Andrew Wetzel's Musings

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

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!

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.

How Buyers Bought Real Estate in 2019: Who is the Typical Buyer? Part 1 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 1 of 2 and will focus 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:

  • 33% were first-time buyers, the same as in 2018. The historic number has been 40%.  The typical buyer was 47 years old, with those age 25 to 34  accounting for 24% of all sales;
  • Buyers moved a median distance of 15 miles while those who sold one primary residence to buy another moved a median distance of 20 miles;
  • There were several reasons mentioned for buying: 81% felt that a home purchase was a good investment; 66% of first-time buyers wanted to own their home as did most buyers under age 61; those over 61 mentioned being closer to family and friends or down-sizing;
  • Buyers expected to live in their homes for a median time of 15 years with 20% saying 1 to 5 years, 45% saying 16 or more and 20% saying they did not plan on making another move;
  • As far as motivating factors influencing location: 63% prioritized the quality of the neighborhood, 46% convenience to their job, 44% the affordability of the house (owning can be cheaper than renting!), 26% the quality of the school district, 20% walkability.  When you buy a house, you are buying the neighborhood and a lifestyle:  this is more than simply buying a product;
  • As far as characteristics of the home and how they compromised: 25% prioritized price, 23% condition, 19% size, 7% quality of the neighborhood, 3% quality of the schools.  29% did not compromise.
  • 44% of buyers looked online before doing anything else with 93% using the Internet at some point during the process; 16% started by contacting an agent; 12% started by looking online for information about the process; only 7% started by contacting a lender or bank. This can be good or bad, depending on what a buyer really knows and understands about the process and their local market.  There is a wealth of information online but my experience suggests that much of it is wrong or does not apply to all markets.  Some buyers will spend valuable time “shopping”, which is admittedly the “fun part”, instead of doing other things that might make their search easier, especially if they find that they need to do some homework to get financing.  They might find a home they really like only to find themselves unprepared or unable to compete with other buyers who had a better game plan.  The process can make all the difference;
  • 93% of buyers relied on the Internet for information; 87% on an agent. Traditional methods are still used but to a much lesser extent than in the past.  For example, only 51% visited open houses, 39% looked for “For Sale” signs and 11% looked at newspapers.   Please keep in mind that these statistics refer to sources use to search for available properties, not necessarily what led to a sale;
  • 65% walked through homes they found online; 41% drove by and did not go inside. You might be amazed to learn that, while driving through a neighborhood to see if it meets your needs is an excellent way to narrow your focus, many buyers eliminate houses simply because the exterior needs some attention;
  • Buyers typically searched for 10 weeks and looked at a median of 9 homes. They waited for 3 weeks before contacting an agent.  A lot can happen in 3 weeks!  On the other hand, buyers who did not use the Internet spent 4 weeks searching and viewed 4 homes.  I wonder which group was more satisfied with their purchase in the long run;
  • For internet “shoppers”, 87% found photos and 85% found detailed property information very useful. They enjoy the “online shopping experience” much more than actually looking at house after house.  What an agent uploads to their MLS typically feeds “as-is” to the Internet:  too often this is a case of “garbage in; garbage out”.  Sadly, many listing agents make looking at their property listings more challenging than it should be.  Many property listings offer few quality photos, some listings have none and many are not labeled making it often difficult to know what you are looking at.  Many agents use their cell phone for taking pictures.  I often see photos that seem to have been uploaded randomly, bouncing from interior to exterior and even turned sideways or upside down.  I also see poorly written or missing descriptions as well as listings having minimal searchable features which can make it difficult for those listings to even appear in a buyer’s search results and, when they do, a buyer may not really know what they are looking at.  The result is that they click through to the next property listing.  The good news for buyers is that properties attracting little attention often get needlessly reduced in price which rewards a persistent buyer.  If you are a seller, have you been asked to reduce your price?  Have you seen your MLS printout and searched online for your own property?;
  • 52% of buyers who used the Internet found the property they bought online. 71% who used a mobile device found their home through a mobile application.  29% through an agent;
  • 89% of buyers used a Real Estate agent and 91% who used the Internet used an agent; 5% bought directly from a builder or builder’s agent; 4% bought directly from the owner which would include FSBOs or “private sales” where one or both parties are not professionally represented. The number using a professional has actually trended higher since the Internet entered the picture.  This proves to me that we can coexist with the so-called third-party sites if we bring “value” to the process.  Our “value” extends well beyond searching for houses.  Once you identify a house that you like, there are a number of steps that must be taken to get it under contract and then to complete the purchase.  This is no time to cut corners!
  • 52% of buyers wanted a Real Estate agent to help them find the right house, 23% wanted help negotiating (12% mentioned “terms” while 11% mentioned “price”), 8% wanted help with paperwork and 6% wanted help valuing comparables.

