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 22, 2021

My Buyer’s Offer Did Not Get Accepted; What Can They Do? Part 3 of 4: The Offer

Whether you are starting the process of buying your first or your “next” home, actively engaged in 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 cover this from four perspectives.  This is part 3 of 4.  This is a broad topic with no “one size fits all” answers.  My advice comes with two disclaimers:  this is not intended as legal advice and it is not meant to interfere if you have an existing business relationship.

Let me start with the premise that a buyer or you made an offer and it was rejected.  If a buyer makes what they think is a reasonable offer and the seller does not accept it, they should have no regrets.  Easy for me to say.  If yours was the only offer, I would assume that you had a chance to negotiate with the owner but could not reach a mutually beneficial solution.  If you were competing with other buyers, only one offer could win.  Did the buyer have the right expectations about the process and how it might go?  Could or should their agent or the listing agent or the seller have done anything differently?  If the seller was given an opportunity to review all offers and was properly informed of any possible interest that existed and they accepted what they thought was the best offer, there may be no valid  reason to complain about the outcome.  Every signed agreement does not close so you may get another chance, if you want one, but do not assume you will.  In fact, depending on the type of Real Estate market, you may want to assume that you have competition and that you will not have a chance to change your initial offer.

I provide my buyer-clients with knowledge that I have gained through my years of experience, training and education.  I have also learned a lot from conducting mediations between buyers and sellers and listening to ethics complaints about agents.  Fundamentally, I believe that the process of buying or selling Real Estate is best looked at as a business decision, not a personal one.  It is also not a retail transaction.

Looking for a house can become a full-time job but it is worth it.  Your life will get back to normal after you succeed.  Bad purchase decisions can be costly and their effects can last a long time.  Real Estate is typically our biggest asset and requires our largest investment so buying or selling it requires planning and preparation.  It deserves our full attention.

As I discussed in part two, The Search, once a buyer starts to identify possible houses to consider looking at and buying, there is a process to narrowing the list down to the best and getting in to see and evaluate them as quickly as possible.  I remind buyers that proper planning and preparation will position them to compete better and that they are not the only buyer seeing the search results they receive.  It all comes down to making an offer that will appeal to the seller or, at the very least, maximize the chance that the seller will offer a counter-proposal.  The purpose of negotiating is to keep talking.  While that can wear someone down, it is better than silence.  That being said, buying Real Estate can be very competitive so a buyer might want to assume that they have competition and may not get a second chance to negotiate after making an offer.  In some cases, you may want to make your “highest and best” offer from the beginning.  Unless you are concerned about over-paying, if your offer does not get accepted, you should have no regrets.  Inspections and a mortgage appraisal will provide some guidance about the property condition and the market value in any case.

When a buyer decides to make an offer on a house, only they know what they are thinking and hoping.  Did they make their best offer or are they expecting a counter-offer?  Whether they are suddenly inspired when they see a house or the decision comes after giving it some thought, if they have approached the process in a practical way, regardless of whether their offer gets accepted or not, they will at least know that they did their best.  That may be a small consolation but a buyer can only do so much.  Of course, if the search was haphazard or the buyer wasn’t completely convinced that a specific house was the best one for them but they decided to make an offer anyway, they may not know how to react even if they succeed.  Buyer remorse, meaning feeling that there may be a better option now or later or, even worse, if they come to believe that they made a bad decision after settlement, can be a problem.  There may be opportunities for either party to terminate a sale.  What will they to do?  Having remorse or doubts after closing is too late!

Some buyers will go “all-in”, perhaps to excess, with an offer.  This could include any or all of the following:  making an offer “sight unseen”, going above the asking price, keeping the contingencies to a minimum or waiving some or all of them.  Buyers have a lot of options when they really like a house, especially if they think or know there is competition.  What they do can be done to maximize their chances for success or it can be done to get a house under contract while they really take the time and effort to decide whether they picked the best house.  It is not for me to judge these things but there is a seller involved and one or two agents.  They can be impacted by a buyer’s motivation especially if the buyer is really unsure if they want to own the house.

