Seller stall tactics

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Q: I have been making offers for a couple of months now. In my town, most low-priced listings get lots of offers. In fact, every home I’ve made an offer on, I’ve been up against at least a couple of other buyers. Sometimes, the seller will say there’s no offer before we make ours, but then we’ll send it over and they’ll call back and say that they heard another offer is coming in the next day, and again the next day, so that they may wait a week before they give us an answer. Why are they taking so long to get back to us?

A: Traditionally, the preventive for your problem was simply to set a short offer expiration time frame and essentially force the seller to either respond to your offer, forgoing other potential offers that might come in, or forgo your offer on the wish/prayer that others will come in and be better than yours.

These days, many listing agents and sellers simply disregard or repeatedly request extensions of short time frames, assuming (correctly) that most buyers are not going to be disinterested in a property because the seller takes a few days longer to respond to their offer.

(Note to sellers: This is not always a valid assumption. Relocating buyers who must pin down a property during a brief visit to the area, for instance, might move on immediately if they don’t get a firm acceptance.)

Mindset Management

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Waiting and waiting for the seller to give you an answer is about as fun as waiting for paper cuts to heal. I get that. Understand, though, that the property at issue is very likely the seller’s largest financial asset. Also understand that in a multiple-offer market, it has been shown repeatedly that allowing interested buyers several days — and at least one weekend — during which they can view the property is one of the best ways to ensure that the property was fully exposed to the market prior to an offer being accepted.

In other words, sellers stall to make sure they are getting the best price for their home — not just the first price. As irritating as this might be from your perspective, the tables will be turned one day. You’ll be in the seller’s shoes. And you’ll do everything you can to achieve your own goals for the sale, one of which might very well be getting top dollar for your home.

So can you really blame the seller?

You can, if you’d like, but it’d be a waste of energy. Instead, flip your mindset on this and decide that you want to learn the rules of this game, meaning the strategies you can use to be the victorious buyer even if the seller holds onto your offer for a while in order to collect additional offers. That’s a much better use of your time.


In my neck of the woods, seller stalls come in two flavors. Some sellers list the home, announcing at the time of the listing that they’ll be taking offers on "X" date sometime out in the future. Other, perhaps less confident, sellers list the property, agree to take offers "as they come," then stall once they have you on the line if they even hear a whiff of interest from another buyer — in hopes that their fondest bidding-war dreams will come true. …CONTINUED