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!

May 15, 2021

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

My Buyer’s Offer Did Not Get Accepted.  What Can They Do? Part 1 of 4: Planning and Preparation

Whether you are thinking about buying a home, are actively engaged in house hunting or you have already been denied a house you wanted, I want to share some time-tested advice.  I am going to cover this from four perspectives.  This is a broad topic with no “one size fits all” answers.  I strongly believe that planning and preparation will put you in the best position to identify houses that may interest you and, when you find one, maximize your opportunity to own it.  There are many variables in the home buying process, some of which you can’t control.  I encourage serious buyers to control what they can.

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 perhaps 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 but that you 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 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 by 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 decisions can be costly and their effects can last a long time.  How long do you plan to live in your “next home”?  Real Estate is typically our largest investment so buying or selling it requires planning and preparation.  It deserves our full attention.

I suggest that buyers do three things before they even start looking at houses and this includes not visiting open houses or looking online.  The goal is avoid being teased or distracted.  They may not even be consciously thinking about buying a house.  If they are, most buyers want to jump right in.  Frankly, looking at houses and imagining “what if” is the fun part although that can “get old” really fast especially after an offer has been rejected or terminated.  Easier said than done but if they see something they like and want to schedule an appointment or make an offer without really being prepared, the “process” can be frustrating, especially if a better prepared buyer likes the same house. 

So what are the three things?  They are all part of the “planning and preparation” that any serious house hunting requires.  If you fail to plan and prepare, you need to be prepared to fail.  Is failure an option?  What constitutes failure anyway and what happens next?

The order may vary but here is what I suggest doing:

  1. Hire an agent.  You want an experienced, trained and educated agent to protect and promote your interest throughout the process.  Sellers have an agent, so should you.  Hiring an agent includes related topics like understanding agency representation, contracts and the agreement of sale.  We do more than open doors and write offers.  You can find a lot of information about buying and selling Real Estate on my website AndrewWetzel.com.  Having agents you will not hire show you houses can be a problem, especially if you find the right house with the wrong agent.  I understand that committing to one agent, especially at the beginning of the process, seems challenging.  Tell us your concerns and let’s have a conversation.
  2. Get financially pre-qualified with a local, reputable lender.  Local and reputable are important.  I believe that only a live person can provide the information and service you will need.  Be wary of online offers, advertisements and “teaser” rates.  They may be “too good to be true”.  The interest rate is important but what are the total costs?  Do NOT overlook the quality of the service.  A serious buyer needs to know how much they can borrow, what it will cost them and, in some cases, whether they can actually get a loan.  Many buyers learn that they cannot get financing or that they need to do some work to get a loan.  It will be very frustrating if you learn either of these after finding the house of your dreams.  Some buyers may want to get a larger loan so they can buy a house they really like rather than settling for less.  Once you learn how much you can borrow, you need to determine your comfort level in terms of the monthly payment and your out-of-pocket expenses.  Knowing your comfort level will help determine the price range to search.  The type of market will complicate this:  is a seller’s asking price the “floor” or the “ceiling” for negotiating?
  3. Determine your “needs” and “wants”.  What is absolutely NON-negotiable?  Locations, schools, the number of bedrooms and bathrooms and other factors are important for most buyers.  “Quality of life” issues require some investigating and that can take time.  What would be nice to have?  Needs and wants add cost to a purchase.  Some buyers need to consider “trade-offs” or reducing their expectations while others can add to their “wish list”.  Your search criteria may change but you need a starting point to focus your attention.

Once you have managed these three, you can set up a search, start reviewing the possibilities and take action to own your “dream house”.  If there is competition, there is little time to waste getting into houses or making a decision.  Of course, if you have already started looking, you may have a search set up.  Now would be a great time to re-evaluate the search criteria. 

In part two, I’ll discuss the search for your first or “next home”.

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

HIRE WISELY:  We are not all the same!

April 5, 2021

Should a Buyer Agent Represent Two Buyers Bidding on the Same House?

This is a question that most agents and buyers never really have to think about.  How often does this happen?  I like to raise the question in my ethics classes for these very reasons.  Once people do think about it, it can generate a lively theoretical discussion which generates emotion and opinion.  I am not sure there is a perfect answer but I think it has so many aspects to it that it is worth discussing.  Better now than in an ethics hearing.  Let me start with some disclaimers.

First, this is my opinion and not intended as legal advice.  Second, I am in PA where this practice is not considered “dual agency”.  In fact, our contracts specifically allow this to happen which I will discuss later in further detail.  However, it is considered “dual agency” in some states which makes me wonder why, how can that be:  it either is or it is not “dual agency”.  How can it be looked at differently in different states?  If it were considered “dual agency”, which is not allowed in some states, that would at least provide some direction as to how to handle it and remove my concerns.  Third, my intent is not to interfere with any existing business relationships although I would respectfully suggest that buyers should know if this situation might come up so that they can make an informed decision before entering into a business relationship that might not work for them.  In PA many agents refuse to act as “dual agents”.  I wonder how they view this topic?

