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The pre-written price reduction – I think you just crossed the ethics line

Photo Courtesy of davidbiaseNow, let me say this before you get to mad. I've done many pre-written price reductions, especially when it comes to short sales. But, where do the actions of the agent and having a pre-written price reduction cross over in to an ethics violation?

Today, I have to say I think one agent I have been trying to work with took the pre-written price reduction and posted it despite his clients' best interest. Why do I say this, especially when it really does benefit my buyer that is interested in this property?

You see, today I noticed on the MLS that the house (Business) has had a price reduction of almost $30,000. When I called the agent about it, he said that they had a pre-written price reduction on the property for today and another one in 21 days.

WHAT? Did you just tell me that? I'm thinking I should have my clients wait another 21 days now knowing it will lower another $30,000. But, didn't this agent do another ethics violation by even doing a price reduction when they know we have an offer written on a non short sale property that is pending the financials of the foster facility?

My clients have said they would go as long as the financials (that the agent has said, everyday, that he will send over when he gets back to the office... and then, everyday, it doesn't show up in my inbox) come back equal to what was said. If the clients tax forms match the verbal of what the business makes my clients were and are prepared to write a full price offer on the property.

We already have the offer written, pending getting the paperwork, and have even forwarded it to the other agent. Yet, we have never heard back from him or his client and then we see a price reduction? At what point does it become an ethics violation? I think the moment the offer wasn't presented to the client or was it the moment the agent didn't produce the taxes that he already had in hand?

UPDATE: Late last night we withdrew our offer pending the price reduction that the other agent told us was coming and receiving the paperwork from the seller.


Respect Realty LLC (Expect More)


At Respect Realty, LLC our agents believe in 100% dedication to client satisfaction.  We specialize in property and land acquisition around the Portland Metro and Vancouver, WA area. We delight in working with first time home buyers and sellers to guide them from start to finish. Our doors are always open and we are always happy to assist you with your real estate questions.


Reach out today, we look forward to talking with you!


Todd Clark and Seraina Aguayo (Owners of Respect Realty)

Respect Realty LLC (Expect More)



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Comment balloon 54 commentsRespect Realty LLC • December 26 2008 12:24AM


Dear Todd,

This may be the craziest thing that I have ever heard of!

I am astounded. I can't speak to this!


Posted by Barbara Delaney (Park Place REALTORS, Inc.) over 10 years ago

that where stupidity takes precedent. We are trying to teach robots to replicate humans. However, sol=me humans act as if they are robots. There is a scheduled reduction, bang, even though there is an offer.

Posted by Jon Zolsky, Daytona Beach, FL, Buy Daytona condos for heavenly good prices (Daytona Condo Realty, 386-405-4408) over 10 years ago

I think a pre-written price reduction is probably ok, as long as there is also verbage that the price reduction won't be automatic if there are any offers or seriously interested parties in the property at the time the price reduction is supposed to occur. 

You gotta wonder what this listing agent is thinking???  And even more so, what would the seller think if he knew how poorly his agent is representing his fiduciary interests...

Posted by Amy Salisbury, West Virginia Realtor/Jefferson/Berkeley (Leading Edge Properties) over 10 years ago

This agent is not protecting his best interest of his client. Yes its a ethics violation to disclose this confidential information to you.

Posted by Chip Jefferson (Gibbs Realty and Auction Company) over 10 years ago

Todd when a seller insist on a higher end price of a CMA ( done in a range price ) and I feel a middle range or lower price range listing price would work better to sell the property, I have him initial that price to be lowered in approx. 30 days or whenever the CLIENT ( seller) that we work for, agrees.

The reason I even have that signed is to remind the seller I felt his price too high.  If the property does not sell at his chosen price, he is gently reminded that it was his idea not the CMA or  his agent's'  This is done on the Estimated Cost Sheet and is strictly confidential between the seller and the agent.  All decisions are made by our clients and kept confidential unless the seller decides what is to be shared. yep.......I would say that agent is walking on thin ice..a big time problem just waiting to happen.