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 2.

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

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

 HIRE WISELY!  We are not all the same!

March 14, 2020

Buying Real Estate “Sight Unseen”

When we experience a “seller’s market”, meaning that there are more buyers looking than there are properties available for them to buy, the competition often leads to frustration.  This is especially true when getting to see inside becomes an issue.  It is not unusual for a buyer to have to bid on several houses before getting an offer accepted.  At least they got to see inside and make an offer, right?

A new policy created by NAR, the National Association of REALTORS, and implemented by Bright MLS has added to the drama.  As a result, some are making offers to buy Real Estate “sight unseen”.  What does this mean and what are the implications?

We have experienced “seller’s markets” before and we will again.  Generally speaking, a combination of low mortgage interest rates and low inventory causes houses to sell quickly, making many buyers and sellers act differently than they might in a more balanced market.  Asking prices may be the “floor” rather than the “ceiling” when it comes to making an offer and a buyer, assuming they have an opportunity to see inside a house and make an offer, may not get a second chance so it may be wise to offer their “highest and best” from the beginning.  However, the regulations covering appraisals are stricter than in the past so offering above the asking price is not always the best answer.  What to do?

Many buyers, frustrated by competition, bidding wars and houses they cannot get in to see, are trying to be creative.  They have several options in addition to the amount of their offer such as:  offering a high deposit, being flexible with a settlement date and waiving inspections.  Some may give up or delay buying.  Many sellers are overwhelmed by multiple showings, multiple offers and, as unusual as this may sound, not knowing whether their highest offer will appraise and, if they get an acceptable offer, whether they will even be able to find their “next” home.  One of the ironies of this type of market is how a seller who has a lot of leverage when selling will react when they are buying without having the same leverage.  The shoe may literally be on the other foot.

Enter the new NAR policy called the “Clear Cooperation Listing Policy”.  It has caused confusion and frustration although most REALTORS understand why it was necessary.  Frankly, it is impossible to deny its purpose.  It requires brokers to upload property information to the MLS within 1 business day, excluding weekends and national or state holidays, of any public advertising which includes a “For Sale” sign and social media.  Violating the policy may result in a substantial fine.  Absent public advertising, we are required to upload the information to the MLS within 3 business days.

Some think the new policy a direct assault on a long-standing business model known as the company or office “exclusive listing” where listings were taken and “publicly advertised” but kept off the MLS because the listing broker would not offer to compensate buyer agents working for other “brands”.  Real Estate prides itself in having many different business models as long as we operate within our various rules and regulations.  However, some of this creativity may appear to conflict with our core principles.  I discuss “exclusive listings” in an article entitled “Coming Soon” and will mention that, while still a legitimate business model, they are no longer able to be “publicly advertised”.

The MLS platform is a member-only web site for sharing property information among members to “cooperate” with them for our mutual benefit.  We are “match makers”, meaning that we help bring buyers and sellers together.  A major aspect of this is that we sell each other’s property listings. The creation of the MLS platform made our jobs easier by increasing the effectiveness and efficiency of how we marketed and learned about property listings.  Before the MLS, agents and companies were on their own.

