Andrew Wetzel's Musings

August 8, 2021

My Buyer’s Offer Did Not Get Accepted: What Can They Do? Part 4 of 4: The MLS, Seller and Listing Agent.

Whether you are starting the process of buying your first or “next” home, engaged in the process of house-hunting or you have already been denied a house you really wanted to own, I want to share some time-tested advice.  I am going to address the main question in three parts.  This is not intended as legal advice and not intended to interfere if you have an existing business relationship.

Let’s start with the premise that you have made an offer and it was rejected.  You may have had no response or you may have been given an opportunity to negotiate that did result in a signed contract.  If a buyer makes what they think is a reasonable offer and the seller did not accept it, they should have no regrets.   Easy for me to say.  However, did the buyer have the right expectations and understanding about the process?  Could or should their agent or the listing agent or the seller have done anything differently?

If the seller was given the opportunity to review all offers and was properly informed of any possible interest that could generate additional offers and they accepted what they thought was the best offer, who has any reason to complain about the process?  Every executed agreement will not close so it may be best to remain on good terms with everyone involved.  You may get another chance to get a house you want to own, if you want one, but do not assume you will.

I provide my buyer-clients with a few pearls of wisdom I have gained through experience, training and education.  The process of buying or selling Real Estate is typically an emotional decision justified with logic.  It should be treated as “business” and not taken personally.  It is also not retail.  Looking for a house can be a full-time job but it is worth the investment of time and effort.  Your life will get back to normal after you succeed.  Bad decisions are costly and their effects can last a long time.  Real Estate is typically our biggest asset and requires our largest ongoing investment so buying or selling it deserves a lot of attention.

I have already discussed how a buyer might manage their search and making their offer in a previous post.  Those are both important but there is more work required to get the house you like under contract.  Respectfully, you may have had the best planning and preparation and made your best offer but there are still two potential obstacles to having a signed contract:  they are the listing agent and the seller.

As a buyer agent, it can be very frustrating just trying to show properties to our clients.  Add to that possibly waiting for a buyer to decide if they want to make an offer, their trying to assess how to do that and then trying to ensure that your buyer’s offer is properly presented to the seller.  My intent is not to criticize acceptable business models but I do question some business practices.  Article 1 of our REALTOR Code of Ethics requires that we protect and promote the interest of our clients and that we be honest with others.  Not all Real Estate agents are REALTORS.

The MLS has rules and regulations which member agents are required and expected to follow.  Listing statuses and their definitions are a major part of them.  For example, Bright MLS requires that properties are listed in the MLS within three business days of having an executed listing contract and within one business day once it is advertised if not already uploaded to the MLS.  There is status called “Coming Soon” which offers agents an opportunity to advertise properties before any showings are allowed.  There is a publicized date when showings will start.  Those dates change so buyer agents need to monitor them as they should when a listing agent specifies when offers are due and going to be presented to sellers.  There is no rule that you cannot submit an offer sooner than required or that you can’t have it “expire” before they intend to present it.  Obviously your buyer must agree with what you do.

The “Coming Soon” status can be effective with generating interest but frustrates some waiting for showings to start.  Listing agents and sellers tend to like this status as it can reduce the actual marketing time while maximizing competition and the selling price.  Buyer agents and buyers are less enthusiastic.  Should a buyer wait to make an offer on another house, especially if the listing agent of a “Coming Soon” property has not shared pictures or provided a decent write-up?  Is this property better than what they have already seen?  Competition and a lack of knowledge can create anxiety.  However, a major concern is that some listing agents may be allowing some people to  see inside, against the rules, while others are left out.  Some buyers are willing to make offers “sight unseen”.  However anyone views that, it is perfectly fine even if some refuse to do so.  Some think it “unfair” and risky.

Some agents have suggested eliminating this status saying that a property is either “active” and available for showings or it isn’t.  I can see their point but I do not agree.  Even now, some houses are listed as active and immediately placed “under contract”, suggesting that it never got full market exposure.  I think the issue is how the status is handled and that is a “people problem”.  There is no perfect system.  What guarantee is there that every interested buyer would be able to see every “active” and available house?

