Market Wise Q&A: Why Won't Buyers Negotiate? Seller's negotiating tactics may be reason for buyers' retreat

Pat Kapowich for the San Jose Mercury News Q: Over a 10-day period we received three offers on the property we are selling. However, each time the buyers and their agent mysteriously disappeared after our counteroffer. This seems unprofessional. What part of "negotiating" don't these people understand?

End Sign

A: Oh, many parts that comprise a whole lot of what sellers don't want to hear. Perhaps they don't understand why you still have a sign on your lawn. Or why your counteroffer appears to be the opposite of negotiating in good faith. Maybe it's your listing agent's attitude, which accompanied your counteroffers to these purchase offers. Since actions speak louder than words, your written response somehow prompted three groups to leave the negotiation table - not scoot up to it.

Any seller and listing agent who receive three offers and are unable to create a dialog - let alone ratify a sale - have only themselves to blame. Sure, there are exceptions to industry rules, but not here. It's 2010; low-balling offers tend to be at the beginning of a slowdown, not in the recovery stage or in the colder months when inventory is at its lowest. Plus, your attitude that it must be unprofessionalism only that is hindering your move speaks volumes.

It's time for you and your listing agent to have a serious sit-down. Review each offer carefully. What were the buyers offering in prices, terms and conditions? Conversely, what was the common theme of your opposition to these proposals? It's even more important to reassess how well each party and their subsequent offer were handled before they were sent packing.The seller is a layperson who can reap benefits when following simple rules, even when surrounded by inept agents. Make sure your home is presentable, marketable and the occupants friendly at all times. Don't forget that off-putting listing agents kill more sales than do pet odors.

Meet face-to-face with your listing agent to review all offers. If the buyer's agent is not savvy enough to make a live presentation of his or her client's offer, then put him or her on the speaker phone. Only then will you begin the art of negotiating.

It's time to stop hiding behind the curtain. You're not the Wizard of Oz, you're really the boss, so act like it.


Send questions to