Hello Billy and thanks for your post.
You are certainly correct that, in California, it is acceptable to disclose bids to those who ask UNLESS the Seller instructs the listing agent not to do so. "Confidentiality" of the offering price is a common misconception of many practicing real estate licensees, and while most eschew disclosing the prices (I always ask, but am not always given any information), there are many times and many circumstances under which disclosure is a great idea. In fact, I would advocate that, especially now when home sales are sluggish, it makes sense to disclose prices.
The terrible truth about home buying is that there will always be two types of home buyers; 1) those who want the best house, but want only a "bargain," and 2) those who want YOUR house. Over time, the buyers in the first category become the buyers of the second category if they cannot find the perfect home in their price range or are continually being "beaten out" by other more aggressive buyers. In other words, buyer frustration often breeds buyer realization of the true "cost" of buying. The second corollary of home selling is that your home will sell for a "market" price, which is determined by the buying public. The Seller, can certainly counter any offer that he/she feels is too low, but, ultimately, it is the buying public that creates the "market" price for any home. If the Seller doesn't like the prices offered, then the Seller does not need to sell the home--simple as that!
Now, here's the real estate "new think"--there is no reason, in my mind, that the first and second rules of home buying cannot work together to maximize the price for the seller while ensuring that a truly desirous buyer gets the home they want; and the way to achieve this is by DISCLOSING the prices offered to all buyers who ask.
Now, certainly, there will be buyers who deem the home "too expensive, " and walk away when they find out the price, but these same buyers never would have offered more anyway. Then there are those who really want that one home, and they'll start low, but will keep escalating as they know the price and what they can afford. As a buyer's agent, I cannot tell you how many times, my buyer's lower offer was declined when I knew that my buyer would gladly have paid $100,000 or $200,000 more for the same property. They just needed to know the prices.
Here's a good, real life example...I once represented a home buyer who wanted to purchase in Saratoga, California. The list price of the home was $1.8 milion (a lot of money), but there were quite a few interested buyers. The listing agent told ALL of us the price of the highest offer made, and, in the end, the three couples who wanted the property the most really fought for the home, and the couple who purchased the home and who really, really, really, really loved the property consented to pay more than $2.2 million or $400K more for the property. Had the prices not been disclosed, I'm pretty certain that the home would not have sold for $2.2 million, but for much less. So, as you can see, disclosing pricing tends to level the playing field and encourage more "realistic" pricing of the home, not the other way around. And, of course, the Seller is ALWAYS in control, so if the prices are too low, the home is simply withdrawn from the market.
Perhaps this will encourage other real estate professionals to consider disclosing, rather than withholding, pricing to obtain the best prices for their sellers. By the by, in the future, I would sincerely recommend working with a qualified Realtor to help you and to avoid a similar situation occuring in the future.
Grace Morioka, SRES, Realtor and Facilitator
Area Pro Realty-People's Choice