How many buyers make offers “sight unseen” and cancel a sale using a contingency like a property inspection once they see inside?  The cost of inspections is minor compared to completing a bad purchase.  How many buyers make great offers and then ask for repairs or credits later to recover some of what they offered?  What about so-called “love letters” to the seller?  How many buyers just decide not to move forward and are willing to risk losing their deposit?  As I like to say, buying and selling Real Estate are business decisions justified with logic.  It is never over until the seller has the buyer’s money and the buyer has the seller’s keys.  So, what can prevent a buyer’s offer from being accepted?

  1. Their offered price is not the highest.  For some sellers, the price is their primary motivation.  Oddly enough, in some cases sellers refuse the highest offers if they don’t think their house will appraise;
  2. The buyer’s contingencies are not the best for the seller.  Perhaps the seller wants a “clean” sale, meaning few hurdles, or the buyer has a house to sell so they can buy their “next home”;
  3. Something else within the contract is not the best for the seller.  This could include the settlement date, the amount of deposit money or anything that offers the buyer an option and the seller a choice.  Some agents and buyers use an “escalation clause” in the hopes of learning what it will take to make their offer better than the competition.  Many listing agents and sellers refuse to share details while expecting the offer to be improved.  Suppose there are multiple offers with these same clauses?  However you view them, they are not perfect and may not be enough to overcome stronger offers.  I view these clauses as showing that a buyer may have made a low offer and will raise it if they have to;
  4. The offer does not include buyer financial information such as proof of funds for a cash offer.  Many PA agents use a “BFI” or “Buyer’s Financial Information” form, which I liken to a Seller’s Property Disclosure Statement.  Buyers and sellers basically want to know that the other person is serious and able to complete the sale.  The BFI provides an overview of the buyer’s financial information for a seller and their listing agent to review when comparing offers.  It complements a lender’s pre-qualification letter but, in my opinion, carries more weight as the buyer prepares it and the seller has legal remedies if the buyer misstates something whereas there may be no remedy for what a careless lender does.  Sad to say but I have seen some lenders provide letters that were meaningless.  I have heard of situations where a BFI negated a lender’s letter resulting in a declined offer.  Some buyers are reluctant to provide their financial information; some buyer agents and listing agents do not ask for it.  In a competitive situation this can be a problem.  Give a seller a good offer and convince them that it will settle and your chances should improve dramatically.  Most sellers want to minimize their own risk.

When a seller only receives one offer, they are more likely to negotiate if the offer is not exactly what they were looking for.  However, in a competitive or multi-offer situation, a buyer may not get a second chance to improve their “first impression”.  I remind buyers that, regardless of the type of market, there is no guarantee that they will get a second chance.  While many buyers are reluctant to make their “highest and best offer”, they need to understand the risk.  Wondering what happened later is uncomfortable.

For example, when I give a blank BFI to buyers, some will ask me how much they should reveal.  Obviously, they need to accurately disclose income and debt information and show at least enough assets to cover their closing costs.  However, some buyers are reluctant to show more than they need to justify their offer, typically saying that a seller may ask them for more money.  The same occurs with the pre-qualification letter.  Let me address both at the same time using a hypothetical scenario.

Suppose a buyer wants to offer $285,000 on a $300,000 house and they are financially able to go as high as $350,000.  Do they show enough to cover their offer?  The asking price?  Or do they show everything?  I say show EVERYTHING!  Again, if there is no competition, which you may not know, they will likely get a “second chance” if the seller wants more than $285,000.  However, if there is competition, a seller may just go with what “appears” to be a “stronger” offer or at least have a discussion with those agents who “appear” to be representing stronger buyers.  They may assume they have seen your best offer and move on.

So what if a seller wants you to raise your offer because they know you can?  Do you expect them to lower their price when you learn they have no mortgage?  Even if they ask, as I said earlier, the point of any negotiation is to keep talking to see if they can reach a mutually-beneficial agreement.  Most sellers will be happy to know that a buyer is not maxed out with their offer which could mean there is a greater chance of their loan being denied.  Even if they ask and you say no, you had a chance.  You may come to regret what happens but you had a chance.  It beats the alternative!

Ironically, when a buyer decides to raise their offer, it is likely that their expectations for the property inspection(s) also rises.  On the other hand, a seller who accepts less than they really wanted may be less enthusiastic when asked to make repairs or issue credits for repairs.  Either way, the goal is to keep the conversation going although one or both parties may tire if the process drags on and on and on.  While you continue talking, the house remains on the market allowing other buyers the opportunity to make an offer!

