The Seller Always Has the Final Word


Are listing agents prone to sabotaging their own real estate transactions? It’s easy to do. I almost did it. And I certainly know better. I almost forgot the seller always has the final word. Nobody is infallible in this business, you know. I’ve been in real estate in some form or another since the 1970s. Yet, I almost put my big, fat foot directly into my mouth last month and am sharing this story in hopes of preventing this mishap from happening to somebody else.

First, let me say that this listing was not a short sale.

In this particular transaction, the home was owned by the seller free and clear, meaning there was no loan involved. It had been in his family for decades, and the seller was the executor of the trust. There were 5 or 6 other relatives involved. The seller confided in me that he was tired of being responsible for the home and wanted to sell it as quickly as possible. We priced it at market value.

Shortly after the listing hit the market, an agent called me. Said he was interested in acquiring the property for his own portfolio. He also asked if I would represent him, and he shared with me how much he wanted to pay. When I heard his suggested lowball price, I immediately said, “Ah, I don’t think so. The seller will never take that.” I regretted those words 5 minutes later. What the? Why did I say that, I wondered? That was pretty stupid. It was stupid, and it was presumptuous. If the seller were French he’d slap my face twice with a glove. I know the seller always has the final word. What I think of the offer has no bearing on anything.

The fact is I do not know what the seller will do. I never know what anybody will do. Even if they tell me what they will do — swear up and down what they will do — I still don’t know what they will do because I am not them. My fiduciary responsibility is to look out for their best interests, not to dictate the terms of those interests. The seller always has the final word.

I sent the seller an email and told him about the verbal offer. “You can say yay or nay,” I offered. I did not say anything else. I didn’t push him to take the offer, issue a counter offer or to reject the offer. This was his decision. His family’s home, his decision. I simply stepped back.

We’re closing today.

While Elizabeth is on vacation, we are revisiting some of her favorite blogs.


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