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Inquiry or Negotiation: The Fine Line

Real Estate Agent with eXp Realty

Every seller and their agent should be open to answering questions about a listing. However, when a buyer has expressed that they are really interested in the property, there may come a time when a fine line is drawn between inquiring and negotiating.

Answering potential buyer questions is good business, but when does it become negotiating without an actual offer to present to the seller?

Examples of inquiries might include:

  • Is the home on a septic or sewer system (just in case the MLS is clear)?
  • Does this home have a heat pump?
  • I see the home has an attached garage, but when we visited, we could not find how to access from inside the house. Is there access from inside the house?
  • Have there been any issues with water intrusion in the basement garage?
  • Is the seller willing to pay closing cost?

Those are all reasonable questions, but the fine line is drawn when the buyer's side tries to negotiate before presenting an offer and before supplying proof of funds.

Examples of Trying to Negotiate Without a Formal Offer:

  • Will the seller have the septic tank cleaned prior to inspection?
  • If the furnace of heat pump is approaching its average life, will seller replace or give credit for an upgrade?
  • It looks like the basement has had water issues, will the seller install a sump pump or otherwise waterproof the basement?
  • Buyer's agent says buyer needs help with closing cost and asks if the seller is willing to pay a maximum of 6% of the buyer's closing cost.

Again, these are just examples of real situations where buyers create a fine line between inquiring and negotiating without a formal offer.

Personally, questions are good, and I always invite them. However, I strongly oppose buyers and their agents trying to negotiate items without an offer and proving that the buyers are qualified to buy.

From the seller's perspective, I don't think it is wise to negotiate with a buyer that has not proven their qualifications and refuse to send a formal offer? Even if the seller were willing to respond to these negotiable items prior to receiving a formal offer, chances are once on paper, it may look different than what had been discussed. 

And the answer to those informal negotiable items all depends upon the offer in its entirety.  Which the seller cannot address if they have not been presented an offer.  I have seen too many times when verbal agreements have been made only to have terms written in the offer there were not agreed upon.

Yeah, I get it. The paperwork can be time consuming, especially those so called “timesaving” electronic forms. But if the buyer or his/her agent does not want to put in the time to send an offer, then why should the seller waste time with a buyer whose qualification status is  unverified?  Yes they can send over the pre-approval letter to show that they are qualified, but while they're at it, they can also send a formal offer.

One can argue that offers do not have to be in writing, but seriously who would oppose ensuring the clarity that a written offer provides? Many would say that I am being too persnickety, but of course I would have to disagree.


Comments (9)

Michael Jacobs
Pasadena, CA
Pasadena And Southern California 818.516.4393

Hello Charita - real estate and everyday life is about understanding lines, reading between them as well as seeing things beyond the many possibilities.  Much of this stuff is not taught in any real estate classroom but gleaned from consistent practice.  

Dec 29, 2023 03:18 PM
Charita Cadenhead
eXp Realty - Birmingham, AL
Serving Jefferson and Shelby Counties (Alabama)

Michael Jacobs Class is the theoretical aspect of our learning experience.  The  best lessons are taught and learned in the job.  

Dec 29, 2023 04:18 PM
John Pusa
Glendale, CA

Hello Charita Cadenhead very valuable report for the fine line of inquiry or negotiation.

Dec 29, 2023 05:21 PM
Bill Salvatore - East Valley
Arizona Elite Properties - Chandler, AZ
Realtor - 602-999-0952 / em: golfArizona@cox.net

Very good Real Estate information. Thanks for sharing, make it a great Saturday and enjoy your weekend!   Happy New Year!

Bill Salvatore, Realtor- Arizona Elite Properties

Dec 30, 2023 03:38 AM
Richard Weeks
Dallas, TX
REALTOR®, Broker
Great information, thanks for sharing.  I hope you have a great day.
Dec 30, 2023 05:12 AM
Dorie Dillard Austin TX
Coldwell Banker Realty ~ 512.750.6899 - Austin, TX
NW Austin ~ Canyon Creek and Spicewood/Balcones

Good evening Charita Cadenhead ,

Buyers and sellers have so many questions and we need to be patient and understand we need to help them understand all the intricacies that go into the home buying and selling process. You have touched on some excellent points.

Dec 30, 2023 09:34 PM
Charita Cadenhead

I agree Dorrie.  I am 100% inviting questions. But I am opposed to buyers questions that are best responded to when a formal offer is presented. Two years ago, I had a seller (my long time neighbor) that had come to a verbal agreement with a buyer.  But when the buyer submitted an offer, they changed the agreed upon price to a lower price, they changed the agreement to purchase as-is with no repairs, they changed lenders mid-tream, they extended the closing date, and the agreed upon concessions.  Prior to this, I was already opposed to verbal negotiations without at least a written offer to draw from, but that opposition heightened with this experience.

Dec 31, 2023 07:39 AM
Wanda Kubat-Nerdin - Wanda Can!
Red Rock Real Estate (435) 632-9374 - St. George, UT
St. George Utah Area Residential Sales Agent

Questions are necessary to move along to present an offer but putting a number out there, expecting a definite answer from the seller is not something pursuing, Charita! Writing the offer is an acceptable practice.

Mar 18, 2024 12:14 PM
Charita Cadenhead

Totally agree Wanda Kubat-Nerdin - Wanda Can!  Nothing speaks louder than what's on paper.

Apr 02, 2024 04:53 AM
Roy Kelley
Retired - Gaithersburg, MD

This is a good report to share.

Have a productive spring.

Apr 04, 2024 09:07 AM