The bottom line is that a buyer needs to know what is in their best interest, understand the market they are in and make an informed series of decisions when making and perhaps negotiating an offer.  When an offer gets rejected or the parties cannot reach an agreement after going back and forth, a buyer needs to evaluate what happened to avoid repeating the same process over and over again.  I have worked with buyers who had several offers rejected.  For some, re-engaging in the process is tough.  Some give up for awhile while others jump right back in.  They may not know exactly what happened and they likely won’t find out what price the seller accepted for several weeks.  They may never know more than that.  A decision to buy or sell Real Estate is an emotional decision justified with logic.  Some are simply better prepared to put it all into perspective and continue moving forward.

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

HIRE WISELY:  We are not all the same!

The Type of Market and How it Affects Searching for Price

I recently wrote a blog on “Multiple Offers” and how two different agents viewed them.  I want to explore one of their comments further.  One agent said that multiple offers are the result of pricing a property too low.  While I don’t agree, I do feel that there is something to this.  Let me explain.

Suppose an agent is working with a buyer “pre-qualified” and comfortable spending up to $300,000 on a house.  Pick any price.  What “price range” should they search?  I say “range” because no one would search for one specific price.  You can start at a certain number or go up to a certain number.  This is why pricing is different than before we had the Internet.  Agents have to “factor in” what a consumer may be thinking rather than trying to interact with the mindset of an experienced, trained and educated agent.  Let’s start with the minimum first.

For some buyers, such as investors, I do not set a minimum.  They may be open to considering whatever is in their search results and open to driving by or studying what I send them to eliminate houses that do not appeal to them.  Buyers looking for their next home, especially if they are financing the sale, may need to pick a starting point to meet their needs and abilities as well as the requirements of their financing.  Some houses simply need too much work.  How far they look below their “top number” depends.  Sometimes the areas that interest them or the features they include will provide some guidance.  Otherwise, they may evolve into “knowing” that anything below $x is a waste of time.

What about the top end?  They are “pre-qualified” and comfortable spending “up to $300,000” so why wouldn’t that be the number?  This is where it gets tricky.  The market will suggest or dictate what you should do if you want to succeed.  In a buyer’s market, if houses are getting less than full price, you can search higher than their top number.  That does not guarantee success as there may be competition even in “slower” moving markets.  A seller may still want full asking price.

In a seller’s market, when houses are getting more than full price, you may want to search lower than $300,000, expecting to have to raise your offer, if given the chance.  In a hot market every house will not sell so this is not a blanket statement but you may not succeed by offering full price.

The MLS offers data comparing the selling price to the opening and final asking prices.  However, “data integrity” may be lacking if incorrect information is entered, possibly impacting the overall report.  An agent has to look “within the numbers” to see what is really happening with pricing.

A buyer needs to know their financials, including their comfort level, and an agent needs to interpret the market so that they can properly advise their client.  How much to offer is still the buyer’s decision.  In some markets, offering “full price” will get a house “under contract”.  In other markets, the “asking price” is where the bidding starts.  The price is either a ceiling or a floor.  Ultimately, prices have to appeal to buyers, agents and appraisers.   Even cash sales have some parameters.  Sellers set the asking price and buyers determine the value.

That being said, some sellers and their agents purposely underprice a house to expose it to more people in the hope of generating multiple offers.  As I often say,  Real Estate is not retail!

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.

April 16, 2021

When Should You Reduce Your Asking Price?

That depends.  Depends on what?  There are several things to consider.  Let me discuss two.

First, pricing is an art and not a science.  No matter what data and information went into determining your asking price, the price is an educated guess at best.  Is it realistic or hopeful?  If there is little or no information to rely on, it might just be a shot in the dark.  Either way, what would convince you to consider lowering it?  Some sellers think a reduction is the same as a loss when it might well be the difference between selling or not.

I suggest that a seller give this some thought at the beginning of the market process.  Their thinking may change but waiting to consider how to react to the market when a house is on the market can be stressful and cause a seller to miss a great opportunity.  Some sellers measure success by showings.  However, a lack of showings may the result of poor or ineffective marketing.  What about a house that gets many showings but no offers?  That is likely a price problem as it suggests that buyers found more for the same price or the same for a lower price.

