I certainly know better. Nobody is infallible in this business, you know. I've been in real estate in some form or another since the 1970s. Yet, I almost put my big, fat foot directly into my mouth last month and am sharing this story in hopes of preventing this mishap from happening to somebody else.

First, let me say that this listing was not a short sale. Yeah, I know, people tend to think of me as strictly a Sacramento short sale agent, but that doesn't mean I don't sell other types of listings because I do. In fact, my short sale experience probably makes me uniquely qualified to sell almost anything since short sales often result in what feels like 10 times the work. Not only do I have to sell the home sometimes more than once, but I am almost always required to bring the bank highest and best, so my Sacramento short sales sell at the top of the market most of the time.

In this particular transaction, the home was owned by the seller free and clear, meaning there was no loan involved. It had been in his family for decades, and the seller was the executor of the trust. There were 5 or 6 other relatives involved. The seller confided in me that he was tired of being responsible for the home and wanted to sell it as quickly as possible. We priced it at market value.

Shortly after the listing hit the market, an agent called me. Said he was interested in acquiring the property for his own portfolio. He also asked if I would represent him, and he shared with me how much he wanted to pay. When I heard his suggested lowball price, I immediately said, "Ah, I don't think so. The seller will never take that." I regretted those words 5 minutes later. What the? Why did I say that, I wondered? That was pretty stupid. It was stupid, and it was presumptuous. If the seller were French he'd slap my face twice with a glove.

I do not know what the seller will do. I never know what anybody will do. Even if they tell me what they will do -- swear up and down what they will do -- I still don't know what they will do because I am not them. My fiduciary responsibility is to look out for their best interests, not to dictate the terms of those interests.

I sent the seller an email and told him about the verbal offer. "You can say yay or nay," I offered. I did not say anything else. I didn't push him to take the offer, issue a counter offer or to reject the offer. This was his decision. His family's home, his decision. I simply stepped back.

We're closing today.

Photo: Big Stock Photo

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elizabeth weintraub



Weintraub and Wallace Realtors



Elizabeth Weintraub reviews




Elizabeth Weintraub is co-partner of Weintraub & Wallace Team of Top Producing Realtors, an author, home buying expert at The Balance, a Land Park resident, and a veteran real estate agent who specializes in older, classic homes in Land Park, Curtis Park, Midtown, Carmichael and East Sacramento, as well as tract homes in Elk Grove, Natomas, Roseville and Lincoln. Call Elizabeth Weintraub at 916.233.6759. Put our combined 80 years of real estate experience to work for you. Broker-Associate at RE/MAX Gold. DRE License # 00697006.

Photo: Unless otherwise noted in this blog, the photo is copyrighted by Big Stock Photo and used with permission.The views expressed herein are Weintraub's personal views and do not reflect the views of RE/MAX Gold. Disclaimer: If this post contains a listing, information is deemed reliable as of the date it was written. After that date, the listing may be sold, listed by another brokerage, canceled, pending or taken temporarily off the market, and the price could change without notice; it could blow up, explode or vanish. To find out the present status of any listing, please go to elizabethweintraub.com.

Comments (92)

Ronald S. Accornero
OC Signature Properties - Villa Park, CA


You were correct to withdraw that comment.  We never know what the seller will take for the property. I have sellers that change their mind everyday.  They get in a panic and want to sell right away at a lower price.  Good luck!

Jan 14, 2011 05:03 AM
Bill Gillhespy
16 Sunview Blvd - Fort Myers Beach, FL
Fort Myers Beach Realtor, Fort Myers Beach Agent - Homes & Condos
Hi Elizabeth, Thanks for a terrific reminder that we really need to keep our opinions to ourselves. Glad it worked out for your seller. I will think of this post when I'm in this situation !
Jan 14, 2011 05:54 AM
Victoria M Baker
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage - Reston, VA

Thanks for being so canded and sharing the lesson learned. Food for thought for us all in the future.

Jan 14, 2011 05:58 AM
Paul Armstrong
Realty Network - Laguna Hills, CA
Serving Orange County & The Long Beach Area
Congratulations on the closing Elizabeth! Great point for all of us.
Jan 14, 2011 06:35 AM
Brad Hornshaw
Brad Hornshaw Realtor Lynnwood, Bothell, Everett - Lynnwood, WA
Realtor, Listing Agent, Buyers Agent, Investments
Hi Elizabeth Good post. I actually had it come the other way last week after signing a listing agreement the MR Seller started to shcool me up on what he was and was not going to accept, right away I explained that I would not be screening his offers for him. I would bring all and the choice would ultimately be his.......Brad
Jan 14, 2011 08:36 AM
RhondaHeaslip NanaimoRealEstate
RE/MAX of Nanaimo - Nanaimo, BC

Good post. We can never presume to know what the seller will or won't say. Our job is to present all information known to us to the client. Thanks for the reminder!

Jan 14, 2011 12:44 PM
Debbe Perry
Real Living Carolina Property - Morganton, NC
828.439.3084 Morganton/Lake James NC

Human behavior - still haven't perfected predicting it, so I've stopped trying, shut my mouth, and passed on the information to either the seller or the buyer. You just never know, and it's taken me a while to prove that to myself!

