Vail Ask a Realtor column: Only a fair initial offer deserves a counter |

Vail Ask a Realtor column: Only a fair initial offer deserves a counter

Joan Harned
Ask a Realtor
Joan Harned Ask a Realtor

Dear Joan: We are making an offer on a property after literally looking for two years with our real estate broker. I am not sure who is more excited, she or we! She said something that sounded very odd to us right after we signed the written offer. She said, “We should hope that they will counter our offer.” What does that mean?

We very carefully studied every possible comparable sale anywhere in the neighborhood before we came up with what we consider a very fair offering price. We also have put in several items we think the seller should be willing to pay for, such as a survey, any repairs that may need to be made and several other small costs associated with getting homeowners’ association document information, etc.

We are willing to split the transfer tax or fee or whatever it is, if we have to. Why would our Realtor think that the seller would not accept our offer, and why would she think they might not even counter if they did not accept it?

— Perplexed

Dear Perplexed: From where I stand, it sounds like it is possible you made what might be considered an insultingly low offer and wrote the contract pretty much just in your favor. Not knowing the circumstances, it also could mean that the property was expected to get multiple offers and if yours were selected for a counter, you would be one of the lucky ones.

Since this was apparently not explained to you, I am guessing it is the former, rather than the later scenario. In that case, I think the easiest way for you to be able to understand her comment is if you take a moment to place yourself in the seller’s position. I would guess the seller either studied the market or had comparable properties provided by his Realtor. He may very well feel he is at or below market value with his pricing and then take your much lower offer as an affront.

He also sees all of the things you felt you justly asked for to simply be an erosion of the amount of money he will ultimately receive. As a listing broker, one of our big jobs is to encourage our sellers to always counter a written offer, but most of the time, if the offer is very low (in the seller’s eyes,) they simply tell us they don’t want to respond at all. They would rather wait and find someone who appreciates their property more.

Listing brokers work on convincing sellers that anyone who took the time to do a written offer is very much interested in the property but feel they have to start “low” or they will end up paying too much.

You now can see it is a delicate dance of making an offer good enough in price and terms to intrigue the seller into making a counter back to you. Then, although they have not accepted your offer, you have a good chance of acquiring the property if they are willing to make some price and possibly terms concessions. Your broker is right — hope you get a counter.

Joan Harned is an owner and broker for Keller Williams Mountain Properties and heads up Team Black Bear, her own real estate team. Harned has been selling real estate in Eagle County for 27 years. Contact Harned with your real estate questions at, 970-337-7777 or

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