Posted by June Lewis, Realtor Northwood Realty - New Castle,Pa Lawrence Co 7247304571 (Northwood Realty Services) over 10 years ago

I would say there is nothing wrong with an agreed upon price reduction whenever but to disclose that future possibility before it is in effect or when there is a written offer on the table???????? Can you say breach of CONFIDENTIALITY?

Posted by Judy Tuscano, NH Real Estate Professional (Prudential Verani Realty) over 10 years ago

Todd, This agent is certainly harming his seller by reducing the price in the middle of a pending purchase. I'm sure the seller will be pissed and rightfuly so.

Posted by Bryant Tutas, Selling Florida one home at a time (Tutas Towne Realty, Inc and Garden Views Realty, LLC) over 10 years ago

Wow, Todd, this is a serious issue. I have gotten off the phone with listing agents before and said to myself "I can't believe they just said that", but this one takes the cake. Now, to keep yourself up and up, in your conversation log, you will document the conversation and then document the disclosure to your buyers (as you must disclose all known facts). This one could get VERY interesting before it's over.

Posted by Vickie Nagy, Vickie Jean the Palm Springs Condo Queen (Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate) over 10 years ago

I especially like this because I had a client that was very interested in a home.  First showing we went to there was an MLS change form lying on the counter (home was vacant, mind you, sellers lived up the road.) stating that they would lower the price $1,000 every week until the property sold or the price reached $60,000.  At that time, the property was listed for $84,900. 

I laughed.  I told my buyers "well, if this is the one for you, we certainly aren't paying a cent more than $60,000 now!"

Posted by Nick and Joslyn Solomon, The Solomon Team - Century 21 Moline Realty, Inc. (Century 21 Moline Realty) over 10 years ago

I do think someone breached their confidentiality upon giving you the 21 day reduction theory. BUT, there are plenty of offers that don't go thru so the listing agent does definately have an agressive pricing plan for that home.  Maybe it was just a mistake that they did not contact you regarding your offer.  I have plenty of MORONS that just fax the offer over and never contact me after that.  OR, was your offer that laughable?  In this market though, any offer should not be laughed at.  I guess today I'm playing devils advocate.

Posted by Lyn Sims, Schaumburg IL Real Estate (RE/MAX Suburban) over 10 years ago

Todd:  Your story most surely makes me wonder about this agent acting ethically, but it surely does seem he is acting stupidly.  This guy is inept, and surely not working in his clients best interests by being so slow to send you documents, and most definitely both unethical and stupid for telling you about the 21 day additional price reduction.  What a goof !

Posted by Karen Anne Stone, Fort Worth Real Estate (New Home Hunters of Fort Worth and Tarrant County) over 10 years ago

Todd: I think a prewritten price reduction makes good sense; but it's not something that the agent should have disclosed. That wasn't in their seller's best interest (nor even theirs) and I think you just found another ill-trained agent... The poor sellers!

Posted by Matthew Ferrara, Matthew Ferrara & Company ( -- over 10 years ago


This would have to be a new agent or he is just free to roam that is just hard to imagine

someone would do that.

Posted by John Douglas (Berkshire Hathaway HomServices Partners Realty) over 10 years ago

Hi Todd,

So what is your responsibility now? Do you have to report this breach to your managing broker and/or local real estate association?

Happy New Year.

Posted by John Grasty, Your Tri-cities REALTOR, neighbour and volunteer. (for real estate results in the Tri-Cities.) over 10 years ago


What type of documentation do you have?  Are you going to report this violation to the other agents broker/manager?  Are you going to report him to your local board?  Are you now somehow liable if this is not brought to the light of day? 

Posted by Chuck Capan, REALTOR Licensed In IL. - Moline Homes Quad Citie (REMAX River Cities) over 10 years ago

There's nothing wrong with using a pre-written price reduction. Where the listing agent erred is by activating it when there was a pending offer, and by disclosing confidential info. The potential violations are a result of the agent's actions, not any info that was on the form.

Posted by John Novak, Henderson, Las Vegas and Summerlin Real Estate (Keller Williams Realty The Marketplace) over 10 years ago

I'm constantly suprised at how much listing agents will tell me as a buyers agent but this really takes the cake!

