For Agents Only: Talk Your Buyers OUT of Writing an Offer

For Agents Only: Talk Your Buyers OUT of Writing an Offer
by Cynthia Cummins
Cynthia is owner and founder of Kindred SF Homes and a top San Francisco Realtor. Check out for refreshing reflections on the meaning of home and for more best real estate advice (since 2013).
Reading time: 2 minutes
One Sunday evening not too long ago, four of my buyer clients contacted me because each had found a property they wanted to make an offer on.
One emailed, “It checks all the boxes. It’s the one we’ve been waiting for.” Another said, “It’s the first house I’ve seen that has made me feel excited.”
By Monday morning I had done my research, communicated with all the seller representatives and convinced all four buyers not to write. I was patting myself on the back. Job well done! Four wins!
In a mentoring session with a less experienced agent, I talked about these successful outcomes, and she shook her head with disbelief. “Are you crazy or what? I would kill to write four offers. Why wouldn’t you want to write as many offers as possible?”
Even though each buyer had a strong emotional response to those properties, in the cool light of the morning – and having checked all the details and investigated the comps – I knew it would have been wrong for me to “sell” those homes to my clients.
Every property had a fatal flaw. In one case it had to do with financing on a tenancy in common. Another had a garage space big enough only for a clown car – but in tandem with another parking space. The third property was going to sell way over my buyer’s budget. The fourth was a house with an unreinforced masonry foundation.
If you think you must write lots of offers to increase your odds of being successful, you’re mistaken. The best agents tend to only write offers if they’re sure it’s the right fit and they’re sure of a win. Meanwhile, they employ some rather non-intuitive, “anti-sales” practices.
Among my favorites are these:
Whenever there’s a strong emotional response from a buyer, encourage them to slow down and let the initial attraction cool. Then consider carefully.
After doing your research on a property, the headlines you share with your client should be anything that is wrong with a property. Emphasize the cons not the pros.
Discover your client’s blindspots and point out everything they’re missing: The commercial use through the block (that is a corner store now but could become a nightclub). The back patio filled with boxes of impatiens (indicating shade instead of sun). The electrical subpanel located outside (which means running out in the rain if a circuit breaker switches over). The listing agent’s repeated mention of the new soundproof windows (highlighting the noisiness of the location). None of these things may be an issue for the buyer, but don’t gloss over them.
If you have any doubts about the appropriateness of a property, argue against making an offer, because you want to get to the truth now rather than after you’ve done a lot of work and after the client has expended precious emotional energy and practical effort.
Encourage them to keep looking in order to gain more context and a fuller understanding of the market and their place in it.
Your clients will thank you in the end – after you’ve steered them away from those poor choices and they’ve found the perfect home.

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