Second, a listing agent needs to have a discussion about pricing.  The points already mentioned would make a great conversation.  In addition, a market analysis will provide historic information as well as some insight into what is happening now, both of which have a degree of subjectivity and built-in error.  As part of looking at the market and evaluating what the owner is selling, a listing agent needs to know their seller-client’s motivation:  is it time or money?  If the seller is committed to selling sooner rather than later, a price reduction would be more likely to be considered.  Of course, in that instance an asking price might have been aggressive at the start.  If it works, great.  If not, some sellers will think they have already agreed to accept less than the market value.  If they prioritize the amount they receive, they may be reluctant to reduce at all and if they agree, it could take time.  Again, having this discussion early on will save time later and may prevent problems.

Historic sales are just that.  Depending on the time frame you use, they may cross months, seasons and even years.  Even if a property settled yesterday, when was the offer made and negotiated?  It could be weeks or months old and not indicative of the current market.  A look at the pricing for houses under contract, while not providing the number the seller accepted and not being subject to an appraisal, will at least tell you what one buyer found compelling enough to consider.  You may see a trend higher than or lower than the settled pricing.  Of course, any agreed-upon price could be quite different from the then-current asking price and you won’t know that until after settlement.

Depending on the market, I believe that when a new listing hits the active market, it has its greatest chance of attracting interest as there may be more prospects looking at that time than will enter the market in the next few weeks.  It has been my experience that new listings can and should get a flurry of activity quickly and then, if activity or interest has been lacking, the seller has a decision to make.  Generally speaking, activity drops as the supply of buyers reforms, meaning new buyers come on the market, sales fall through or buyers have shopped and are ready to make an offer.

Many think you should give a house a week or two to gain maximum exposure to attract most of the buyers.  That makes sense.  After all, if you are satisfied with the marketing, meaning that agents and buyers will be able to find your property in their search results, a lack of activity generally means that buyers are not interested or they are simply more interested in other properties.  Again, activity is a poor measure if an owner wants a sale.  Showing your house to an endless parade of lookers gets old fast.

If buyers can find houses similar to yours for a lower price, you either need to meet the competition or wait until the competition has been sold.  If they can find houses priced like yours that offer them more, assuming you will not make improvements, you need to re-price to offset what you do not have.  Some sellers will consider making upgrades but that is risky and most will cost you more than they are worth.

The bottom line is that pricing is a tool.  It is used to connect buyers to properties.  However, Real Estate is NOT retail:  the price is generally considered negotiable.  The market helps determine whether the asking price is a “floor” or a “ceiling”.  Ideally, a price should take into account your location, the features and the condition while being competitive with other properties.  Owners determine their asking price and buyers determine the value.  If you believe that the price is the reason people aren’t coming or aren’t making offers, you can re-position your house with similar competition.

The real question is how much do you reduce?  If you are getting showings but not getting any offers or only low offers, the situation may not be as dire and perhaps your agent can contact the buyer agents who have visited to see if there is a price that would work.  A good buyer agent will initiate contact if their buyer-client has interest but not at your asking price.  A good listing agent won’t wait to see if you get any feedback. 

I believe that your first price reduction should be substantial and that you need to review the competition, stay engaged as the market changes and select a price that makes sense from a competitive standpoint and a technology standpoint.  Some houses need more than one reduction either because a house is simply priced too high even after being reduced or because the market changes.  When you pick your price, you pick YOUR competition.  There is no magic to it:  a reduction either changes “your luck” or it doesn’t and needs to be looked at again.

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

HIRE WISELY:  We are not all the same!

Is it a Better Time to Sell or to Buy Real Estate in Spring 2021?

As is usual, my best answer is it depends!  Can the answer be a “tie”?  I would like to think that when Real Estate is sold that both people “won” but Real Estate is a competitive process where two people have opposite if not adversarial motives.  No buyer ever said I want to give the seller as much money as possible unless, of course, they know there is competition or they intend to use their successful offer as leverage to negotiate something to their benefit later such as inspection results.  No seller ever said they wanted to give a buyer the lowest price unless they wanted to dump the property or intended to make no repairs.  Most sales happen between those extremes.  Getting to settlement is another matter.