Posted by Blowing Rock Real Estate Boone Real Estate (Blowing Rock Investment Properties) over 10 years ago

Such disclosures weaken the seller's negotiating position when the seller's agent disclosues informaiton like a pending price reduction - especially when it is done without the seller's consent!!!  However, from the seller's standpoint, disclosing that another price reduction might be coming, could create urgency on the part of a hesitant buyer.  So the disclosure of pending price reductions could very well be beneficial and part of the seller's strategy!!!  So, when done with seller consent, is there an ethics issue?

Posted by Stephen Howell, Annapolis MD Homes For Sale 443-994-8043 (Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage) over 10 years ago

Hi Todd,

Interesting post.  I suppose that the answers to your questions depend on the seller's knowledge of this behavior.  Maybe they don't want to deal with your buyer ... if they sense that the person is a pain in the neck (perhaps asking for too much info. - info. that could effect tax ramifications to the current seller), they might just be trying for another buyer.

On the flip side, maybe the seller's agent is trying to pick-up some buyer clients and/or double-end the sale.  In a case where you don't think that it's going to be presented, I would either present myself or request that the offer be signed "declined" by the seller.

In MA, if it's not in writing OR if there are contingencies, there is no real deal.

Best regards,

Posted by Mike Hughes, Services Newton, Brookline, Lexington, Waltham & W (Mike Hughes Team - Hughes Residential) over 10 years ago


You are not crazy. This listing agent is not thinking or acting in the client's best interest. Amazing.

Posted by Jon Boyd, Ann Arbor Real Estate Buyers Agent (Home Buyer's Agent of Ann Arbor) over 10 years ago

Todd, it's just a reverse auction. The listing agent is doing fine for their client as long as A) the client is aware of the strategy & B) the reductions are mentioned to all that call, or published/publicized.

Your client can sit and wait, but another offer may come in while you do. What will be your story to your client when they were willing to offer full price, but another bought it for less? Offers are not judged on price alone.

Posted by R Realty over 10 years ago

Well as a listing agent, I have bueyr agents ask me all the time what the real price is. They are trying to see if I have a pre written reduction in hand. If I do, Idon't let anyone know about it.

This agent really did his seller a disservice!

Posted by Joe Jackson, Clintonville and Central Ohio Real Estate Expert (Keller Williams Capital Partners Realty) over 10 years ago

Somebody is asleep at the switch!  Ethics violation indeed.


Posted by Mick Michaud, Your Texas Lifestyle is Here! (Distinctly Texas Lifestyle Properties, LLC Office:682/498-3107) over 10 years ago

Todd, you nailed it, good job man, do the right thing and you will always win in the end!

Posted by Steve Mattison, Vietnam Veteran over 10 years ago

Todd, it sounds like you did the right thing. I did read a blog that sellers were lowering prices on short sells and foreclosures to try to generate competitive offers and actually raise the sales price through bidding wars. I don't know if that works.

Posted by Robin Scott, Broker, CRS, ABR, SRS, REALTOR® - Austin Texas (Robin Scott, REALTOR®) over 10 years ago


          I gather that this is a business sale with real property. In California, the disclosure hurdles for residential are consumer protection driven and much higher than for commercial which has more of a buyer beware atmosphere which unfortunately gets interpreted by some agents as a license to say anything.

          That agent has crossed the line UNLESS he is doing it with the epxress written knowledge and approval of his seller. Unfortunately I am having a hard time imagining a scenario that would benefit them by doing so.

           In regard to the financials that have been promised but  not forthcoming. Big red flag.  make sure they give you verifiable bank statements, tax returns and customer lists as well as verifiable AR and AP accountings and have a CPA that you trust vet them to your satisfaction. The time honored urban legend regarding business records is that there are usually three sets of books. One for the spouse, one for the IRS and one that is real. Cynical maybe, but  I have seen it more than once or twice. It is also possible to do a cash flow analysis and back into a value for the building in the form of a cap rate or internal rate of return based on the revenue the building generates through the business which can then be compared to rates for similar businesses and buildings in the local market.