I am an analytical thinker so I will look at this from several perspectives.  Let’s start with some contract information, meaning some language that a potential buyer-client should know before hiring an agent to represent them.  This assumes that a buyer hires an agent and actually discusses their respective roles.  Of course, if an agent does not follow our rules and regulations, a member of the public may not be as well informed as they should be.  While well over 90% of the public searches online for Real Estate listings and information, I do not believe that most really understand agency representation.  We do more than open doors and write contracts.  Do prospective buyers know what to ask agents they might hire?  Are they resistant when an agent tries to do their job by discussing contracts and agency disclosures?  I am going to talk about this from the perspective of being a REALTOR, not just a licensee.  This means I will refer to out REALTOR Code of Ethics as well as our state’s “standard forms”.

Article 1 of our REALTOR Code of Ethics requires that we protect and promote the interests of our clients above all else.  While we are required to have a business relationship contract with someone to represent them as our client, rather than as our customer, that is not always the case and not having a contract is not an excuse when a problem arises.  What is important is what a buyer thinks of our relationship.  Our conduct may convey a perception that they are our client when they are technically not.  That poses potential problems and it likely means that they know less than they would have had they seen the proper forms.  This Article brings up the topic of fiduciary duties which I will discuss later.  These are owed to a client but not to a customer.

Article 2 states that “REALTORS shall avoid … concealment of pertinent facts relating to the property or transaction ….  REALTORS shall not, however, be obligated to …  disclose facts which are confidential”.  This Article brings up the topic of confidentiality which I will also discuss later.

In PA we have a form called a “Consumer Notice” that all licensees are required to present and explain to any member of the public before having a “substantive” discussion with them, referring to their “needs and wants”, and entering into a business relationship.  It describes the different relationships available as well as reviewing a number of agency/ representation-related issues. 

Under “Buyer Agent”, it says that we “work exclusively for the buyer”, that we “must act in the buyer’s best interest” “and must keep all confidential information, confidential”.  I mentioned a relationship called “dual agency”.  This occurs when an agent or Broker “works for both the seller and the buyer” in the same sale.  As stated in our Code of Ethics, this relationship requires “full disclosure to and with the informed consent of both parties”, meaning in writing, before acting in that capacity.

The Consumer Notice also includes several other important details.  All agents “must disclose, as soon as practicable, all conflicts of interest”.  A dual agent may not take any action that is detrimental to either party.  In a typical seller/ buyer scenario that is perhaps best explained by saying that a dual agent cannot disclose how low a seller will go or how high a buyer will go in their efforts to sign an agreement of sale or negotiate details later such as inspection issues.

Based on what I have presented so far, my non-legal but educated opinion is that representing two buyer-clients bidding on the same house seems like “dual agency” to me.  Again, I do not understand how some states see it that way while others, including PA, do not but I think that there is no harm in treating it as “dual agency”.  I have never heard a client complain that their agent over-protected their interests, have you?

Now let’s discuss “fiduciary duties”.  Working with a customer, meaning there is no contract, has requirements.  Working for a client expands that list as there is agency representation and six fiduciary duties.  The list includes:  obeying a client’s lawful instructions, being loyal to their purpose or goal, disclosing what you know that could help them succeed, keeping their information confidential, being accountable for keeping them on track with what they need to do throughout the process and providing reasonable care and diligence in your representation to protect them.  There is much more to these duties but imagine representing two buyers with similar intentions.

In a “dual agency” relationship two of these fiduciary duties are compromised or negated:  you cannot disclose to one party what the other party wants kept confidential.  This does not refer to “material facts” that must be disclosed if known.  It does refer to things that could hurt someone’s negotiating strategy.  A critical question is what is meant by confidential?

A listing agent can share details about an offer presented to them by one agent with another agent.  Many agents and consumers do not know that.  This is another topic that gets my classes going!  Absent a previously signed “confidentiality agreement”, such as is often used in commercial listings, the details of an offer are not inherently private and can be “shopped” to get a better offer.  Of course, this does not include the buyer’s name or personal information.

That being said, some people are very private and consider things “confidential” that others may not.  Learning this is part of getting to know your client.  Do you see how this can impact having more than one buyer client interested in the same property?

In PA we have two different buyer representation contracts, one is “exclusive” while the other is “non-exclusive”, the difference being whether a buyer works solely with one agent or has more than one agent assisting them.  That alone can present issues but is not my point here.  Unfortunately, some agents do not present either form to their prospective clients or they do so at the point of creating an offer on a property.  Better late than never!  I know that some clients are resistant to signing contracts or they may be willing to be a customer rather than committing to one Broker/ agent and getting the benefits of full representation.  However, there is important information they need to know and an executed contract proves they were at least informed of this information.

In both the exclusive and the non-exclusive contracts, there is the same language regarding issues related to conflicts with two clients.  They both say that a “Broker may not take action that is inconsistent with a buyer’s interest”.  They both say that an agent “may show the same properties to other buyers and may represent those buyers in attempts to purchase the same property that a buyer wishes to purchase” and that doing this is not a “breach of duty”.  They both say that “It is a conflict of interest when a Broker … cannot put a buyer’s interest before any other”.  “Unless permitted by a buyer or required by law, a Broker will not knowingly reveal or use any confidential information of a buyer”.  However, it does not specify what the word “confidential” mean.  It does talk about not treating the “existence, terms or conditions of any offer as confidential unless there is a confidentiality agreement” but the sentence ends with “between a Buyer and the seller”.  I guess the word “exclusive” only works one way, meaning that the buyer is restricted to one agent but the agent is not restricted to one buyer.