Congrats on the closing and the great post!

Jan 14, 2011 02:02 PM
Alan Grizzle
Chestatee Real Estate - Dahlonega, GA
Full Time Realtor, Lifelong Resident of Dahlonega

I have seen agent ego get in the way several times. We all need to check our ego's and present any and all offers. Work each deal until it closes or the buyer or seller says no.

I have saw some very low offers come in and the seller make a counter offer and end up closing. I have also saw sellers give a lot just to get the deal done. It is their choice not ours.

Jan 14, 2011 02:08 PM
Thomas McCombs
Century 21 HomeStar - Akron, OH

We have to remember that the concept of "Market Value" is a tricky one. When your seller accepts a bid, he has just established the market value for that property. Buyers and sellers, not Realtors, establish market value.

Jan 15, 2011 01:13 AM
Phil Parisi
Sea Flag Homes - Jensen Beach, FL
Specializing in Florida's Treasure Coast

Motivation at work here, price is secondary

Jan 15, 2011 04:14 AM
Myrl Jeffcoat
Sacramento, CA
Greater Sacramento Realtor - Retired

Elizabeth - I don't know how I missed this blog when you posted it.  Duel agency is always tricky.  I've done it a few times, but not lately.  I do something totally unorthodox when I am representing both buyer and seller.  I "try" to get them to agree to meet around a table with me.  I begin the dialogue by having them all sign the dual agency disclosure form.  I explain in depth what dual agency means.  I also tell them that in many transactions, a buyer can only qualify or afford so much, and a seller can only settle for a certain amount.  I put every conceivable comp I can find for the property on the table.  So all parties can view as they wish.  I explain the good news is that because it is a dual agency and I am representing them both, that I am reducing commission from 6% to 5%.  I have been successful with that method most of the time. 

There are times, like you illustrated, that words simply jump out of our mouths.  You're right - we do not always know what a seller will accept, or won't, until written word appears on an offer.  I also agree with Thomas McCombs in his comment, "Market Value" is a tricky concept. . .Especially in today's marketplace.

Jan 15, 2011 07:23 AM
Liane Thomas, Top Listing Agent
Professional Realty Services® - Corona, CA
Bringing you Home!

Great advice for listing agents. I always encourage an offer, even a low one. Better to have an offer to counter than no offer at all.

Jan 15, 2011 11:33 AM
Bill Bentley
Realty One Group - Las Vegas, NV

You would think that this is a no brainer but I am sure this has happened to us all at one time or another. I applaud you for recognizing the gaff and taking the necessary steps that allowed the seller to get out from underneath his burden - as somebody up above said, its not always about the money.

Jan 15, 2011 03:57 PM
Jon Zolsky, Daytona Beach, FL
Daytona Condo Realty, 386-405-4408 - Daytona Beach, FL
Buy Daytona condos for heavenly good prices

Elizabeth, there are a lot of comments, and usually I read comments, but just not enough time, so sorry if I repeat what others have said.

We all do things like that. I also know that even if the Seller says he would not take anythhing below cedrtain number, when you submit the offer, it may often change drastically.

Jan 16, 2011 10:35 AM
DeeDee Riley
Lyon Real Estate - El Dorado Hills CA - El Dorado Hills, CA
Realtor - El Dorado Hills & the Surrounding Areas

Glad it closed after-all Elizabeth.  Congratulations.  Sometimes it's just a reaction, but you're right.  The sellers might have told you what they wanted but what they'd take could change and does!

Jan 16, 2011 11:29 AM
Steven Pahl
Keller Williams Tampa Properties - Tampa, FL
Real Estate Consultant Tampa, FL 813-319-6423

Congratulations, glad you were able to close.  You said the agent asked you to represent him/her, but you did not mention if you accepted or not prior to speaking with the seller.

Jan 16, 2011 02:59 PM
Marte Cliff
Marte Cliff Copywriting - Priest River, ID
Your real estate writer

That happened to me once - I had an estate property and got an extremely low ball offer - As in, about 1/3 less than the list price.

This is a small town and the buyer had been a friend of the gentleman who had passed on. I didn't know that he also knew the daughters, because they had moved away years ago.

Rather than write it up, I called the sellers with the verbal offer. The answer was "We like Tony, so sure, we'll take that offer."

Jan 16, 2011 04:38 PM
Dawn A Fabiszak
Private Label Realty ( Denver metro area, Colorado - Aurora, CO
The Dawn of a New Real Estate Experience!

Elizabeth ~ I liked Doug's comment #2!  We do need to step back and not answer for the clients.  Often it is difficult to do, especially when we feel we are working in their best interest.

Jan 24, 2011 08:02 AM
Sandy McAlpine
Search Lake Norman Homes For Sale - Lake Norman NC

Great points. A lot of times, we take a low offer personally without being un-biased and seeing what the seller might react to it first.

Mar 02, 2011 12:47 AM
Maria Morton
Platinum Realty - Kansas City, MO
Kansas City Real Estate 816-560-3758

LOL As soon as you say they will or won't do whatever, they will turn around and do exactly opposite of what you just said. Yes, it's best not to go there. 

Dec 12, 2013 02:14 PM