You're dealing with a representative of the seller, that is, the listing agent's responsibility is to do everything within their power (honestly and fairly) to get the most money for the seller. They have all of the information. If you are not using an agent, or someone with access to the same data as the listing agent, then you basically have no reliable information about what the home is worth.
While you and I would like to believe the listing agent is complying with their code of ethics, I often find myself wondering if that is really true. If they say there are many people wanting to make an offer on the home, and the home just came on the market today, then wait a couple of days. Then you'll know what you're dealing with. Either the house will go under contract or it won't. If it doesn't, you know you can no longer trust anything the listing agent says, period! And you only need to wait 2 or 3 days at the most to prove your case.
If it does go under contract, did you really want to get into a bidding war over a piece of real estate? That's what gets people into trouble in the first place.
The seller signed a listing contract with the listing agent that specified a commission to be paid. If you don't have your own agent, then 2 bad things happen. No one is looking out for your interests, and the listing agent is going to pocket money that could have gone to someone who could look out for your interests.
Go find yourself a really good buyers agent to represent you. Ask them to determine what the property is worth based on the available information (most of which you don't really have). Then have them negotiate on your behalf.
It's often difficult deciding what is a good offer to make when you find a house you like.
Before you make offers, you have to know your maximum financing amount/purchase price. Certainly, you must pay closer attention to your own bottom line than to what the agent or the seller wants.
First things first: when making an offer, focus on what your monthly payment will be for the mortgage financing, including taxes and insurance. If that payment is within your means, then your Mortgage Banker will determine the maximum loan/purchase price for you based on all the factors of the monthly payment, your down payment and your mortgage qualifications.
Begin making an offer with the following standards:
1. WISH LIST. Does the home meet MOST of the requirements from your Dream-Home-Wish-List? The Dream Home exists only in our minds; it's NOT out there waiting for you to stumble across it one Saturday afternoon. But you can find the right home using your Wish List. When you find the home that meets most of your requirements from the wish list, then it's time to make an offer.
2. FORGET LIST PRICE. Based on your own research, shopping in your chosen area, select the price you're most comfortable with, regardless of list price/asking price. In other words, you'll find a home listed at $268,000, but you've seen at least a dozen other similarly constructed homes in the immediate area priced or sold at $235,000. What makes this home so special that it's priced $33,000 more than the average price? Remember, your Lender will appraise the home based on similar homes and those prices.
3. MAXIMUM OFFER. Never exceed the price based on your mortgage qualifications, no matter how much you LOVE the home. You have to be able to afford the payment for the next thirty years. That in-ground swimming pool you love isn't going to pay the mortgage for you!
4. OFFERS ARE NOT PERSONAL. An offering price can NEVER be misconstrued as an insult to the homeowner. This is business; you're not going to hurt anyone's feelings! Make the offer based on a price you're most comfortable with!
5. OPENING OFFER. NEVER open with your maximum offering price. Test the waters with your opening bid: you want to see if this Seller is a SERIOUS Seller who understands this is a BUYER'S MARKET. If there's no reaction to your offer---assuming the price you offered is within the reasonable range of current market prices---you may be wasting your time with this home/Seller. It might be time to move on to another home.
See my "Five Steps To Making An Offer" for the best way to negotiate on your home purchase.
Go ahead and ask this broker if your offer has been dismissed? I personally hate it when brokers try to tell me and my seller that you should put in a higher offer because we have interest and people want to put offers. "I don't care that they WANT TO place offers, until they do, don't tell me that you have any real interest". I'm sure that some brokers are softer and play around, I don't. If they have a real offer which is higher than yours, the selling broker has to tell you that they had another offer and if you have any chance left, your offer would need to match theirs ( if you have better financials ) or you would have to make an offer that is above the other buyer.
Don't get into that WANT TO MAKE OFFERS game. Some properties that supposedly people wanted to make offers on that I saw, are still sitting out there with out any real offers.
Best of Luck.
I can not emphasize strongly enough that you should have a Realtor assisting you with this transaction and looking out for you, not the Vendor.
I think my colleagues have offered some great insights into how to handle your current dilemna. However, I think it fitting to bring to your attention that a code of ethics by the National Association of Realtors does not supercede Article 12A of the Real Property Law in New York State, which stipulates that an agent owes their client undivided loyalty, among 5 other duties that comprise their fiduciary role.
You should make your offer in writing, accompanied with your lender pre-qual or pre-approval. Request the seller's agent to furnish his disclosure of agency relationship, indicating the seller has retained him/her as his agent. Request copies of the documents you sign, as well as a copy of the agency disclosure and request an answer to your proposed offer to purchase by no later than 72 hours.
This should help you arrive at a reasonable conclusion of the Agent's capacity, as well as the seller's motiviation.
As for whether many people want to make an offer: Maybe, but unlikely. If the price is really terrific, it's possible. But what that sounds like is that the agent hasn't received any offers. If people want to make offers, then they make offers. And you have to listen very carefully to what some agents say. For example: "I'm expecting some offers to come in on this property." Well, sure. You may interpret that as meaning "come in today or tomorrow." If the agent has a 6 month listing, the agent technically may be saying "some offers to come in within the next 6 months, probably after we reduce the price." Big difference.
As for the agent telling you that you "have to" put in an offer near the asking price....absolutely not. You can put in any offer you want. It's up to the seller to decide whether your offer is acceptable to him/her. And without any other offers on the table, in reality you're not competing against anyone.
What you need to do is determine the real value of the property. You say you've done "searches" indicating that the price is "very fair." And you may well be right. But your agent will be able to give you a second, very informed, opinion.
There is no way of really knowing whether this agent is telling you the truth, I would highly recommend having an agent represent your interests though. Good Luck.