Then both contracts go on to say that “it is a conflict of interest when a Broker or licensee … cannot put a buyer’s interest before any other”.  The section concludes by saying that if there is a “conflict of interest, the broker will notify the Buyer in a timely manner”.  How does all of this sound to you?

These are not guidelines or suggestions, they are rules.  How do you accept all of these rules and properly manage the home searches of two buyers who want to pursue the same house?  Of course, if two or more buyers are looking in different areas and price ranges this may never be an issue.  But buyer’s plans change.  Many buyers end up buying a house vastly different from what they said they wanted.

I am not an attorney but these sections seem to conflict, don’t they?  Wouldn’t having more than one buyer interested in making an offer on the same house be about as conflicted as it gets?  While the rules say that an agent must mention having a conflict, it does not elaborate.  Do I need to do more than say “I have a conflict”?  Can I say what the conflict is?  Here is the best part:  to whom do I mention the conflict and what is the remedy?  Do I tell both buyers?  Can I just end my relationship with one of the buyers and keep working for the other?

That raises an interesting question:  who is allowed to terminate a contract?  While I could have another agent take over with one buyer, I think that poses a problem as I would still know information about that buyer that I would not normally know and that could harm them.  In fact, when agents encounter problems with seller/ buyer dual agency, I suggest that they completely remove themselves from both client relationships to avoid any perception of problems with disclosure or confidentiality.

As with all Real Estate paperwork, the buyer contracts do encourage the prospective client to seek the services of an appropriate professional, such as an attorney.  While that makes sense, is there time to do that?  If a buyer has done as I suggest, all of this would have been taken care of before I showed them any houses.  Conflicts that arise after that may not be able to be undone and it could impact a buyer’s opportunity to make an offer and get it signed.

Let’s drill down further to the real issue.  Aside from whether one agent can truly best represent the separate but conflicting interests of two different buyers, remember that only one buyer gets the house, does the agent have the right to tell each buyer-client about the other’s interest in the same house?  Does doing that conflict with the fiduciary duties owed to each buyer-client?  What is the goal?

I have had agents tell me that they want to be “fair”.  Really?  Who gets to decide what is “fair”?  What does that even mean?  The REALTOR Code of Ethics used to have that word in Article 1:  it said that, while we had a duty to protect and promote the best interests of our clients, we had a duty to treat people fairly.  If you are a sports fan, what is fair?  Is a pitch a ball or strike?  Did a referee miss a penalty or make a bad call?  The word, however nice it sounds, is confusing because it is unclear.  Do any two people, especially those working on the same sale, define the term the same?  Again, only one buyer can win.  Perhaps neither buyer will succeed but that does not mean that all is well.  Anyway, the Code of Ethics was amended years ago to say that we have to treat people honestly.  I’ll leave that alone but telling two buyer clients about the interest of the other is not a measure of honesty to me.

Years ago I had an agent in my office show one of my listings.  They brought me an offer which was negotiated, accepted and signed.  When I called to tell them that it was signed by my seller-client they made a very unusual request of me:  they asked if I would enter my name in the MLS as the buyer’s agent.  I asked why and was told that this agent had sent the same property listing information to four different clients but only one seized the opportunity and quickly got the house under agreement.  The agent was concerned that the other three would blame them for not telling them what had happened.  I commended this agent for what they did!  I can’t imagine what might have happened had they shown the house to the other clients and written and negotiated multiple offers on the same house.

The question then becomes what happens next?  Let me explore a couple possibilities.

  • If neither buyer gets the house, there may have been no harm done but the question of whether our actions are ethical or professional is based on our conduct and not the outcome.  “No harm, no foul” is not the measure.  Did our actions possibly cause both buyers to lose a sale?
  • Suppose one of your two buyers wins.  Did they improve their offer because they knew they had competition?  If so, did they spend or do more than they really had to and might have done if they did not know?  Did the other buyer hold back or drop out because they felt they could not win?  Some people want to compete, even if they overdo it, while others will not compete even if they might succeed.  Saying that both buyers knew that other agents had interested buyers does not change my opinion.

To conclude, there is a lot to what seems like a simple question.  Ultimately, it “appears” that our forms and contracts allow us to represent more than one buyer interested in buying the same house but I am not sure there is sufficient guidance as far as what to do when this situation comes up.  I have disclosure and confidentiality concerns.  I think each client should be allowed to make that decision.  I would guess that both would like to know about the other even if wanting their own interest kept quiet.  Suppose one cares and the other doesn’t?  Is it fair for one to know but not the other?  There is that word again, “fair”.  Trying to work this out once the situation comes up is too late. 

Let me add two thoughts.  First, this is not the same as a listing agent sharing the details of your client’s offer with another agent or having them let you know that other agents have made offers on a property that interests one or more of your buyer clients.  You must tell them that information.  However, you have no fiduciary duty to the listing agent, the seller or any other agent’s buyer clients.

My second thought is more of a question.  Suppose you write and present an offer for one buyer-client and it is rejected or countered without leading to having a signed agreement of sale.  Do you have the right or authority to tell another buyer-client the details?  While telling them what did not work with one buyer-client seems to make sense, perhaps that offer would work now if no one else has made a better offer.  Seller expectations do change.  Does telling another buyer how the seller countered an offer accomplish anything?  There is no guarantee that the seller would still be interested in that amount with a different buyer-client and, if the market is competitive, your current buyer client may only get one chance to make an offer.  Suppose you tell them a number and they lose.  An offer is more than the price and two buyers offering the same number may have very different terms and conditions.  Suppose the buyer-client whose offer failed decides to make another offer?