The goal is to expose Real Estate to the broadest possible market which should theoretically “protect and promote” the interests of both sellers and buyers as required by Article 1 of the REALTOR Code of Ethics.  Presumably, this should allow sellers to achieve the highest possible selling price and the best terms in the shortest period of time by ensuring that as many buyers and agents as possible would be able to access property information, schedule showings and, if a buyer liked what they saw, make an offer.  It essentially levels the playing field by making information and properties accessible to all.

Unfortunately, we still live in a society where some people or groups are excluded from opportunities to see and buy Real Estate.  Undercover investigations and complaints from the public still show this to be true even if not as obvious or pervasive as before.  It is unacceptable when anyone is prevented from being able to buy housing and live where they want to live when affordability is not an issue.

The reaction to any major policy change such as this one can be interesting and it remains to be seen how this one plays out.  Will any listing agent blatantly disregard the policy despite the MLS stating their intention to impose a severe fine for violations?  The public, including agents representing prospective buyers, also has options for responding.

What can a buyer or agent do when they cannot get the information they need about a property listed as “Coming Soon”?  The “Coming Soon” status means no showings are allowed to anyone but the MLS should provide information, shouldn’t it?  The concern is that some agents and their buyers, including the listing agent’s own buyer-clients, are being allowed to view these properties and make offers before they are made available to the public.  Instead of converting to an “Active” status many of these go right to “under contract”.  What are an agent and buyer supposed to do?  They will know the “projected” date when the listing status will change to active, allowing showings, and may even know when offers will be presented.  However, those dates can change without notice so should they wait and hope or take some other form of action?  Waiting may result in failure.  Some are making offers on houses without the buyer or their agent actually seeing inside.  This raises two concerns.

First, we have a fiduciary duty to represent our buyer-clients but what is our risk in preparing an offer on a home that neither of us has seen?  Suppose neither has actually visited the location to see the exterior or the neighborhood?  While I am certainly not a contractor or an inspector, I have seen a number of things both inside and outside houses that made me question the pricing or condition of a home and, when asked, I have offered my opinion on whether to pursue a house, how to negotiate the price and what to inspect.  Obviously an agent needs to make sure they are not exceeding their level of competence.

What options does a buyer have if they come to realize that a house is not as nice as they had hoped or expected based on the exterior or the MLS presentation including pictures and public remarks?  Suppose the listing has poor quality or no pictures and little or nothing in the way of a description?  Most agents will tell you that an inspection contingency provides a “way out” and, while it does, it has a cost to the buyer and it takes time.  Would they make an offer “sight unseen” without inspections?  I could go on.

Second, as a listing agent, as attractive as it may sound to sell a client’s house without their having the  inconvenience of showings, suppose a buyer uses a home inspection to terminate a sale when there is really nothing wrong or a seller would make any repairs they might request?  Perhaps they offered a low deposit and are willing to forfeit it to terminate a contract?  A failed sale stigmatizes a house, perhaps even worse than a lengthy time on the market.  If a house comes back on the market quickly after going under contract it generally means that something happened during the inspection contingency time frame.  That could negatively impact future interest as well as the eventual selling price.  Some listing agents do not report that a house is “under contract” to avoid all of this.

I have heard both sides and wish I had an answer.  There is no perfect solution and buyers and sellers, including their agents, will always have a different perspective.  If a buyer wants to make an offer without seeing inside, is this really the best option?  Where is the liability?  I am not sure.

Realistically, if I were a seller I would be reluctant to accept any offer without a showing especially if it contained a frivolous or easy way out unless there were a substantial, perhaps even a non-refundable, deposit.  If I were a buyer I would be reluctant to buy “sight unseen”.  At the very least I would want to walk the exterior to identify potential concerns and include them in my offer.  Otherwise, a seller might say a house was being sold “as-is”, another contentious term, and was priced accordingly or that any concerns should have been factored into the buyer’s offer.  The cost to inspect and potential time lost could prevent a buyer from seeing the best house.  Does it make sense to reduce buying Real Estate to essentially being like a “blind date” where neither side has any real obligation?