Posted by Dave Meyer (Remax Real Estate Services) over 10 years ago

Hi Todd. This is a huge NO NO in my office. It's a blatant violation of our fiduciary resposibilty for the client and it goes against the code of ethics, not to mention that it's illegal!

Happy New Years Todd and I wish you a prosperous 2009!

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Posted by Vicente A. Martinez, Realtor, Brooklyn - Long Island - Queens Homes (Prudential Douglas Elliman Licensed Real Estate Salesperson) over 10 years ago

Hi Todd... There's no problem with automatic price reductions. However, revealing automatic price reductions when you have an offer in hand is not just an ethics violation, but in North Carolina, a violation of commission rules (illegal) whether it's residential or commercial, and fundamentally, stupid. The only thing that could pull this agent's butt out of a very big sling is if there are problems with the financials he's failed to send (you said he has them in hand), and the seller told the agent to disclose the price reduction to see if they can get another offer that doesn't ask for those financials, which I can't imagine...and I hope he has the permission in writing. AND, if there ARE problems with the financials, the agent's butt is in an even bigger sling by knowingly publishing false information.

If it were me, I'd rewrite the offer NOW, with my offer reflecting the 21 day price reduction (or a guess of what it might be if you don't know), and ask the seller's agent for the right to present the offer to the sellers myself. That way, you're aggressively doing your best job for your buyer. And if the sellers mention that the price is too far below the asking, tell them you understand that another price reduction is forthcoming. That'll shake out what the seller's position is on disclosure. And since your buyers were ready to pay the original asking price, you probably have a lot of leeway on structuring an offer that is attractive to the sellers and beneficial to your buyers as well.

And, the seller's agent is NOT "doing fine for his client." If they wanted to sell at the lower price, they'd have priced it there to start with, no? To do a price reduction, automatic or not, when you have an offer in hand IS an ethics violation, unless my above scenario is true. And while you have no affirmative obligation to "report" this agent's incompetence (in NC you don't), make no mistake that it is indeed incompetence. Go rewrite that offer right now.

Posted by Charlene Blevins, GRI, SFR (Charlene Blevins Real Estate) over 10 years ago

Hi Todd, I am certainly glad that agent isn't representing me or working for my company. Nothing like showing all your cards.

Posted by Colleen Cooley, CRS - Jupiter Florida (The Corcoran Group) over 10 years ago

Sounds like the "men in white suits" need to come and pick up that agent.  On a serious note the fact that the financials have not been forthcoming would be red flag to me.

Posted by Pam Dent, REALTOR® - Charlottesville Virginia Homes / Horse (Gayle Harvey Real Estate, Inc.) over 10 years ago

Todd - an attorney who held a commission update class here recently said that he has now more cases involving realtors (complaints etc.) than he has ever had before - by far. So if it is indeeda violation... well it can't be good. ~Rita

Posted by Brian Burke, Broker & Advising Expert-Denver Luxury Real Estate (Kenna Real Estate) over 10 years ago

Hey, Todd!  What's that old saying?  "Loose lips sink ships!"  This agent has a major loose lip issue!  Geeze Louise!

Posted by Patricia Kennedy, Home in the Capital (RLAH Real Estate) over 10 years ago

Hi Todd, My mantra is "Get everything in writing!" Pre-authorized price reduction, no problem as long as it's in writing!  Discussing a future price reduction? That's called a breach of the agents fiduciary duty to the client. End of story.

Posted by Marian Gregor-Ann, Arbor area Real Estate (Keller Williams) over 10 years ago

When you start off advertising a property for a price that you cannot guarantee is a true selling price, then the transaction is unethical from the start. You have to be foolish to think the transactions will become ethical. I don't care how much you legal munbo jumbo someone quotes, if a property is listed for a price then it should be available for purchase at that price. I assume placing a price tag on a property that the bank will not agree to is legal since it is the norm. However, in my book it's a lie and totally immoral.