I am not trying to scare anyone but, if nothing else, I hope that people who read or listen to this will better understand how Real Estate works.  It is not retail where everyone is able to buy a product for a known price and there is ample supply.  Again, we do so much more than open doors and write contracts.  Real Estate requires experience, training and education.  It is not for everyone and it can get more complicated than it needs to be at any given moment.  Life would be easy if sellers would just accept their asking price or if buyers would just offer the asking price when they make an offer.  Of course, both of those statements are unrealistic if not ridiculous.  If they were true, you wouldn’t need a professional!  This is EXACTLY why I end my blogs and podcasts like this:

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

HIRE WISELY:  We are not all the same!

October 3, 2020

Data Integrity: How Accuracy Impacts Searches and Profits

“Data integrity” ensures that reported information is accurate and can be relied upon.  In Real Estate this could be the status of a property, the price, the type of property and its features.  The importance of accurate information cannot be overstated as people make costly decisions based on what is reported.

A seller needs a “ready, willing and able” buyer to complete a sale.  Buyers “acquire” Real Estate information from a variety of sources.  They expect that all properties matching their search criteria will be in their search results so that they can evaluate them and decide whether to take any action.  Suppose they get wrong information or they do not know that a property is available?  They may never get to see it so they cannot buy it.  Houses may sit on the market unsold causing the listing agents to ask the sellers for an unnecessary and costly price reduction which reduces their proceeds but does not make it any easier for buyers to find their property in their search results.  Think Google search.

Errors will affect a market analysis for both sellers and buyers.  Sellers looking to price their property according to its location, features and condition may rely on bad information causing them to overprice or underprice their property.  Their house could sit on the market unsold or they could accept less than they should have.  Buyers need accurate information when deciding how much to offer a seller.

Houses that do not sell typically have a pricing or a marketing problem.  By marketing I mean wrong or missing “searchable” property features, missing or poor-quality pictures and missing or poorly written property descriptions/ remarks sections.  In addition to excluding properties that really matched their search criteria, poor marketing may cause buyers to dismiss properties because they “look” bad.

Bad information can also impact the mortgage appraiser.  They evaluate selling prices based on reported comparable sales.  They rely on and verify what is reported but how would they know if something is missing?  Appraisers rely on pictures, features and the public remarks to try to identify the prior sales most similar to the house they are appraising.  What is the cost of inaccurate or missing information?  If relying on bad information makes it appear that a buyer paid too much, their sale may stop unless the seller lowers their asking price OR the buyer comes up with more money OR they somehow work it out.  Mortgages are based on a percentage of the appraised value so errors matter.

To conclude, data integrity is a BIG deal.  Many sellers have wasted months or even years on the market when they really had little chance of selling given the inaccurate information.  I call these “fatal errors”.  Marketing exposes property information to potential buyers, their agents and anyone else who may need or want to rely on what they hope is accurate information.  Garbage in; garbage out!

The Internet has made this more complicated.  Most buyers “shop” online, many even after hiring an agent.  The MLS syndicates property information to the major search engines.  If the MLS information is inaccurate, this magnifies the problem because the information is going directly to the consumer, unfiltered. Your printout is literally like a resume.  Unless your house is on a well-traveled street exposing your “For Sale” sign to lots of traffic, the MLS and Internet may be the only ways anyone will know you want to sell.  Does that make you feel comfortable?  What is the cost of delaying your plans or being asked to accept less money than you should?  What does your printout look like?

I recently met two couples looking to work with me, one to buy and the other to sell Real Estate.  Both plans involved my searching the market to identify comparable properties.  Let me briefly discuss my experiences with both.

First let me discuss the buyers.  They are ready to buy their first home, have saved the necessary funds, done a little exploring on their own and are ready to conduct their search.  We discussed their budget, their “needs” and their “wants”.  Fortunately, my experience enabled me to share how the best search can get messed up because listing agents or those they utilize to upload the details of their property listings often enter incorrect information or, just as bad, incomplete information.

These buyers had two specific “wants”:  a porch and a yard.  I performed a search without those features, found 26 “results” and sent them to my clients.  Then I did two additional searches, adding the two specific “wants” separately.  I found only 3 listings that showed there being a porch and only 3 showing some yard.  I knew that seemed low but never expected the results to be so wrong.

I looked at the more basic search with 26 results and identified an additional 17 properties with porches, raising the real total to 20, and found an additional 21 properties with a yard, raising that total to 24.  How pathetic!  If I wanted to take the time I might review the pricing history to see how long the incorrect listings had stayed on the market and then to see how many took price reductions.  The bottom line is that I assume nothing:  porches and yards are salable features but not present on every home so not entering them when they are present can be costly.

The other couple is looking to sell a 4-unit building.  It features a large lot with a detached 2-car garage and ample parking so nothing is truly comparable.  However, determining a range of potential pricing should not be as difficult as it was.

Using my experience, I knew that I had to start my analysis by looking at multi-unit properties without specifying the number of units.  When I do this I often find “commercial” properties, meaning they offer more than 4 living units, but that did not happen here.

My search identified 22 properties.  7 were listed as offering 2 units; 1 was listed as 3 units; 1 was listed as a 4 unit.  All were correct but there were 22 in the search results?  13 properties were listed as only having ONE UNIT!  So sad and so avoidable!  My best guess is that the people who uploaded the data thought “unit” referred to “buildings” and not leased, income-producing units.  Who entered the information?  Did the property owners know?

