Should We Accept a Lower House Purchase Offer?

Weighing the various factors in choosing between offers, with different prices, different degrees of ease in working with the buyer's agent, and so on.

Question

We listed our house for sale last week and, to our surprise, have already received two offers! We know it’s a great spot to be in, but we’re faced with a dilemma: our agent is encouraging us to accept the lower offer because the agent for the higher offer has a reputation for missing deadlines and trying to hit hard on inspection items. The offers are $5,000.00 apart. We appreciate that in the scheme of things, $5K isn’t a ton of money, but we certainly don’t want to leave any money on the table. We are not sure that not having to deal with a difficult agent is worth $5K. Do you think we should take our agent’s advice and accept the lower offer to avoid dealing with this potential hassle?

Answer

Not necessarily. And here’s why. There are SO many factors that play into making a real estate sale easy or difficult. A difficult agent on the other side is just one factor . . . one that your OWN agent should be able to manage. Dealing with the personalities involved in a transaction is one of the major reasons you hire an agent in the first place. As the seller, you shouldn’t be concerned with the nuances of the other side’s work ethic, mood swings, negotiating prowess, or unresponsiveness. It is your agent’s job to handle these things.

It is helpful for your agent to warn you that a transaction might be a bit more difficult due to another party that is involved, and it’s a good thing that your agent knows and appreciates the added challenge going into the transaction.

However, it is not likely to be a good enough reason for you to turn down money. You said it yourself: This “difficult” agent poses only a potential hassle. Nearly every transaction has its fair share of unpredictable obstacles to overcome. Therefore, you must look at all the terms of the two offers and evaluate which one, on the whole, is the best one for you, recognizing that you may still encounter surprises along the way.

For example, is one of the offers all cash? How long until closing? How long until the inspection contingency is lifted? All of these could be reasons for taking a lower offer based on what you need from the sale. Also, even if the agent for the lower offer is “easy” to deal with, his or her buyers might end up being “difficult”!

Frankly, your question raises some possible concerns about your agent. An agent’s duty is to present you, the sellers, with all offers received, and to help you evaluate the pros and cons of each. But it could be that your agent has gone a step further and is urging you to take one offer over the other based on your agent’s best interests, not your own. Take a step back and ask yourselves if you are confident in your agent and his or her advice, and whether the agent is going to be able to negotiate the best deal for you.

Finally, if it turns out that the other agent goes beyond being difficult and ends up taking unethical or illegal actions during the transaction, you should talk with your agent about lodging a complaint about the agent’s actions with the proper board of enforcement in your state. Being “difficult” is one thing, and should be able to be dealt with by your agent, but being unethical is a whole other situation, which warrants outside intervention.

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