Buyer: So how long’s the property been on the market? 

Me looking at time:  About 5 minutes! 

If we had a dollar for every time we got asked this question at our weekly home opens, we could probably retire!

Many buyers walk into a home open on autopilot, asking the same 3 questions which ironically have nothing to do with a decision to buy the property or what it might be worth.

It’s not that we don’t want buyers asking questions, we’d love for them to ask better ones!  Here’s the 3 that most do our heads in.

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

I can guarantee that here at Red Fox, we will get asked this question within the first 5 minutes of the first home open for every newly listed property.

We get it – all the blogs on how to negotiate when you’re buying tell you to ask this question – but that’s just because most are copied and pasted and the writer can’t think of any better advice!  

Firstly, unless you’ve come off the sign, you likely already know how long it’s been online.  Secondly, we know that the reason most buyers ask this question is that they’re trying to work out how much they might be able to discount the price.

But does anyone actually make a decision to buy a property based on how long it’s been online?

Days on market actually tell you very little about a home.

If it’s been online for a while it may be that the sellers have already discounted to meet the market; they may have had an earlier offer that’s fallen through; it may be a unique property or lifestyle property that will only appeal to a small pool of buyers. Or, the agent and seller are united in their view on value and have decided to hold the line on price – I’ve done this with some of the homes I’ve sold and we’ve got the result we were looking for.

If you’re interested in the property and trying to work out value, what you should be asking the agent for is comparable sales evidence – that’s far more relevant and informative than how long it’s been on the market.

2. Is the seller negotiable?

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I love this one. If budget-wise you can’t afford the advertised price or you’re seeing value at a lesser amount and want to test the waters with a lower offer, that’s entirely up to you – it’s not our job to say no to money and we’ve got a legal obligation to communicate all offers.

Otherwise, what are you expecting the agent to say? That the sellers are desperate so try offering $50k less?!

As agents, we have a fiduciary duty to our sellers.

The only price we can say they will genuinely consider is the advertised one.

By all means make a lower offer, (that said don’t expect a response unless it’s in writing), but please, don’t expect us to sell out our sellers!

3. Why are they selling? 

Again, I get it, most people are curious and some buyers can’t help themselves, they’re obsessed with the idea of getting a deal.

An old colleague’s answer to this one is the best one I’ve heard and also the most truthful – they say, “Because they no longer have a need for the property.”

Why sellers are selling is their own business and to be honest, sometimes they don’t share the real reasons they’re selling with us either – why should they?!

So the question becomes for what reason are you asking? If you’re trying to work out how long a settlement period they might want, or if they’d entertain a subject-to-sale offer, that’s what you should ask. But otherwise, whether they’re upsizing, downsizing, or divorcing shouldn’t make any difference to your decision to buy the home or not.

So what questions should we ask?

Good question. Read ‘The 4 best questions to ask a real estate agent at a home open’ to find out.

Image by Marianne Bos from Unsplash.