Of the 13 errors, 11 offered 2 units and 2 offered 3 units.  Had I been searching specifically by number  of units and not known better, I would have missed information that could be helpful to these sellers.  I wonder if any buyers missed these 13?

One additional point.  Only 7 of the 22 showed annual income, an important measure used by investors.  I understand that some of these buildings had vacant units but think it important to enter “projected rent” rather than assuming that every investor knows the area they are searching.  Many investors own Real Estate located far from where they live.  One agent actually had the monthly rent instead of the annual rent.

The bottom line is that buying and selling residential or investment Real Estate can be challenging enough without hiding property from people.  Data integrity issues can cause buyers to miss the best listings and some sellers may take needless price reductions when price may not be an issue. 

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

HIRE WISELY: We are not all the same!

Delaware County PA August 2020 Local Real Estate Market Insight

Bright MLS has released their Local Market Insight statistics for single family homes in Delaware County Pennsylvania through August 2020.  If you would like more detailed information about this or any other County or any specific municipalities in the Delaware Valley, please contact me.  I am only a text, email or phone call away!  I respond promptly to all inquiries.

The overall market continues to be affected by the pandemic and resulting economic impact.  However, generally speaking, the results in many areas are encouraging and, as always, your experience may differ depending on your location and how you have been personally impacted.  As I always say, the decision to buy or sell Real Estate is a personal one and the current environment typifies that.

The report compares current year-to-date results to one-year ago, same time period.  As with all Real Estate statistics, two things are true.  First, the performance within individual zip-codes can and will vary significantly from the overall County.  Real Estate is local and results can vary from neighborhood to neighborhood and even block to block.  There is no such thing as a “national” Real Estate market any more than there is a national weather forecast so, if you are thinking about selling or buying, please contact me for details about your areas of interest.  I can provide current information and keep you informed about the evolving market.  Deciding whether it is the right time to sell or buy is a personal decision typically involving a number of variables.  I can provide the knowledge and insight to help you decide what works for you.

My second point is that, unfortunately, all Real Estate statistics involving sold data are stale.  This is especially true if you are relying on Internet valuation models which use recorded data rather than up-to-date MLS information.  Even then, while a sale may be reported as settled or closed today, the real question is when was the offer negotiated?  Typically, sales take 45 to 60 days to close so the market today may be different.  Up-to-date information, even if not perfect, is important!

As far as the statistics, there were 5533 units listed for sale through August 2020 compared to 6532 listed through August 2019, a decrease of 15.3%.  Low inventory levels can have a major impact on the Real Estate market, depending on how many buyers are competing.  There were 4141 closed sales through August 2020 compared to 4682 through August 2019, a decrease of 11.6%.  Compare units listed to closed sales and it is obvious that many houses did not sell.  The median selling price through August 2020 was $249,900 compared to $234,000 through August 2019, an increase of 6.8%.  Interestingly enough, statistics just for August 2020 are much improved over August 2019, suggesting that the spring market was delayed and not completely lost.  Again, these numbers vary throughout the County:  the underlying data shows a wide range of results in all categories among the 49 different municipalities in Delaware County.

Generally speaking, low inventory levels in some areas have produced multiple offers and a frenzy among buyers, some of whom may live to regret a hasty decision to get a property under contract.  I still see people who regret decisions they made or did not make during the last boom.  During the shutdown when “in-person” Real Estate activity was not permitted, many buyers made offers “sight unseen” or without inspections.  The effects of that remain to be seen but Real Estate, perhaps with the exception of properties acquired strictly as “investments” with documented income, is generally not something given its expense and complexity that the typical buyer would want to purchase without an in-person showing and inspections.  Technology, however advanced, has its limitations.

What about the properties that did not sellMany came off the market and still remain unavailable.  As the pandemic has evolved, some properties did come back on the market but many have not.  Did owners delay, change or give up their plans?  Buying activity has been strong but the sellers may be reluctant to allow showings or may have other issues they are dealing with.  My main concern is whether people are making an informed decision or reacting to what they “think” is happening in the market.  As always, some opinions are just that.

For example, I am sitting on the Auxiliary Property Reassessment Appeal panel in Delaware County and to date have heard well over 400 appeals by owners questioning whether the new assessed value assigned to their property is realistic or not.  While I understand the concern about how the new values based on July 2019 market values will affect next year’s tax bills, many are saying that the pandemic has lowered selling prices which is a very debatable statement.  Whether true or not is easily demonstrated but, regardless, the new assessed values are based on July 2019 long before the current pandemic was known.  If 2020 numbers were used, many would see even higher numbers.

Buyers need to do the same planning and preparation that buying always requires.  Selling involves the same planning and preparation as in the past.  Anyone looking to sell or buy just needs to understand their local market and decide how to react to the pandemic as a “variable” that was not here last year and, hopefully, will be gone in the near future.  The reassessment has another dimension of uncertainty.  As always, the effects of buying and selling remain for years.

I tell my clients that I cannot guarantee that their house will sell if it is on the market but am fairly certain that it won’t if they take it off the market.  Anyone trying to sell now may have less competition and more offers to consider.  Buyers may have more competition and fewer houses to consider.  Hiring an experienced, trained and educated professional is more important than ever.

