Serious Offers Only

1 and a half russet potato with sprouts. Slice...

I’m talking quality stuff, straight up russet. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The other day, I walked past a house for sale. The owner was selling their home without using an agent. They had a sign in the yard with the asking price of the house, a phone number to call and a familiar phrase –

Serious offers only

I thought about how ridiculous that phrase is. Making an offer to buy this, or any, house that was not serious would be pointless. It wouldn’t occur to me to call these people and say “I’ll buy your house for an i-Tunes card, a five-pound bag of Idaho potatoes, a crocheted hat, and either of the two backpacks I have in my closet.”

It wouldn’t occur to me to do that, but if I did and they said “you can’t be serious”, I’d be ready to sweeten my offer. “OK, I’ll throw in a juggling lesson and I will come over and make you a smoothie, but that’s my final offer.” Normally I wouldn’t offer the smoothie, but the house is in such a great neighborhood it’d be hard to walk away just because they didn’t need a backpack.

Who Does That?

As I walked on, I wondered if people really called and made offers that were not serious. It’s rude and not considerate of the seller’s time or the pride they have in their house. Of course, the prospective purchaser has nothing to lose by making the offer. If you agreed to hand over your house for a candle, some candy and a can of corn I’d be serious about my offer and foolish not to accept your agreement.

Then I recalled Peter Minuit’s legendary purchase of Manhattan Island from the native tribes who occupied it. Minuit got the island for twenty-four dollars worth of merchandise. This deal is frequently used as an example of unfairness. It may also be the genesis of the “serious offers only” warning.

English: , man who bought Manhattan for 24 dollars

Hey dude, do they make that hat for men? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Acquiring just about any island for twenty-four dollars is quite a deal for a buyer. To be fair, there wasn’t a subway on the Manhattan at the time that Minuet bought it. Building infrastructure is an expensive proposition. Peter Minuet knew that. So while his offer was serious, he knew he was getting a heck of a deal at the expense of the natives. I think he justified ripping them off by telling himself that he needed to hang on to as much cash as possible.

Peter Does

Minuet made an offer that perhaps he thought would be accepted. He just threw it out there for giggles. When it was accepted, he didn’t say “wait, guys, I’m scamming you”. Peter took the island and ran.

Perhaps when we say “serious offers only” we should say what we really mean. What we ought to say is “don’t be a Peter about it”.


38 Comments on “Serious Offers Only”

  1. javaj240 says:

    Great post. Although in my line of work — I’m a waitress — folks often propose things that make me go, “Huh? You CANNOT be serious!”. LOL!

    Things like, “Well, if I don’t want the mashed potatoes can I just go ahead and substitute the lobster tail for my free side?” “Why, no, you can’t. But, kudos to you for trying!”

  2. List of X says:

    $24 for Manhattan was a pretty serious offer, considering that the colonists tended to just take the land for no compensation at all.

  3. Blogdramedy says:

    And if you’re not a Peter about it and your offer is serious, the owner will be singing “This Land Is Your Land” on move in day.

  4. Debbie says:

    Perhaps “Serious Offers Only” is their way of weeding out the frivolous? I’m not sure, but I can’t imagine trying to sell a house that way. Just think of the goofy calls they must have to field!

  5. shoutabyss says:

    My dad used to make lowball offers on equipment for sale. He’d bring cash and offer about 10% of the asking price. You’d be surprised how many times people went for it. Money talks.

  6. Linda Sand says:

    We once had a Realtor apologize to us for the offer she was required to present on behalf of her client. She said he had a very warped view of how real estate sales work and please bear with her as she tried to educate him. Basically he wanted to buy our house for half our asking price so he thought he should offer twice less that amount so we would eventually meet in the middle. Wrong. But he was serious.

  7. That phrase has always struck me as odd, too. What offer on a house isn’t serious? I mean if they don’t add this, who knows what kind of offers they get, right? It’s along the same lines as, “Blah blah blah or Best Offer.” Well, what’s the Best Offer you’ve got? It must be a serious offer, I’m sure.

  8. Laura says:

    The next time I sell something, I’m going to put “whimsical offers only” in the ad.

  9. 1jaded1 says:

    24$ seemed like a deal. From what I can’t quite remember, there was more to the story and the scammers ended up being scammed?

  10. “If you agreed to hand over your house for a candle, some candy and a can of corn”—I read this too fast, and now I’m busy calculating how much candy corn I want if we ever sell our house.

  11. Snoring Dog Studio says:

    If you were a clown, but really wanted that house, would it be extremely difficult, or impossible, to come up with a serious offer? Definitely a cautionary note to buyers. Do not show up wearing a clown suit.

  12. Betty says:

    I will gladly pay you Tuesday for your house today.
    (Ugh, did I date myself with that one?)

  13. When I sold my last house, the first person to make an offer, made an incredibly low one. I suppose he felt like he had nothing to lose and one hell of a deal to gain. We turned him down and waited until we got top dollar, at which point, we went across town and offered someone else a low-ball bid, which was also rejected.

  14. kimpugliano says:

    I absolutely LOVED your first offer. Oh my gosh, such a funny post.

  15. I don’t think anyone who tries to sell their house that way is serious. They seem to be setting themselves up for anything but serious. I would like to pay them in Loonies and twonies.

  16. spencercourt says:

    I wonder if he meant “serious inquiries only.” That’s what I often see on houses for sale.

  17. Sometimes ‘Serious Offers Only’ means the prospective buyer must be qualifed already. This means, the offer must be serious, come with a check, come pre-qualified. If the seller accepts the offer they don’t want to be tied up for 30-60 days only to have the deal go South because the buyer cannot actually qualify for a mortgage or must sell their current residence before closing or some equally problematic issue.

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