Why Contingent Offers Aren’t Market Value

J Philip Faranda December 1, 2011

Is a contingent offer at market value? 

Stones in Pound Ridge NY

I have the same conversation over and over as I meet people in the same situation. Case in point: Today I interviewed a very nice couple in a small town just north of Westchester County who expired with their broker last month. I won’t bore you with the details, but it was brought up that they *may* have a buyer for their home. However, the would-be buyers have to sell their own home first. This is not an unfamiliar scenario. 

In many cases, people who have a contingent (as in, they have to sell their own house first) buyer have even gone so far as to discuss-and agree to- a purchase price. When they interview an agent to list their home in case their contingent prospect can’t perform, they sometimes can’t reconcile the recommended list price from the agent with the (higher) price of their contingent prospect with the house to sell. They don’t understand that their prospect with the contingency is not really offering them market value

Market value is what the ready, willing and able buying public will pay you for your home. Someone with a house to sell isn’t able. As such, there are two hazards a seller faces when hanging their hat on that contingent offer. 

The Math Hazard. Buyers who still have a house to sell often have an inflated opinion of their own value. Sure, they’ll give you every dime of the asking price after they cash out $100,000 from the sale of their home. However, life happens. What if they can only get $50,000 out of their home? They’ll have to lower their offer on the house. They can’t afford more with reduced proceeds.

The Moral Hazard. 7 months later, after 2 deals die and 3 price reductions, the formerly cheerful and enthusiastic buyers with the house to sell stagger back to the negotiation table embittered and jaded. They have been through hell and had a huge chunk ripped out of their hide. And by gum, they are going to do the very same thing when they get their purchase done. Buyer’s market, huh? Well, now they are buyers and they are out for blood. How much do you want? Fat chance fella. You’ll take less from me. 

The folks I spoke with today didn’t need much convincing- they were far to mature and understood human nature. But some sellers, subjective as they are, need to know this. Contingent offers are seldom indicative of the true market conditions because the other would be principal has not gone through their own process.  

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