Despite the pandemic, every house will not sell.  Houses may get showings without generating offers unless buyers think they are priced within the range of their perceived “worth”.  Most property listings whose contracts are canceled or allowed to expire have asking prices considered high for their market and/ or they were poorly marketed, meaning that some buyers and agents may not have even known that a property was available to look at or purchase.  I have created a new blog and podcast on that very subject based on two very recent experiences, one with a seller and the other with a buyer.  Some buyers may even make “full price” offers just to control the process only to have remorse later as inspection results are revealed. Of course this may well depend on the ratio of buyer and sellers so there is more to this than raw statistics.

If a market has a lot of inventory, some buyers may not be willing to look at houses priced high compared to the rest of the market:  why try to negotiate a price down when other similar properties are available at more competitive prices?  Many sellers open to negotiating their price will never get the chance.  I will happy to discuss specifics with you.

The overall economy is coming back but many are still hurting financially.  Statistics aside, what are you planning to do?  Real Estate is generally a long-term investment unless you are looking to fix and flip it or planning to move within a short period of time.  There are opportunities out there.  As with the stock market, it is very difficult to pick the best time to make a move.  An educated consumer faces better odds than a lucky one!  All you can do is get the best available information, determine what is in your best interests and then start the process.  I am a phone call or email away and getting started is easy once you take action.

If you want or need to sell any type of Real Estate, now or in the future, whether you tried and did not succeed before or are doing it for the first time, it is never too early to start the planning and preparation.  Please do not wait for what you think is a better or the best time to start.  Buyers look all year long and can only see and buy properties that are available to see.

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

HIRE WISELY:  We are not all the same!

June 3, 2020

How Buyers Bought Real Estate in 2019:  Who is the Typical Buyer?  Part 2 of 2.

Today I want to discuss the 2019 NAR or National Association of REALTORS Profile of Buyers and Sellers.  The report comes from a survey using 125 questions mailed to over 159,750 recent home buyers who purchased a primary residence between July 2018 and June 2019.  This was a national survey so your market may be quite different.  Real Estate is local:  there is no national Real Estate market so please contact me for information about your local market.

This is Part 2 of 2.  In Part 1, I focused on buyer characteristics, meaning who is the typical buyer.  In Part 2, I will focus on the process the typical buyer used to find their home, the results they achieved and how they felt about the experience.  There will be some overlap between the parts.

As I learned years ago, buying a home is an emotional decision justified with logic.  This is what can make it fun or not.  The process can be interesting enough when there is only one buyer involved.  People have different ways of making decisions and we all handle challenges and stress differently.  Buying a home typically offers plenty of both.  When more than one buyer is involved, there can be quite a negotiation between the parties and they often seek my opinion.  Purchasing a home is typically the largest financial transaction anyone will ever make and it involves many lifestyle factors.  It is a serious process.  Here are some highlights:

  • 87% purchased existing homes; 13% bought new construction;
  • Nationally, buyers typically paid 98% of the asking price;
  • 55% of buyers said that finding the “right property” was the most difficult part of the process; 26% mentioned financing (including saving for a down payment (13%), getting a loan (8%) and the appraisal (5%)), 19% cited the paperwork and 18% mentioned understanding the process. And yet, buyers often avoid or delay seeking professional assistance.  Given 24/7 access to the Internet, some may find this interesting.  I am not surprised as it supports my belief that Realtors bring value to the process of buying Real Estate above and beyond simply providing houses to look at.  While that is obviously important, buyers need to arrange financing and determine what they want and need in a house so that they can evaluate their options and make the best choice for themselves, keeping in mind that they may have serious competition.  Some houses sell quickly.  Buying a home takes time and effort.  For example, I have worked with many buyers during my career and have been able to identify houses for them to consider that they did not or could not find on their own.  My experience working with sellers, especially those whose properties other agents could not sell, has taught me a great deal about marketing homes to ensure that they appear in buyer’s search results.  Think “Google search”.  This knowledge helps me with buyers.  I will be happy to explain this in detail;
  • 86% financed their purchase, typically financing 88% of the purchase price with first-timers financing 94% and repeat buyers financing 84%;
  • The median down payment was 12% for all buyers with 6% for “first-time” and 16% for “repeat”;
  • 9% found the mortgage application process to be much more difficult than expected with only a 1% difference between first-time and repeat buyers. This explains why so many wait to do this, perhaps to their detriment.  Sellers tend to focus on three parts of any agreement:  the amount of the offer, the buyer’s financing and the terms and conditions of the offer.  Sellers want to avoid or minimize the risk of a failed sale;
  • 13% reported that saving for a down payment was the most difficult step with 51% of those citing student loans. This is a problem that has been well reported.  It delays many aspects of life;
  • 50% of buyers found the home they purchased online; 28% through an agent; 7% from a “For Sale” or an open house sign. There is no doubt that the Internet has displaced agents as a valuable source of property listings.  No one can or should dispute that.  However, it has clearly NOT displaced the need for us to assist with the numerous tasks that are necessary to buying a house regardless of where or how it was identified.  One final point here is that it is important that a buyer provide accurate information as far as what is important for them.  Having a buyer search online for one set of criteria while their buyer-agent searches for something different can and will cause problems.  We should be finding the same possibilities!  Communication is critical;
  • 94% were “satisfied” with the process but only 63% reported being “very satisfied” while 7% were somewhat or very dissatisfied. Buying a house or investment property can be very frustrating.  Trying to justify the emotion of a home purchase with logic can be a challenge.  I have met a number of owners who told me that they made a mistake when they bought their home; some realized that sooner than others.  While their situations may have varied, this often meant that they would have some difficulty selling or achieving what they wanted or needed to make a move.  I can share some stories;
  • 61% were given agency disclosures at some point with 27% at the first meeting, 23% when the contract was written and 11% at some other time. In PA you may know this as the Consumer Notice form that we are required to use.  The purpose of this disclosure is to offer a buyer choices as far as how we are to work together.  Historically many buyers assumed we were representing “their best interests” even though they had not formally committed to using our services.  Prior to buyer agency all agents worked for the seller’s best interests!  The good news is that 61% received it, even if late.  20% say they never received it and 20% said they did not know.  In addition to being a REALTOR and Associate Broker, I am a Mediator and have spent years working on our Professional Standards Committee.  In those roles I have been involved in many situations where the consumer, meaning a buyer or seller, had quite a different perception of their relationship with an agent than their agent had.  Trust me when I tell you that this can cause problems;
  • Continuing with that thought, 39% said they had a written representation agreement with their agent; 19% said it was oral; 28% had no agreement and 15% did not know;
  • Buyers ranked a number of agent qualities as “very important”: 97% want honesty and integrity; 93% want them to be knowledgeable about the process; 93% want them to be responsive; 88% want communication skills, 83% want them to be able to negotiate and 46% mentioned technology skills.
  • The top three benefits Real Estate agents provided were: 61% said helping buyers understand the process, 60% said pointing out features or faults with properties, 48% said negotiating better terms, 47% said providing a list of service providers, 37% said negotiated a better price and 30% said shortened the home search.