If you were going to design a perfect, “neutral” system, meaning it levels the playing field rather than favoring or potentially harming buyers or sellers, several things would have to be in place.  I will suggest a few although many will see the folly:

  1. Perhaps no showings should be allowed until a property is “active” in the MLS.  PERIOD.  This makes sense but how do you implement it or prove it was violated?
  2. Once “active”, a property should be kept available for showings and offers for some “reasonable” amount of time to allow any interested buyer and their agent an opportunity to visit and make an offer.  In theory, this should maximize the selling price but some sellers are more interested in a quick sale.  Only a seller gets to decide what is in their best interest and which offer to accept.  Either way, there is no way to force this on a seller.  What about buyers unable to see a house for whatever reason?  Even then, how do you know that your offer was properly presented to the seller for their consideration?
  3. All listing agents should be required to use a third-party showing service to schedule appointments.  I have had to call listing agents to schedule showings on numerous occasions.  That tends to take longer as far as getting an answer and a confirmation than contacting an appointment scheduling service.  Are these listing agents too busy to promptly respond or are they trying to keep out competition, hoping to sell their listings to their own buyers?  I do not know but that is the suspicion.  Calls for showings can go unanswered for days.  Even worse, some listing agents, for whatever reason (some are valid!) need to attend showings.  A buyer and their agent should not have to work around a listing agent’s schedule.  Granted, they have to work around a seller’s schedule but it is the seller’s house.
  4. Many agents have wondered whether their buyer’s offer was actually presented to the seller.  In PA we have forms which attempt to document that an offer was presented but you never really know.  I once had a sealed offer returned to me unopened.  That buyer never had a chance to compete.  In multiple-offer situations, I have been told by several agents that their seller-client reached a point where they wanted to stop looking at additional offers that they had in front of them.  I do empathize!  The real question is how many offers is too many to open, evaluate and compare?  My experience has been that after awhile the offers tend to seem very similar but you never know about any offers you do not actually look at.  What about the time and effort the agent and buyer took to see the house and prepare and deliver an offer?

The bottom line is that we have to rely on and trust each other to do our job.  Technology has made our job easier as far as creating, executing and delivering paperwork than in the past but you still have to print them out and look at them.  Some buyer agents do not submit complete packages.  Some use formats that are difficult to work with.  Do all agents really explain what their clients are reviewing and signing?  Do our clients really understand the paperwork and their potential obligations?  Electronic signing and delivery have made life easier but it has also increased the possibility of a client not fully understanding what they are doing in a rush to sign documents.  Can Real Estate really be conducted electronically instead of face-to-face, at least for major documents like representation agreements and agreements of sale?

My best hope is that a seller hires an experienced, trained and educated agent that has the ethics and integrity to do their job and that a buyer does the same.  If they have both hired the same agent, that is fine but that creates an inherent conflict called “dual agency”.  If, as is more likely, they have hired separate agents, my best hope is that they do everything in their power to promote and protect the best interest of their client while being honest, at least as allowed by their representation agreement, with everyone else.

The simple facts are these:

  1. houses will come on the market.  They may or may not be overpriced or poorly marketed which could prevent their exposure to the full market which can lower activity and selling prices;
  2. some buyers will miss opportunities because their search criteria do not “capture” every real possibility, they simply miss listings as they rush through an email, they are not able to schedule a showing before a house sells or they are not in a position to make a serious offer for whatever reason.  Much of this falls on the buyer.  Many “shop” online for weeks before contacting a professional who can better explain the planning and preparation needed;
  3. sellers may make it more difficult than it should be to see their house or they might be expecting too much from the market;
  4. agents may frustrate their clients’ efforts to sell or buy.

There is a lot more to buying or selling Real Estate than marketing, showings and writing offers.  This is NOT retail!  There is no online “shopping cart” or a “Buy It Now” option.  Again, this is a business decision which is often emotional and justified with logic.  While the public has endless access to data and information, it takes an experienced, trained and educated professional to bring the knowledge and insight that Real Estate sales often require.

There is no time for inexperience, empty promises or false expectations.

HIRE WISELY: We are not “all the same”!

May 15, 2021

All Offers Must Be Received By … and Will Be Presented on ….

The type of Real Estate market produces some creative ways to “protect and promote” the interest of our clients.  The ebb and flow of who has “power” and “leverage” is interesting.  What may work (or frustrate others) in one market may appear insane in another.  That being said, we are required and expected to respect different “business models”.  However, do we have to do as we are told?

