Can the Buyer Qualify for More?
"We're about to write a counter offer so I needed to check with you to make sure the buyer can qualify for a higher amount", said the listing agent.
"Yes, they will qualify for a max of $______!!", said the inexperienced loan officer who is super excited to be about to have a deal to work on.
"Clever" listing agents ask this question all the time in hope that they'll get a lender to divulge some information that may land a few extra thousand dollars in their seller's pocket. Can you blame them when their job is to get their seller top dollar? I don't. I've seen some lenders get upset about this line of questioning, and some agents deem the practice "unethical".
I think it's just a way to dig, and while digging is dirty work, sometimes you hit gold. The bigger point, though, is that a lender should be able to field that question in a way that accomplishes 2 things:
- Informs the listing agent as to where the lender's loyalty lies, without being rude, and without divulging anything about the buyer that the listing agent doesn't already know (except for the fact that the buyer is even more awesome than the listing agent/seller can imagine).
- Sets the expectations for good communication with the listing agent, and shows a lender's experience and know-how to give them confidence in the preapproval and offer.
My go-to reply:
"That's great that their offer is being considered, they are really wonderful buyers (and people, if I truly feel that way) and I'd look forward to ensuring it's a smooth transaction through settlement, keeping you and your seller in the loop along the way! Any conversations about qualifying beyond what's provided on the preapproval letter need to be a conversation between the buyer and I. When we go to settlement, my goal is to provide a level of service and communication that leaves you wanting to work with us in the future, and this is the same response I'll provide listing agents when it's your buyer that we're working for".
Many people feel that lenders and real estate agents are a "dime a dozen", but what separates the best from the average is experience, knowing how to handle situations and surprises, and how to maintain solid communication from start to finish. I don't blame a listing agent for trying to discover "the goods" about a buyer, but I am loyal to my buyers and their agents, too.