How Many Offers Do You Have? The Power and Frustration of Information.

Knowledge is power. We can all agree negotiations favor the side with knowledge, and information is knowledge. The outcome of a real estate transaction hinges on the information a person acquires. Real estate license laws require agents to provide fairness to other licensees. Whether or not a person is playing fair depends on which side of the question we’re on. Fairness can be objective, but it’s most often subjective. The surest way to trigger an accusation of unfair practice is to exercise a client’s right to confidentiality.   

How many offers do you have in hand?  Why do real estate buyer agents ask this question? What difference will it make to their client if I have zero, one, or ten offers in hand? Is the client’s decision of price and terms to offer (or even make an offer at all) dependent on the answer? Of course, it does. And depending on the buyer’s perspective the answer could be detrimental to the seller. Why do agents expect sellers to disclose the existence of offers? I heard this recently: “Why can’t you at least just tell me if you have any offers!?” You know why, right? Because the direction from the seller is to not disclose the existence of the number of offers and one offer is a number.

Confidentiality exists for a reason. Your expectations of me are driven by your opinion of what’s best for your client. That’s true from my side of the conversation as well. The decision to keep the information confidential is the right of the seller, as long as the disclosure is not required. And that’s a problem for buyer agents who are frustrated by the advantages held by the sellers.  

What information do you want to be held confidential? The existence of offers might cause someone to make their best or better offer. The knowledge of other offers may cause some buyers to drop out. When we don’t know how a person will react to the answer, does it make sense to confirm or deny other offers are on the table?  

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