The market today, Spring 2021, is as competitive as I have ever seen and I have been doing this since 1996.  The years from 2003 through 2008 were fairly hectic but that was a true “bubble” fueled by government manipulation to increase home ownership that relied on loose lending standards which financially destroyed many of the buyers it was supposed to help.  Sadly, many who bought were not really qualified to manage the finances and, frankly, many flippers took advantage of the market and sold bad rehabs.  I could go on but my main point is that this is NOT what is happening today.

Today is very different.  The market has been created by a combination of perpetually low interest rates, extremely low inventory and pent-up demand delayed by the pandemic.  Lending standards appear to be solid so buyers are better situated today, at least financially.  That being said, this cannot go on forever.  Interest rates have been rising slightly but there is plenty of money to lend.

Two significant variables are likely to change.  One is the number of buyers.  If this is anything like the “bubble years”, buyers have jumped off and over the proverbial fence and decided to buy earlier than they had been planning.  Sooner or later the market runs low or out of qualified buyers and I hope that does not result in easing lending standards.  The other variable is the inventory level.  My best guess is that the number of properties for sale will rise once whatever is holding owners back changes.  Just as the number of buyers was inflated by a number of factors, I believe that owners have been held back by a number of factors.  These diverging trends produced what we are seeing today.

Real Estate depends on “supply and demand”:  buyers and sellers are on opposite ends of a proverbial see-saw.  The supply of one often exceeds the supply of the other causing prices to rise and fall.  Competition drives prices up; excess inventory drives them down.  External factors like interest rates, the general economy and other variables like a pandemic play a vital role.  So back to the original  question, is it a better time to sell or to buy?  Let me break it down this way.

I believe that the group that has or had the most to gain in the current environment are the owners of properties which they were not selling to buy something else.  I call these “extra” properties.  Whether they are vacant, used for investment or the owners were willing to go into a rental or some other arrangement, those owners only had to focus on getting the most they could for their property.  What they achieve is determined by their understanding of what is going on and their risk tolerance.  Did they sell too soon or did they wait too long?  Many will regret missing the opportunity to “cash in”.

While I value home ownership and embrace the concept of owning compared to renting, I fear that the group who may have the most to lose are the buyers who jumped in without really thinking long-term.  It is nice to talk about building equity and owning a home for almost the same monthly payment as your rent but home ownership is more complicated than numbers.  A home purchase decision can easily become regrettable if one or more of the following happens:  you spend your savings for a down payment and suffer a loss where your savings are needed, you buy without doing the legwork to see if a neighborhood or house fits your lifestyle (having to resell in the short term can be costly), you made an offer you come to regret (did you buy “sight unseen” or waive inspections to make your offer more competitive?).  Long term, Real Estate tends to be a great investment.  However, the short term is more volatile.  Either way, you have to live somewhere but Real Estate is an investment and subject to risk.

Don’t get me wrong, private home ownership is one of the many blessings we have in America.  However, with any opportunity comes responsibility.  Buying Real Estate is an emotional decision justified with logic.  “Normal” markets generally allow a buyer time to really consider whether it is the right time for them to buy and whether a specific house really fits their “wants” and “needs”.  You may have time for a second showing or to have family and friends take a look.  Sadly, I have worked with many sellers who told me they wish they had bought another house.  I have heard many stories of how they made their decision, what they wish they had done differently and how their decision impacted their life.  Where you live affects the quality of your life.  A poor decision can rob you of equity.

The current market does not generally allow a lot of time to think and ponder, let alone compare your options.  It may compel buyers to make unwise offers they may come to regret.  I have heard many buyers respond to being told that a seller accepted another offer by saying “it wasn’t meant to be”.  That is a great response, especially if they meant it.  I have also seen people react as if their world were crumbling.  I try to prepare my clients as best I can and hope that they are ready for the process.  Planning to buy Real Estate requires a serious commitment and can be like a full-time job.

If the last frenzy was any indication, I suspect that 10 to 15 years from now, some of today’s buyers may find that their house is worth about what they paid, no more and hopefully no less.  At least that means that they “broke even”.  You have to live somewhere.  After 10 to 15 years of paying rent you walk away with nothing and, chances are, your rent has gone up dramatically.

On the other hand, unless they are forced to sell, I don’t see sellers reminiscing about a house they sold, wishing they could get it back.  Cars have that effect but not houses.  That is not to say that all sellers succeed.  Their motivation or sense of urgency may cause them to accept an offer that was not the best.  On the other hand, patience is a virtue but it can be expensive.  Contingencies within an offer can cost them money even if the price seemed nice.  A seller needs to be informed about the market just as buyers do.  Are they more focused on the money they achieve or how long it takes to sell?