Buying Real Estate is a unique purchase:  not only is it much less frequent than other purchases, it typically involves multiple steps, each offering their own challenges.  If you would like to discuss buying or selling or if you have any thoughts about this, please contact me.  Please look for Part 1.

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

Remember:  HIRE WISELY!  We are not all the same.

May 20, 2020

PA Governor Amends Covid-19 Executive Order:  Real Estate is Now “Essential”!

Since March 19, 2020, the PA Real Estate market has been in a form of suspended animation.  For those agents who followed the law, business stopped on a dime.  Properties that went “under contract” prior to that date were allowed to move forward although many municipalities and contractors were not willing or able to help complete the sale.  Even then, many of those owners were frustrated in their efforts to buy their “next home”.  Some ended up paying two mortgages.

 

Otherwise, agents were not allowed to conduct business “in person”, owners with “active” listings could not have actual showings and buyers could not visit properties to see inside.  Business could be conducted “virtually” which likely worked better with “under contract” properties since those prospective buyers had likely seen the interior of their intended purchase.  Properties that had been inspected were in the best position although getting to settlement had its issues especially if a municipal inspection needed to be done since many of those departments stopped doing business.

 

Owners still looking for buyers had issues.  Most buyers are reluctant, even in a competitive market, to make an offer without actually being able to see the interior.  Buying “sight unseen” happened but I liken it to “online dating” where someone tells or shows you what they want you to “know”.  What could go wrong?  At least that was better than going on a “blind date”!

 

While I respect different “business models” and understand that some buyers and sellers needed a “creative” solution to work past our being the only state where Real Estate was considered “non-essential”, buying “sight unseen” is risky.  For a few hundred dollars a buyer could use a property inspection as a way out.  While not intended as legal advice, it happens.  Some buyers cannot afford to waste any money so this may not have been an option for them.  What about a seller who risks this happening to them?  If the listing agent follows the rules, the property history may stigmatize the property if others thought there were issues with the house whereas the problem was really the buyer.

 

Fortunately, there is a new “dawn” albeit with some restrictions.  Some sellers and buyers will jump at the opportunity; others may choose to wait to see what happens.  How many are currently unemployed and unable to get financing?  How many sellers need to buy their “next home” and are not ready to compete or who feel that the “right one” is not yet on the market?  If possible, some sellers may want to get their house sold even if it means renting for a short time.  At least their purchase won’t be tied to a sale and they may be able to determine if they really like an area they were considering.

 

As I always say, you cannot “time the market” so I encourage buyers and sellers to determine what is in their best interests.  I am an experienced, trained and educated REALTOR and can offer the knowledge and insight to help you evaluate what is best for you.  Assuming that people follow the guidelines and requirements for resuming Real Estate activity, my hope is that PA continues to improve so that we can avoid a set-back.  Time will tell.  Either way, I can help you now or later!  I do suggest doing some planning and preparation so we can do an effective and efficient campaign when you are ready.  That could make all the difference.

 

In the meantime, please visit my web site, listen to my podcasts and read my blogs.

 

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

 

HIRE WISELY:  We are not all the same!

May 9, 2020

How Buyers Bought Real Estate in 2019: Who is the Typical Buyer? Part 2 of 2.

Today I want to discuss the 2019 NAR or National Association of REALTORS Profile of Buyers and Sellers.  The report comes from a survey using 125 questions mailed to over 159,750 recent home buyers who purchased a primary residence between July 2018 and June 2019.  This was a national survey so your market may be quite different.  Real Estate is local:  there is no national Real Estate market so please contact me for information about your local market.

