The home was perfect for the agent’s client. Listed at $389,000, the property was close to her top choice school (where she wanted her son to attend). And with the lowest price-per-square foot in the area, it could only be described as a bargain. There was just one problem: The client only wanted to offer what the seller would likely see as a lowball number — $30,000 less than the asking price.

  • Citing data, probing goals, emphasizing the importance of trust, encouraging empathy and ending relationships are among the potential ways to handle recalcitrant buyers.

The home was perfect for the agent’s client.

Listed at $389,000, the property was close to her top choice school (where she wanted her son to attend). And with the lowest price-per-square foot in the area, it could only be described as a bargain.

There was just one problem: The client only wanted to offer what the seller would likely see as a lowball number — $30,000 less than the asking price.

“I feel bad for her, as she is probably going to lose on her near-perfect home by thinking she can lowball these sellers,” said the agent, who was able to persuade the buyer to submit a higher offer — albeit one that he still considers insufficient — on the home.

“She is a smart lady, but just has it in her mind that she can offer much lower than list.”

Clients like this pose a frequent challenge to real estate agents, but not one that’s insurmountable.

Here are 10 ways to handle buyers who aren’t willing to cough up enough to lock down a home.

1. Tell the buyer it’s not a buyer’s market

Housing inventory remains anemic, and multiple-offer situations are par for the course in many markets.

Given that reality, agents can argue against lowball offers by emphasizing that the cards are stacked against buyers, some agents said in the Facebook group Lead Gen Scripts and Objections.

“Is this not a home that you and your family would enjoy? Yes? Then let’s place a reasonable offer that would get your family into this home,” Tom Olsewski, a Winchester, California-based Realtor, will tell buyers after explaining that today’s market favors sellers, not buyers.

2. Cite data

Presenting a market’s list-to-sales price ratio can be a great way to show buyers that an offer doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.

“Right now, in this neighborhood, homes are selling for an average of 99.3 percent (or whatever the neighborhood average [is]) of the list price,” Nolensville, Tennessee-based Realtor Rob Foglia advises telling buyers who want to make flimsy offers.

“Coming in at $30,000 below list, we are coming in 15 percent below,” he said, referring to a hypothetical case where an agent could cite a list-to-sales price ratio to argue against an offer.

Agents might also show the asking prices and purchase prices of homes they’ve sold personally. That way, buyers can see real-life examples of transactions whose sales price are much closer to their listing price than what the buyer is shooting for.

3. Put the buyer in the seller’s shoes

Encouraging a buyer to empathize with a seller is another way to strengthen a weak offer.

Sean Carpenter, a Columbus, Ohio-based Realtor, asks some buyers a straightforward question: “If you were the seller, would you accept this offer?”

If a buyer answers “no,” he highlights the contrast between this acknowledgement and the buyer’s offer.

“So that I understand correctly, you wouldn’t even accept your own offer? So do you still want to submit an offer of [the unrealistic offer]?” Carpenter said he might tell a buyer in the Facebook group Inman Coast to Coast.

4. ‘I don’t think this is the right home for you’

This one-liner may cut to the heart of the issue: It conveys that, if buyers truly want a home, they will simply need to offer more. End of story.

“It’s a play on the whole scarcity tactic,” said Jay Lieberman, an Agoura Hills, California-based agent.

Winchester, Massachusetts-based Realtor Lissa Deminie argues that a buyer simply hasn’t found the right home yet if he or she insists on a flimsy offer.

“When they do [find the right home], they will pay the right price rather than lose it,” she said.

5. ‘You have to trust me’ 

If a buyer pushes back when told an offer is unrealistically low, agents should consider emphasizing the importance of trust in a client-agent relationship, some agents say.

“I flat-out asked them if they trusted me to advise them on not just ‘searching for’ and ‘bidding on’ but closing on a home that was suitable for them,” Teresa Keeler said about some buyers she was able to persuade to make more competitive offers.