There is one more group to consider:  the seller who needs or wants to sell one house to buy their “next home”.  In this market, they may be facing an uphill battle especially if they have competition.  That type of contingency can really impact the process.  It also impacts prospective buyers for their house.  I see listing contracts expire or get canceled because a seller wants a buyer to give them time to find a house or they want a short-term rent-back.  Any of that may be a concern for buyers.

If a seller is buying their “next home”, aside from how they manage an agreement with their buyer or the seller of the home they like, they need to compare their market with that of their “next home”.  It may be a great time to sell, convincing them that they may never have another chance to get what this market offers.  However, what will their “next home” cost them?  One of the ironies I have seen a number of times is the owner who expects top dollar for their home and thinks they can get their “next home” cheap.  There is a serious disconnect there.  On the other hand, while the two processes have to be coordinated, I have seen sellers who really needed to reduce their asking price but refused to even consider it.  If a reduction makes buying impossible I understand that but ego can get in the way.  If the seller’s property’s market value is flat or declining and the cost of buying is rising, we have a conflict.  Every day, week or month that passes is costing them more than they are gaining.  Some sellers are willing to rent so that they can sell and, ideally, buy later when prices stabilize, whatever that means.

Buying or selling as a single, disconnected act is one thing.  No one can predict what tomorrow will bring and decisions always look clearer in hindsight.  Tying a sale to a purchase or a purchase to a sale takes the game from checkers to chess and expands the thinking.  The possibilities can be endless!  All you can do is get the best information you can, decide what you want and need to accomplish and know when to make a move or when to hold back.

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

HIRE WISELY:  We are not all the same!

April 5, 2021

My New Audio Course is LIVE on Listenable.io

I received an email from the staff at Listenable.  They provide an online platform that offers “powerful, bite-sized audio courses authored by well‑loved experts”.  They said:  “Congratulations on launching your first course on Listenable!  We’re excited to have you on board!  We sincerely appreciate the work you’ve done to create such an outstanding course and we are proud to have you on the Listenable team.”

I am happy and excited to add my content to their impressive lineup of courses.  The title of my course is “The Basics of Selling Residential Real Estate”.  Why did I create it?

My passion for Real Estate led to my writing blogs and recording podcasts.  Someone at Listenable heard my podcasts and contacted me to ask if I would be interested in creating an audio course for them.  The subject matter was up to me and this topic seemed an obvious choice.

As I have learned over the course of my career as well as through my involvement in various roles within the Real Estate community, Real Estate is not rocket science by any means although many make it far more complicated than necessary.  The process of selling or buying residential Real Estate generally involves a number of basic steps that must be completed in order to succeed.  Hiring a professional should increase your chances for success.  Our experience, training and education can provide the knowledge and insight typically needed to navigate the home selling or buying process.

My course consists of 13 lessons averaging about 8 minutes each.  I break the steps of selling Real Estate down into “the basics” and explain what we do and why we do it.  My goal is to take some of the mystery out of what people think we do and clarify it so that the typical listener will be more comfortable with the process.  I discuss the entire selling process from hiring an agent through settlement/ closing.  I hope that you will listen to it and recommend my course to people you know.

Here are the lessons:  The “Five Steps to Selling Real Estate”; Hiring an Agent; Preparing Your House for Sale; Marketing Your House to Sell; Pricing Your House to Sell; The Listing Contract; Your House is on the “Active” Market; Congratulations, You Have an Offer; Contingencies; Closing the Sale.  I included two “bonus” lessons:  Andrew’s Time-Tested Real Estate One Liners and The Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS.

Here is a direct link:  https://listenable.io/web/courses/380/the-basics-of-selling-residential-real-estate/   To enjoy14 free days of Listenable, use this link:  https://listenable.io/?rf=CMO1BEOO

I have an extensive catalog of blogs and podcasts posted on several websites including my primary site AndrewWetzel.com.  If you haven’t followed them, I encourage you to give them a try.  If you have read and listened to my material, thank you.  I will keep adding new content.

Best wishes and thank you for listening and reading!  As always, I am a phone call, email or text away if you have any questions.

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

HIRE WISELY:  We are not all the same.

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