What Not to Tell Your Listing Agent

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When it comes to selling your house, a listing agent can be a valuable asset. They can help you attract more buyers, show your house, screen potential buyers, and negotiate offers. However, there are certain pieces of personal and financial information that you should keep from your agent to avoid compromising your final sale price. In some cases, seemingly harmless advice can actually end up hurting you. Keep reading to find out when it’s best to stay quiet while working with your listing agent.

Once you sign an agreement with your listing agent, they are legally obligated to represent only your interests in all negotiations. This obligation, known as “fiduciary duty,” should prevent your agent from compromising your final sale price. However, there are still several things you should avoid telling your agent to minimize the risk of buyers or other agents finding out.

10: Don’t Insist on Your Dream Price

Never tell your agent you won’t reduce the sale price on your house.

While it may be tempting to set a listing price based on your ideal profit, this can be a mistake. Listing agents aim to sell your home at a fair market value, and expecting too much can have negative consequences. If you tell your agent that you’ll only sell for your dream price, they may decline to take your business or waste your time. Houses priced above market tend to stay listed for longer, resulting in lower final sale prices. It’s better to listen to your agent’s advice about what the market will bear.

9: Only Consider Serious Offers

As a seller, it is important to receive all offers that come your way, no matter how small they may seem. However, if you inform your listing agent that you only want to hear offers above a certain price, the agent may not inform you of lower offers. This could be due to unscrupulous agents looking for a higher commission or even trustworthy agents who believe they are acting in your best interest. It is essential to ensure that your agent knows that you want to hear all offers, regardless of their value. Even low offers can be negotiated and turned into acceptable ones in a buyer’s market. Rejecting these offers can also lead to informed decisions about whether to lower the listing price.

8: Let Buyers View the Home Without You

Although it may be tempting to be present during every showing of your home, it is better to allow buyers to view the property without you. This can prevent discomfort on the part of the potential buyers who may not be comfortable with the seller standing next to them while they tour the home. Additionally, it can prevent hurt feelings on your part if a buyer makes a negative comment about your home. Be ready to leave the home at a moment’s notice when an agent calls with a prospective showing.

7: Don’t Assume You Have Plenty of Time to Sell

The longer a home stays on the market, the lower its final sales price will be. If you assume that you have plenty of time to sell your home, your listing agent may not put in as much effort to sell it. This could result in a longer time on the market and a lower final sales price. Your initial listing agreement should last a maximum of three months, after which you can renew the agreement or find another agent.

6: Selling Due to Divorce

It’s not wise to reveal that you’re selling your home because of a divorce.

While chatting with a listing agent, it may be tempting to mention that you’re selling because of a divorce. However, this can be detrimental as buyers may perceive you as desperate and offer a price well below the listing price, hoping that you’ll accept it. Listing agents may bring up the topic during showings or even as inter-office gossip, which can decrease the final price of your home. Therefore, it’s better not to disclose your reasons for selling due to a divorce.

5: Selling Due to Financial Problems

It’s not advisable to inform buyers or agents that you’re selling your home due to financial difficulties.

If you lost your job or are facing financial hardship, it’s not wise to share this with the listing agent as buyers may try to take advantage of your situation and offer a below-market price. Some agents may advertise your home as being sold by a “motivated seller,” which signals that you’ll accept a lower offer. It’s better to keep your financial problems to yourself to avoid any exploitation by buyers. Sharing financial distress before signing a listing agreement could also scare away a skilled agent who could secure a good closing price.

4: Selling Due to Serious Illness

If you need to sell your home due to a serious illness, it’s best to approach it as you usually would to ensure that you get the best price. Even if a listing agent is sensitive to your situation, they might show too much urgency to sell in listings, ads, and during showings and open houses. It’s not advisable to insist on a shorter contract term, despite your urgent situation, as most agents don’t think that gives them long enough to realistically make a sale.

3: A Death Occurred on the Property

While homeowners are legally obligated to disclose all material information about a house to a buyer prior to closing, information like a death that occurred on your property is different. Homeowners are not required to disclose this information to the listing agent, although it does need to be disclosed eventually to the buyer.