Many listing agents use a “Presentation of Offers” form which spells out what they want included in a purchase offer and how they conduct business.  I respect different “business models” and think the concept makes sense but I am left wondering about some of what they expect.  As long as the seller agrees that is fine but some of what I see seems counter-productive.  Here are a few examples:

  • An agent must submit an offer before being allowed to show a property;
  • A buyer must perform inspections before submitting an offer;
  • Do not have any contingency expire on a weekend or holiday.  If you do, add language to the agreement stating that the time frame is extended to the next “business day”. What exactly is a “holiday” anyway?;
  • Offers received after 5pm will be presented to the seller the next morning;
  • Offers received after 5pm on Friday will be presented to the seller on Monday;
  • Offers are to be submitted at a “specified time” and will be reviewed at a “specified time”.

Respectfully, if a seller agrees with any of these or other terms, perhaps that is their wish and their choice, that is fine but some of these make me wonder.  Real Estate is not a 9-5 job although it should not be 24/7 either.  I guess it all comes down to the type of market.  The question is:  do we have to comply?

We are in the hottest seller’s market I have seen in years.  Every house seems flooded with showings and multiple offers which, combined with the pandemic, many sellers and buyers are finding very frustrating.  To accelerate what I refer to as the “second step” to selling or buying Real Estate, the “third step” being when an offer is negotiated, some listing agents are doing one of two things to generate immediate interest.  They start showings at an “open house” or use a “Coming Soon” strategy to make buyers salivate before they can legally get in.  Both can work but may be creating a frenzy that will not play out as expected.  Some buyers are making offers “sight unseen”, waiving inspections and/ or going well over asking price, all in an effort to beat real or perceived “competition”.  Some agents just make their listings “active” and let the fun begin.  Th market will change.  It always does.

Some agents take this a step further and advertise when offers are due and when they will be presented to the seller.  These are bold steps that must be managed.  I find it interesting when a property listing expires unsold or a contract gets canceled and the listing agent neglected to remove language stating that offers were due and would be presented weeks or months ago.  OOPS!

Let’s suppose I activate a listing on Friday, state that offers are due by Monday at 3pm and will be presented to the seller at 7pm.  Pick any days of the week or time frames you prefer.  What happens next?  Compliant buyers and their agents will honor the listing agent’s instructions assuming they will be followed.  But will they?  Suppose they aren’t?  Some agents will try to submit offers after 3pm.  Does the listing agent say NO?  Is that buyer or agent penalized for being late?  Suppose the buyer agent has difficulty reaching the listing agent to say they have an offer or has trouble getting it to them?  We do so much electronically these days so that should not be a problem but it can be if there are Internet or equipment issues.

Suppose I have a buyer who does not like competition, may have lost out on one or more other houses they really wanted to own or they just want a quick answer so they can pursue other options before they sell?  What should I do?  I would submit an offer as soon as I can and, if my buyer is willing, we can make it expire prior to the 7pm deadline.  Listing agents are required to submit all offers in a timely manner.  While it is possible that their seller has said not to present anything before Monday at 7pm, if I were the listing agent I would let my sellers know that I had something, especially if it is compelling.  Suppose the seller says they want to accept the offer that came in early?

Buyers and their agents who were in the process of meeting the 3pm deadline have every right to be upset but did the listing agent do anything wrong?  Suppose a seller signs an offer before an “open house”?  At the very least, if my seller decided to sign an offer earlier than we advertised, I would let agents know what happened to be transparent and fair.  I would not want to waste their time and effort.  You never know, something could happen with the accepted offer and we may need to resume showings.  Perhaps a buyer is willing to provide a back-up offer.

Multiple offers are common these days which sounds nice but explaining them, evaluating their differences, responding to them and selecting the “winner” can be more complicated than it seems.  Are they taken at “face value”, which means that no one is provided an opportunity for a “second chance”, or are all or some “negotiated”?  What happens if they only “entertain” a few of them?  Even with multiple offers there is no guarantee that a seller will get what they want but they might learn the market’s perception of value.  Sellers determine the price but buyers determine the value.

