agent conditioning tactic

If you’re thinking of putting your property on the market, read on and ensure that you do not fall prey to this agent conditioning tactic.

Scenario - you’ve decided to put your property up for sale, and it’s time to choose a real estate agent.

Stage 1 – You invite agents around to value your property

Let’s say you pick three local agents (or more) to drop by and give you an appraisal of the value, and a proposal for selling it for you.

After the third agent leaves, you scratch your head wondering why there’s such a difference in what each one reckons your property is worth. The valuation difference between Agent no 1 and Agent no 2 was $12k, and then Agent no 3 came in at $25k higher than the first one.  Agent no 1 was the cheapest in terms of fees, with Agents 2 and 3 offering similar fees, albeit a good 10% more than the first one.  You are drawn to the lower fees, however you feel that maybe if you pay a little more, you’ll get a better price for your property.

So the decision is now down to whether it’s Agent no 2 or Agent no 3.  Maybe Agent no 3 is simply a better salesperson and negotiator, or has more indepth knowledge of the local area which is why she came in with the highest valuation?  After all she was the one who was the most eloquent in her praise for the property, saying that it presented beautifully and is exactly what recent buyers have been looking for.  Whatever the reason, she’s the one you decide to hire because you admire her confidence that she can get the higher price.

Stage 2 – You put the property on the market

After paying Agent no 3’s advertising campaign fee, your property is listed online and in the Agent’s office window.  The photos make it look really good, and the clever copy makes it sound absolutely amazing.

After the first open day she reports she had 10 people through, but no offers, so she schedules another couple of open days.  After the third open day passes without any offers, she drops around to show you the online stats and to share buyer feedback.

Stage 3 – You get “conditioned”

She starts off by showing you how many online hits the listing is receiving, and then hits you with “feedback” from the buyers.  This will be negative things like “buyers keep telling us that the kitchen is too small” or “buyers really like the property but it is a little close to the railway line”, or “buyers love the property but the garden is small compared to other properties in the area”.

This relay of negative feedback continues for another couple of weeks.  She is conditioning you mentally so that when she recommends that you drop the price, you are ready to do so. The property is now on the market for the lower valuation that Agent 2 came in with.  After a few more weeks of no offers and a campaign of negative feedback, you agree to a further drop in price, to match that with the first agent came in with.   You realise now that this agent came in with an unrealistic valuation, just to get the listing.

Does this kind of practice happen with auctions?

Unfortunately yes.   With auctions, the agent works both sides with setting unrealistic expectations.

The agent might start out by convincing you to go to auction and to expect say $850k.  Then a few days before auction, they might tell you that they have an offer of $760k.  Naturally you’re going to reject this low offer and proceed to auction.  What has happened is that you have been “conditioned” already to accept “market price” on auction day.

The agent has also “conditioned” the buyers as well, by telling them that bidding will start around $760k. Conditioning helps the agent avoid blame for the property selling for less than they originally quoted to you, the owner.

Is this kind of practice legal?

It is, but authorities have tried to clamp down on it by introducing regulations which require agents to justify their selling price by providing comparable sales data.  Unfortunately, though there are agents that still over quote just to get the listing.

You may be wondering if the agent’s feedback is in fact genuine, and not a conditioning tactic.  The way to tell is to review the agent’s behaviour.  Did their opinion of your property change after you signed the contract?  Are they continually giving you negative feedback about your property to lower the price? Did any of the other agents point out these issues?   If your property really does have issues that are stopping genuine buyers from making offers, then you have three choices.

  • Fix the issues (if possible)
  • accept a lower price, or
  • take it off the market.

Conditioning is common tactic in a falling market, not so much in a rising market.  In a falling market, the gap between price expectation and market reality grows wider, whereas in a rising market the gap between owner expectation for a higher price may very well be met, in time.

Perhaps the biggest problem that arises from being conditioned down, is the time factor.  The longer you’ve had your property on the market, the faster you lose negotiating power.  When buyers see that a property has been around for a while, they immediately suspect it is overpriced or there is something wrong with it.

How we choose the right agent

At Resale Australia we have extensive data and research in suburbs and towns across Australia. We have forged strong relationships with many of Australia’s best performing agents.  We select the best agent with the best sales results to give you a realistic sale price, to ensure that you do not become prey to this agent conditioning tactic.  We then work with the agent throughout the whole sales process to get you the best price possible.

About Russell Cotton

I love the property sector and have over 20 years’ experience in Australia and international markets working with Australia’s premier developers in property sales. I set up Resale Australia to help our internationally based vendors achieve maximum sales prices for their Australian properties.


  1. Joseph Holf on September 2, 2019 at 7:07 pm

    I want to sale my property.

    • common on September 3, 2019 at 10:28 pm

      Hi Joseph, if you have a property in Australia you would like help with to sell, the first step is to complete an appraisal request here, so we can provide you with an up to date assessment of its value. You can request that here – We will then provide you with help to get it on the market.

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