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Why sellers may not want to disclose presence of other offers

As a seller’s agent, many times a buyer’s agent calls to ask “My buyer might be interested but he needs to think about it. Please call me if you get an offer.” or “I am writing an offer. Please tell me if other offers come in.”

Instinct might cause you to say, SURE, I WILL. Maybe you’ll be able to cause a bidding war, right? Or you really like the other agent, and want to give him/her a head’s up if another agent comes forward with an offer.

I’m here to tell you why this might NOT be a good idea.


1. It might be lying.

CASE 1. Sometimes an agent will tell you they’re bringing an offer, then they don’t. It happens all the time. Agent x calls and says “I’m writing an offer tonight!” You may call other agents who have shown the home and let them know another offer is expected in so hurry up and make an offer if the buyer is interested. It’s coming! Hurry!

9 am the next morning you call the agent and he replies, “I’m meeting buyer at 5 pm to write it up. I’ll have it later tonight.” You call at 9 am the next morning, and agent replies “Buyer got cold feet. Her husband doesn’t love it. Sorry.” Oops. You just told called the agents who did show the property and said that you had an offer coming … and now you don’t.

I had 3 agents show a house recently and two of the three said they were writing offers. One said her buyer may be interested. I told NO ONE about the potential presence of other offers because I knew that by Monday I could have 1, 2, 3 – or ZERO in my hands. One of the three did come through, but two of them did not. An offer is only “real” when it is in my hand, or email box. A “maybe writing it up tonight” does not count as a valid offer.

CASE 2. Agent calls to ask if another offer comes in please call me. My standard response is “I cannot guarantee I will. If your buyer is interested, please make an offer.” Why do I do this? At one time, I used to say SURE. No problem. Then one time it happened and the call came while I was driving. I assured the agent I would call her if another offer came in. Two weeks went by. An offer came in and it was a great, a no-brainer deal. Cash, quick settlement, no strings. I rushed it to the seller. He grabbed his pen and signed on the spot. I did ask him if he wanted me to call other agents who had shown the house and he replied “Why? It’s more than I hoped for, let’s do it!”

You probably already know what happened next. I marked it pending in the system and agent Y called to throw a fit. She said that I purposely tried to sell it out from under her, and she had assured her buyer that she would have a heads up if another offer came in. Her buyer even went so far as to threaten a lawsuit (he didn’t follow thru) because he said I discriminated against him by not making that call to his agent. My mistake. Now I never promise I will give anyone a head’s up. If the buyer does like a house, MAKE THE OFFER or risk losing it. Don’t cry if another offer comes in and you miss it.

2. It might scare away legitimate buyers.

Sometimes telling a buyer that there are other offers on the table, or coming in, brings on a bidding war – a seller’s dream. Other times it backfires and may scare away legitimate buyers who do NOT WANT to get into this situation. I have had buyers walk away because they even sniffed a multiple offer situation or thought it was brewing. The most I will tell an agent is “There is a lot of activity on this property and lots of showings.” That is my fair warning that the house is being shown a lot. But I don’t want to scare away or discourage any buyers at all.

3. It’s not fair to all concerned. 

I believe that it is just not fair to Buyer 2 or 3 to let Buyer 1 see a property and hang out on the sidelines, watching to see if another offer comes in. How would you feel if you saw a house, made a good offer, and the listing agent called buyer 1 to say “Okay, now I have a buyer who has made an offer. Step right up and make your offer.” I think this is a valid reason not to give any one buyer a heads up  on the presence of other offers.

Now, let me end this by stating that I always abide by a seller’s wishes. I ask the seller (once we have an offer) if they want me to call people who have seen the house and fish for another offer or not. I ask them if they want me to disclose the presence of an offer or not. It is the seller’s choice, not mine

My office policy — my personal policy — is to NOT DISCLOSE any offers at all, unless the seller tells me to. Period. I provide no info on other offers unless the seller instructs me to.

This seems to be the opposite what most agents are practicing now. I see more “I will disclose the presence of other offers UNLESS seller tells me NOT TO.” That’s not the same premise.

It is my job, my goal, to get the seller highest and best price for the house. I’m just saying that trying to create a bidding war/feeding frenzy may not produce the end you think it will. It just might backfire.

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