What happens when the “sight unseen” buyer finally sees inside or the buyer who waived inspections questions the condition of the property or what the seller disclosed?  What happens when the appraiser files their report?  The “creativity” that secured a signed purchase agreement does not guarantee a deed transfer.  Real Estate is like 3-dimensional chess compared to a basic retail transaction where I pay you and I get my purchased item right away.  Real Estate provides “delayed gratification”:  every day until settlement may offer an unpleasant surprise.  It is never over until the seller has the buyer’s money and the buyer has the seller’s keys.

Even in “normal” markets, which generally means 3-6 months of available inventory, depending on what you believe, things can get contentious.  While we generally “cooperate” with each other, this is a competitive industry.  Only one buyer gets the house.  Buying or selling Real Estate are emotional decisions justified with logic.  Putting in the time and effort to buy or sell Real Estate requires commitment and exposing yourself to potential frustration.  They are not things most people do every day.  What one person thinks is creative can have quite a different reaction from someone else.

REALTORS have to manage expectations.  We need to explain the process of buying or selling to our clients.  We have done this before.  The consumer has 24/7 access to endless amounts of data and information, including television shows, but it takes an experienced, trained and educated professional to add two secret ingredients:  knowledge and insight.

When it comes to buying or selling what is likely your largest asset and biggest investment,

There is no time for inexperience, empty promises or false expectations.

HIRE WISELY:  We are not all the same!

Multiple Offers: Two Different Opinions

Competition and multiple offers seem normal these days.  Your opinion about them probably depends on whom you represent and your personal experiences.  They do not guarantee success for a seller but make it harder for buyers and their agents.  I recently heard two very different opinions about them.

A buyer’s agent, frustrated by losing yet another bidding war, told me that multiple offers are the result of pricing a property too low.  I guess that makes some sense, pricing it higher might reduce the amount of competition but is that best for a seller?  Would that result in their seeing the highest and best possible offer?  Who knows?  There are a few things I think I can say in general:

  • Competition tends to produce the “highest and best” offer, even if it is not what a seller wants.  When there is only one offer a seller may think a better one will come later.  They often do not.
  • Looking at and comparing multiple offers can get tedious, especially if they seem repetitive.  I have had several listing agents tell me that, at some point, their seller stopped reviewing additional offers.  Presumably, they had at least one they liked but that concerns me.  A buyer agent who shows a house and takes the time and effort to prepare an offer should be able to trust that their buyer’s offer was considered.  We have forms to confirm that but the bigger picture is that offers not presented may be better than what a seller accepts and that those that “appear” uncompetitive may just be a starting point for a buyer who really likes a house.
  • Some agents actively encourage a flood of showings hoping for multiple offers and a quick sale.  There is nothing wrong with that but it creates an environment that must be managed.  What is the goal?  I assume it is to shorten the marketing time and to get the “highest and best” offer that will appraise and close.  The real dilemma may be knowing whether to accept an offer or question whether it will appraise.  What if it doesn’t?  Having a pre-listing appraisal may help but may not be ideal, especially if the market is rising.
  • While there is nothing wrong with multiple offers, I think it places some responsibility on everyone involved.  Our clients must be advised of the advantages and disadvantages.

This agent was frustrated with writing offers that failed and having to start showings again.  Imagine being a buyer who loses your preferred new or “next” home to competition, especially if it happens again and again.  We are in perhaps the best sellers’ market I have ever seen and its major attribute, if you  want to call it that, is that the number of buyers far exceeds the number of available properties.  While this does not mean that every property will sell, every buyer will not get a house.

Another agent posted on social media that a buyer’s agent who writes offer after offer is not doing their job.  I would love to have these two agents in the same room.  While I do agree that some agents do not adequately prepare their clients, both buyers and sellers, for what is likely to happen in this market, every buyer will not be able to buy a house.  There is a supply problem.  Buyers can adjust their needs and wants and pursue a house that is not selling but will they?  If multiple buyers want the same house, only one buyer will get to own it.  Does that mean that every agent who represented an unsuccessful buyer failed to do their job?  NO, but it could.  In a multiple offer situation, a buyer  may want or need to make their “highest and best” offer rather than assuming they will get a second chance.  A buyer agent has to present what they are given but the buyer decides their terms.  Doing the same thing over again is not a formula for success but let’s not assume that the buyer’s agent did anything wrong.

There is no time for inexperience, empty promises or false expectations.

HIRE WISELY:  We are not all the same.

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