Handling an Unsolicited Low Offer

Handling an unsolicited low offer. The listing broker should tell you that and give you the pros and cons of taking the offer.

By Ilyce Glink and Samuel J. Tamkin

Q: We recently sold our deceased mother’s home in Columbus Ohio. The house needed quite a bit of work, was structurally sound, and in a very desirable neighborhood. 

My siblings and I selected an agent after a couple of interviews, and emptied all contents from the home. In the six weeks or so before it was listed, our agent came to us with an “unsolicited” offer, from another local agent. This local agent is also quite well known and well connected in the real estate community. 

The verbal offer was for what ended up being about 23 percent below final sale price, with the buyer waiving the buyer’s agent commission. We told the listing agent we were not interested. We were actually offended that he would present such an obviously low price to us. 

I get it, he makes an easy 3 percent, the buyer buys out a grieving family, flips and makes a quick buck. By doing this, it seems like she is attempting to cheat the sellers, many families that are waiting in line who get outbid over and over again, and her own clients. 

Is this legal? And if not, who governs agent behavior?

A: As we read over your question, we felt very much like you: that this behavior has to be wrong. However, while putting a seller in that situation, particularly when the seller is grieving, may not be right. Regardless it may also not be illegal. 

Handling an unsolicited low offer

We’ll start by noting that the real estate agent that came to you was not your real estate agent. It’s interesting to note that he approached you on behalf of a different real estate agent. We wonder why the real buyer didn’t just show up and try to buy the property directly from you. 

It’s possible that the two agents worked together and were looking out for their best interests and not yours. The agent that came to you would get a commission. Then the agent that purchased the home would get a great deal on the purchase. Additionally, you and your family would end up getting quite a bit less than what the market ultimately proved the property was worth.

Having said that, we know of quite a number of situations where family members are eager to avoid preparing a home for sale. Those families are eager to sell and move. There’s no way for these agents to know which camp you fall into: wanting the best possible price or unloading the property as fast as possible.

Broker looks out for your best interests

If you had signed a listing agreement and hired the real estate agent as your official listing broker they should then look out for your best interests.  If a buyer comes along that bids under market, the listing broker should tell you that. They should give you the pros and cons of handling the unsolicited low offer. They should also let you know what they think the market will bring when you list it for sale. Which will help you understand the benefits and risks and make a savvy decision.

Handling bad agent behavior

As for bad agent behavior, each state has a department that licenses real estate agents and brokers. That department takes complaints against those real estate professionals. Most real estate agents are members of a national, regional or local board of real estate agents and those boards will take ethics and business complaints against its agents. Finally, the manager of the office in which each real estate agent works can also discuss problems or issues home buyers or sellers have with their agents.

Having said that, you’ll still need to consider whether the actions of the agent were legal, if aggressive. You mentioned that the person that brought you the unsolicited offer was your “agent” and we assume they helped you in the eventual sale of the home. As you decided to work with this agent, we assume your complaint is against the other agent. This other agent you feel was trying to press you into accepting far less than what the property was worth.

In our view, that agent had no relationship with you, and was able to make any offer they liked. You were able to accept or decline this offer. And, you did decline, and ultimately listed the property and received a higher price. 

We don’t see that they did anything wrong. That’s how the free market should work. 

©2021 by Ilyce Glink and Samuel J. Tamkin.