When selling a house, there may be legal requirements regarding disclosure of certain information to potential buyers and listing agents. Some states require disclosure of deaths under certain conditions, such as if it occurred due to safety issues in the house or within a certain timeframe. However, some states have restrictions on disclosing AIDS-related deaths or gruesome deaths that made headlines due to anti-discrimination laws. If there is no legal obligation to disclose a death, it may be wise to keep this information private to avoid any mistakes made by the listing agent. Nevertheless, it would be best to consult an attorney to ensure that withholding this information would not lead to any liability in your state.

It is illegal to specify certain types of buyers when selling a house. Federal equal housing laws prohibit discrimination based on protected statuses such as race, sex, religion, family makeup, national origin, and disability. Even if it seems harmless to request a churchgoing family or a family with children, it can still be viewed as discrimination and lead to legal action. Additionally, some states have even stricter discrimination laws that cover political party affiliation, sexual orientation, criminal record, and public assistance. It is vital to avoid giving instructions to the listing agent that could be interpreted as discriminatory and to treat all potential buyers equally.

1: What to Consider Before Signing a Contract with a Listing Agent

Before you finalize your decision to sign a contract with a listing agent, it is important to keep your personal information confidential. During your initial search, you will meet with several agents and discuss the market and your property. However, you should avoid making any oral agreements before signing a formal listing agreement. This agreement ensures that the agent exclusively represents you in the transaction and that you pay them a commission after the deal is closed. Without this agreement, disclosing personal information about yourself, your home, and your financial situation could be risky. If you decide not to sign with that agent, they may share your information with others, which could harm your ability to negotiate the best deal.

Originally Published: Nov 22, 2010

Agent Etiquette: Frequently Asked Questions

A listing agent is a professional in the real estate industry who represents the seller in a transaction, working under the obligation of “fiduciary duty” to sell the home. The term “listing agent” refers specifically to an agent who is representing a seller who is listing their home for sale, as opposed to a selling agent who represents a buyer.

Listing agents are paid by the seller of the home through a commission, which is generally split between the listing agent and the selling agent. On average, this commission is between 5 and 6 percent of the final sales price of the home.

Using a listing agent to sell a home can often result in a higher final sales price and a smoother process. It is easy to find out who the listing agent is if you’re searching for real estate online, as most websites state exactly who the listing agent is on the listing page. Alternatively, you can contact your agent (the selling agent) to ask them, as they have access to information that you may not be privy to.

For more information on real estate, check out the related articles listed below. You can also find more great links, as well as sources for this article.

“Price Strategies for Any Market” is an article published on Realty Times on April 9, 2010. The article discusses various pricing strategies that can be applied in any market. The link to the article is available at http://realtytimes.com/rtpages/20100409_pricing.htm and was accessed on November 9, 2010.


1. Can you lower your commission?

Asking the listing agent to lower their commission is not only disrespectful, but it also shows that you don’t understand the value they bring to the table. Real estate agents work hard to market and sell your property, and their commission is how they get paid for their time and effort.

2. How long has the property been on the market?

While it’s important to know how long a property has been on the market, asking the listing agent can give them the upper hand in negotiations. If a property has been on the market for a long time, the seller may be more willing to accept a lower offer. However, if the listing agent knows you’re desperate to buy, they may use this information to their advantage and drive up the price.

3. Why are the sellers selling?

Asking why the sellers are selling can give you valuable insight into the property’s history, but it’s important to remember that the listing agent is working on behalf of the seller. They may not be able to disclose certain information, such as the seller’s financial situation or personal reasons for selling. It’s best to do your own research and make an informed decision based on the facts.

4. What’s the lowest the seller will go?

Asking the listing agent for the seller’s bottom line is a common mistake. The listing agent’s job is to get the best price for their client, and they’re not going to give up this information without a fight. Instead, do your own research and come up with a fair offer based on the property’s value and your budget.

5. How much did the seller pay for the property?

The price the seller paid for the property is irrelevant to the current market value. Asking the listing agent for this information is not only rude, but it can also make you look inexperienced. Instead, focus on the property’s current market value and what you’re willing to pay for it.

6. Can I make a lowball offer?

While everyone wants to get a good deal, making a lowball offer can be insulting to the seller and their agent. It’s important to make a fair offer based on the property’s value and your budget. If you’re not sure what a fair offer would be, do your research and consult with your own real estate agent.

7. Can I see the property without you?

Asking to see the property without the listing agent present can be a red flag. The listing agent is there to represent the seller and ensure that the property is being shown to serious buyers. If you want to see the property on your own, it’s best to work with your own real estate agent and schedule a private showing.

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