Posted by Anonymous over 10 years ago

These markets bring up all sorts of shades of grey don't they?  Seems like a violation to me.  Short sale agents seem to be less versed in listing etiquite and often just trying to make the bank happy.  My experience has been they like to sell it themselves and often ignore offers that have been presented to give them more time to get buyers themselves.  Hard to prove as they are good at documenting, but I've experienced it.  Good luck with that one, hopefully another will come up with an ethical and fair minded peer.  Good luck to you.

Posted by Terrylynn Fisher, HAFA Certified, EcoBroker, CRS, CSP Realtor, Etc. (Dudum Real Estate Group - over 10 years ago

the pre-written reduction is not an ethics violation (as you well know)... the violation came in divulging that information to you and other buyers.

Posted by Alan May, Helping you find your way home. (Coldwell Banker Residential) over 10 years ago

Barbara - I couldn't to the listing agent either...But, I sure could to my buyer!

Jon - It was pretty stupid on this agents part and now they have nothing until the next reduction and possibly $28,000 less to show for it.

Amy - I think I know what the sellers lawyer will be thinking if this seller hears about this.

Laura - That is what I felt about it, now is it a violation on my part to us that information?

June - That is the only time I use them also, when I have told the client that it is priced too high to begin with. I think this agent may have broken that thin ice and he better hope someone has a rope.

Posted by Respect Realty LLC, Brokers - Oregon / SW Washington Real Estate (Respect Realty LLC) over 10 years ago

todd, not only is is not an ethics violation for you to used the information about the fortcoming price reduction, it would be a violation if you didn't disclose that info to your buyers!

Posted by Charlene Blevins, GRI, SFR (Charlene Blevins Real Estate) over 10 years ago


This sounds like a violation.  How can this be in the best interest of the client?  Did the seller authorize the agent to disclose the terms of the listing agreement?????


Posted by Ann Hayden, (Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Select Properties-St. Louis Missouri) over 10 years ago

Hi Todd, yep, sounds like a serious ethics violation.  What a knucklehead!

Posted by Virginia Hepp - Mesquite NV REALTOR, Mesquite NV Homes and Neighborhoods - Search MLS (Desert Gold Realty - Mesquite NV Homes For Sale) over 10 years ago

Wow!  I'd say the listing agent blew it and your clients have a smart agent working for them.  I would have recommended withdrawing the offer as well.  Good job!

Posted by Jenny Durling, For Los Angeles real estate help 213-215-4758 (L.A. Property Solutions) over 10 years ago

Gosh, Todd!  This is wrong on so many levels!  The only explanations I can think of are: either this guy is a robot who is reciting "I must reduce on this date, I must reduce on this date.." or he has an opportunity to double-end it with a firend who can't pay what your client can.  Sure, the commission would be on a smaller figure, but if he has both sides of the deal he still makes more.  Either way, he has totally and completely discarded all concern for his clients.  Maybe he's just an itidiot.  Either way, looks like your client may get a bargain (if the other agent ever gets himself in gear and gets the paperwork in).

Posted by Susan Neal, Fair Oaks CA & Sacramento Area Real Estate Broker (RE/MAX Gold, Fair Oaks) over 10 years ago

Unless the seller's agent has written permission from the seller's to divulge the existence of the pre-written price reductions to interested parties, he is definitely in violation.  How sad!

Tina in Virginia

Posted by Tina Merritt, Virginia Real Estate (Nest Realty) over 10 years ago

Thta's crazy!  Are your clients going to make another offer? 

I would report him after it's all said and done to his supervisor.  It's shocking that he is so negligent, you'd think he's want to speed it along and get a deal going already.  Strange.


Posted by Kim Hamblin (Bella Casa Real Estate Group) over 10 years ago

Todd- like you said, there is a big difference between short sale pre written price reductions and non short sales. We have all our short sale sellers sign permission to reduce the price every set period of time, that is in their best interest because we are trying to save them from a foreclosure.

It is a totally different ball game when you get a prewritten price reduction from a non short sale seller. You are not supposed to disclose the nature of that price reduction to a buyer if that is not in the best interest of the seller and if the seller has not given you permission to tell potential buyers that he is reducing his price!


Posted by Anonymous over 10 years ago

ooops, That was me, I clicked on the link from the AR newsletter and it looked like I was logged in, apparently not.