This is Part 2 of 2.  In Part 1, I focused on buyer characteristics, meaning who is the typical buyer.  In Part 2, I will focus on the process the typical buyer used to find their home, the results they achieved and how they felt about the experience.  There will be some overlap between the parts.

As I learned years ago, buying a home is an emotional decision justified with logic.  This is what can make it fun or not.  The process can be interesting enough when there is only one buyer involved.  People have different ways of making decisions and we all handle challenges and stress differently.  Buying a home typically offers plenty of both.  When more than one buyer is involved, there can be quite a negotiation between the parties and they often seek my opinion.  Purchasing a home is typically the largest financial transaction anyone will ever make and it involves many lifestyle factors.  It is a serious process.  Here are some highlights:

  • 87% purchased existing homes; 13% bought new construction;
  • Nationally, buyers typically paid 98% of the asking price;
  • 55% of buyers said that finding the “right property” was the most difficult part of the process; 26% mentioned financing (including saving for a down payment (13%), getting a loan (8%) and the appraisal (5%)), 19% cited the paperwork and 18% mentioned understanding the process. And yet, buyers often avoid or delay seeking professional assistance.  Given 24/7 access to the Internet, some may find this interesting.  I am not surprised as it supports my belief that Realtors bring value to the process of buying Real Estate above and beyond simply providing houses to look at.  While that is obviously important, buyers need to arrange financing and determine what they want and need in a house so that they can evaluate their options and make the best choice for themselves, keeping in mind that they may have serious competition.  Some houses sell quickly.  Buying a home takes time and effort.  For example, I have worked with many buyers during my career and have been able to identify houses for them to consider that they did not or could not find on their own.  My experience working with sellers, especially those whose properties other agents could not sell, has taught me a great deal about marketing homes to ensure that they appear in buyer’s search results.  Think “Google search”.  This knowledge helps me with buyers.  I will be happy to explain this in detail;
  • 86% financed their purchase, typically financing 88% of the purchase price with first-timers financing 94% and repeat buyers financing 84%;
  • The median down payment was 12% for all buyers with 6% for “first-time” and 16% for “repeat”;
  • 9% found the mortgage application process to be much more difficult than expected with only a 1% difference between first-time and repeat buyers. This explains why so many wait to do this, perhaps to their detriment.  Sellers tend to focus on three parts of any agreement:  the amount of the offer, the buyer’s financing and the terms and conditions of the offer.  Sellers want to avoid or minimize the risk of a failed sale;
  • 13% reported that saving for a down payment was the most difficult step with 51% of those citing student loans. This is a problem that has been well reported.  It delays many aspects of life;
  • 50% of buyers found the home they purchased online; 28% through an agent; 7% from a “For Sale” or an open house sign. There is no doubt that the Internet has displaced agents as a valuable source of property listings.  No one can or should dispute that.  However, it has clearly NOT displaced the need for us to assist with the numerous tasks that are necessary to buying a house regardless of where or how it was identified.  One final point here is that it is important that a buyer provide accurate information as far as what is important for them.  Having a buyer search online for one set of criteria while their buyer-agent searches for something different can and will cause problems.  We should be finding the same possibilities!  Communication is critical;
  • 94% were “satisfied” with the process but only 63% reported being “very satisfied” while 7% were somewhat or very dissatisfied. Buying a house or investment property can be very frustrating.  Trying to justify the emotion of a home purchase with logic can be a challenge.  I have met a number of owners who told me that they made a mistake when they bought their home; some realized that sooner than others.  While their situations may have varied, this often meant that they would have some difficulty selling or achieving what they wanted or needed to make a move.  I can share some stories;
  • 61% were given agency disclosures at some point with 27% at the first meeting, 23% when the contract was written and 11% at some other time. In PA you may know this as the Consumer Notice form that we are required to use.  The purpose of this disclosure is to offer a buyer choices as far as how we are to work together.  Historically many buyers assumed we were representing “their best interests” even though they had not formally committed to using our services.  Prior to buyer agency all agents worked for the seller’s best interests!  The good news is that 61% received it, even if late.  20% say they never received it and 20% said they did not know.  In addition to being a REALTOR and Associate Broker, I am a Mediator and have spent years working on our Professional Standards Committee.  In those roles I have been involved in many situations where the consumer, meaning a buyer or seller, had quite a different perception of their relationship with an agent than their agent had.  Trust me when I tell you that this can cause problems;
  • Continuing with that thought, 39% said they had a written representation agreement with their agent; 19% said it was oral; 28% had no agreement and 15% did not know;
  • Buyers ranked a number of agent qualities as “very important”: 97% want honesty and integrity; 93% want them to be knowledgeable about the process; 93% want them to be responsive; 88% want communication skills, 83% want them to be able to negotiate and 46% mentioned technology skills.
  • The top three benefits Real Estate agents provided were: 61% said helping buyers understand the process, 60% said pointing out features or faults with properties, 48% said negotiating better terms, 47% said providing a list of service providers, 37% said negotiated a better price and 30% said shortened the home search.

Buying Real Estate is a unique purchase:  not only is it much less frequent than other purchases, it typically involves multiple steps, each offering their own challenges.  If you would like to discuss buying or selling or if you have any thoughts about this, please contact me.  Please look for Part 1.

Please look for my post on how sellers sold Real Estate in 2019.

There is no time for inexperience, empty promises or false expectation! 

HIRE WISELY!  We are not all the same.

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