The question helps Keeler, a Souderton, Pennsylvania-based agent, uncover buyers’ hangups, which often stem from fear or bad experiences with past agents, she said.

By talking through these issues, Keeler says she can win the confidence of some clients.

6. Discuss the offer with listing agent?

If a buyer’s agent can figure out whether a seller has already rejected an offer that’s higher than the price his buyer is after, the agent may be able to use that information to persuade a buyer to strengthen an offer, according to Steve Weiss, a San Luis Obispo, California-based broker-owner.

“Most of the [listing] agents will be forthcoming with that information, especially if they know me,” Weiss said in the Facebook group Inman Coast to Coast.

“I just used this practice this past weekend and we’re still verbally negotiating today and currently $25,000 apart,” he added. “We were $75,000.”

But Weiss cautioned this tactic isn’t a “one-size-fits-all.”

Phil Faranda, a Briarcliff Manor, New York broker-owner, says a buyer’s agent who decides to discuss an offer verbally tosses away the ability to provide documentation that shows that “while price may not be their strong point, terms could be.”

“The biggest mistake I see with buyer’s agents making a lowball offer is they do not treat them with the same care and discretion as strong offers, making the offers all the more weak,” Faranda said.

7. Let the buyer lose

Some buyers need to lose out on a home to understand that they will have to pony up more to win one, some agents say.

Los Angeles-based Realtor Andi Grant tells buyers early on that she’s willing to let them “get one lowball offer out of their system.”

As suggested above, Brandon Doyle, a Minnesota-based Realtor, shows the local average list-to-sales price ratio if a buyer’s proposed offer seems to ignore market conditions.

“If they still want to come in low, we let them lose one,” he said.

And if that experience doesn’t teach a buyer to be more realistic, then “we have a serious conversation about their motivation and determine if it’s worth continuing the relationship.”

8. Probe a buyer’s commitment

Indeed, if buyers persistently brush aside evidence that suggests their offers are non-starters, that might indicate that they aren’t serious about securing a property anytime soon.

Probing this possibility can help agents decide whether they should consider moving on. But it may also impart enough of a sense of urgency to finally spark an attitude shift in a buyer.

“I feel like you are more interested in home shopping than homebuying…am I wrong?” Daniel McCoy, a Parker, Colorado-based agent may ask some buyers. He is only interested in helping buyers purchase a home, he will add.

Andy Brown, a Tulsa, Oklahoma-based Realtor, frames the home search for a buyer as either “shopping for bargains” or “looking for a move-in ready home that matches all your wants and needs.”

“If you are bargain-hunting, I can help you find a project that you can get at that price,” he said, implying that otherwise the buyer will have to offer more.

9. Fire them? 

If all else fails, agents may need to cut a client loose.

“I am only interested in helping you actually close on a home, so if you do not want my experienced advice, I am afraid I cannot be of service to you,” McCoy has told a buyer.

Seattle, Washington-based Realtor Kim Mulligan said she recently told a buyer, “If you don’t trust me or my advice, this isn’t going to work and you should find someone you do trust.”

The buyer took offense and the two parted ways, but Mulligan said she felt a great sense of relief.

“The best way to succeed in this business is to cut your losses and to know when to cut them,” said South Hadley, Massachusetts, Realtor Stacy Ashton.

10. Send the buyer to a competitor for a referral fee 

Rather than merely dropping stubborn buyers, agents may be able to ultimately get some money for their time by directing them to another agent in exchange for a potential referral fee.

Newer agents who are trying to build a critical mass of clients or those who have time on their hands are good candidates for these referrals, agents say.

Mt. Juliet, Tennessee-based Realtor Juanita Anderton advises gauging upfront whether buyers are willing to make reasonable offers. “If not, refer them to another less-busy agent and hope they eventually close so that you make some $$,” she said.

Editor’s note: Some responses curated from social media have been lightly edited for clarity.

Email Teke Wiggin.

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