Posted by Katerina Gasset, Get It Done For Me Virtual Services (Get It Done For Me Virtual Services ) over 10 years ago

Shouldn't the pre-written price reduction be between the listing agent and the seller.  At the time stated, we get together and make the change? If we have an offer, obviously we don;t make the change? And the agent should not disclose the existence of a future reduction, unless the seller authorizes such disclosure.

Posted by Kenneth Fisher,, Remax Essential - Wilmington, NC (Cape Fear Real Estate Solutions, LLC) over 10 years ago

Patrick Boyle wrote: Todd, it's just a reverse auction. . .  Your client can sit and wait, but another offer may come in while you do. What will be your story to your client when they were willing to offer full price, but another bought it for less? 

My response: I do not see anything automatically wrong with announcing that a price reduction is forthcoming, as long as the seller agrees to it. It can be a powerful incentive for a buyer to make an offer now before another buyer appears. It is a legitimate sales tool, and those who automatically jump the  conclusion that this is an ethics violation without knowing all the details might want to rethink their positions. 


Posted by Thomas McCombs (Century 21 HomeStar) over 10 years ago

thomas, I agree that the jury's out on the ethics issue until all the facts are in. But how can you think it's serving your clients by telling potential buyers, yeah, it's $300k right now, but wait a couple of weeks and it'll be $$250k. that makes no sense. Under no circumstance. Announcing a forthcoming price reduction only delays offers. Forthcoming price reductions are not powerful sales tools, they are realities that discount the value of your property. Please tell me if you think I'm wrong and if so, why and how it's a sales tool.

Posted by Charlene Blevins, GRI, SFR (Charlene Blevins Real Estate) over 10 years ago

Hey Give the Realtors guns at closing and pay no commission because they will no doubt shoot each other.

Posted by Charles Stallions, 800-309-3414 - Pensacola, Pace or Gulf Breeze, Fl. (Charles Stallions Real Estate Services ) over 10 years ago

I do not think you have crossed any ethic line.  If you feel that way which article and standard of practice are you talking about?

Posted by Richard Weeks, REALTOR®, Broker over 10 years ago

I think the moment the offer wasn't presented to the client

Hmmm you submitted an offer to the agent that has not be presented to the sellers sounds like a law violation in my state.  All offer must be presented.

And unless you have the sellers written permission to advertising a future price reduction (which makes no sense to me at all) then in Georgia you can not do that either.

Sounds like they need a new listing agent as the sellers interests are not be properly cared for.  I hope your clients get a great deal.

Posted by Tammy Lankford,, Broker GA Lake Sinclair/Eatonton/Milledgeville (Lane Realty Eatonton, GA Lake Sinclair, Milledgeville, 706-485-9668) over 10 years ago

I have actually seen the following posted in the property description on MLS:  "The property will have a price reduction of $5,000.00 every week until it is sold".  (???!!!)  Million-dollar property, too.  I'd like to think they had the owner's permission.  Possibly a marketing strategy...  Wish I had followed it to see what happened - know it did not sell immediately ;) 

Hope all works out well for your buyer and he thanks you for the savings!

Posted by Carolyn E. Durkin, Realtor - CBR - Scituate, MA Real Estate (William Raveis Real Estate) over 10 years ago

Charlene posted: . . . Forthcoming price reductions are not powerful sales tools, they are realities that discount the value of your property. Please tell me if you think I'm wrong and if so, why and how it's a sales tool.

 My response: In this market everyone understands that price reductions are a way of life. If the property does not go under contract the price will normally be reduced. So everyone can wait for that reduction and take a chance on losing it or go ahead and make the offer now. Price reductions do not discount value -- they just recognize it. So WITH THE SELLER'S PERMISSION it could well be useful to mention a possible upcoming reduction. The idea is to attract attention to the listing and to create a "fear of loss" in the buyer. As you will remember from your negotiating classes, the fear of loss is a powerful incentive to bid NOW -- before someone else beats you to it.

Posted by Thomas McCombs (Century 21 HomeStar) over 10 years ago

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