While “seller’s markets” will occur over and over again, the new “Clear Cooperation Listing Policy” has added a new twist to an old theme and time will tell how we all adapt to it.  The first fine for violating the new policy will have a major impact going forward.  A “buyer’s market” will change much of the drama.  Either way, there will always be another twist.

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

HIRE WISELY:  We are not all the same!

May 4, 2019

Multiple Offers: To Disclose or Not?

Real Estate offers many opportunities to peer into the personalities of people with whom we work.  Sometimes what we find is not what we expected.  As a professional I have laws and a Code of Ethics to guide me as well as my integrity and value system.  My clients have the same except for the Code of Ethics, of course.  One topic that brings this into focus is that of “multiple offers”, meaning that more than one buyer is actively interested in buying the same piece of Real Estate.

Some buyers are so interested in a specific property and so willing to compete for it with others that they will plunge into the deep end of the pool to do whatever they can to win.  They may start with their “highest and best offer”.  Others, despite being interested, are either risk-averse or perhaps distrusting of others when told there is competition.  Some may wish to avoid competition to prevent over-spending or they may need to meet a deadline for finalizing a move (meaning that they cannot go back-and-forth).

One of my favorite analogies is comparing buying and selling Real Estate to “playing poker”:  each party wants to know more about the other than is readily obvious.  Buyers may want to know whether there is competition for a specific property.  Some people, including licensed agents, may think the answer a matter of courtesy or simply being honest.  However, the PAR listing contract is the governing document.  The language in paragraph 13 (“Additional Offers”) states that “Unless prohibited by Seller, if Broker is asked by a buyer or another licensee(s) about the existence of other offers on the Property, Broker will reveal the existence of other offers”.  A separate matter is whether the actual terms are confidential or not.  Absent a signed “confidentiality” agreement, the terms of an offer should not be considered confidential.

Let’s assume that the word “existence” means written, executable offers and not the mere expression of interest from someone.  If the seller permits this disclosure, the listing agent must say “yes” or “no”:  they have to answer truthfully!  If prohibited from answering the question, the agent must respond with words to the effect that they are not authorized to answer the question.  Is providing knowledge about competition in the seller’s best interests?  How important is the “if asked” aspect?

One of the primary reasons that a seller should hire a professional is to rely on our knowledge and insight.  The Internet and your friends and family may or may not provide a great deal of data and information but a professional can put it all together.  I tell my seller-clients that I assume that I AM PROHIBITED from making this disclosure and discuss my thinking with them.  I may ask them to change that later but I have never had a seller disagree.  Which is more likely:  a buyer will make an offer when they know there is competition OR a buyer will walk away when they do not know?

Taken literally, if not prohibited from answering the question, a listing agent would have to disclose the existence of low offers which may not interest their seller-client.  Does that make any sense?

Unfortunately, many buyer-agents do not even ask if there is competition.  I am told that many listing agents are allowed to disclose the existence of other offers and think it a great strategy but should they disclose that without being asked by the buyer’s agent?  Many buyer-agents do not even make the effort to confirm that a property is still available.  Bright MLS allows listing agents 3-business-days to update the listing status so an “Active” property may not really be available.  Can a buyer be harmed by their not knowing that someone else purchased the property?  At the very least, time was wasted preparing an offer.  Even worse, perhaps their showing should have been canceled!

Strategies may differ but it must be noted that the seller is the boss and makes the decision about disclosing.  An experienced agent can advise but is compelled to abide by their client’s wishes.

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

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

April 24, 2019

Multiple Offers: To Disclose or Not?

Real Estate offers many opportunities to peer into the personalities of people with whom we work.  Sometimes what we find is not what we expected.  As a professional I have laws and a Code of Ethics to guide me as well as my integrity and value system.  My clients have the same except for the Code of Ethics, of course.  One topic that brings this into focus is that of “multiple offers”, meaning that more than one buyer is actively interested in buying the same piece of Real Estate.

Some buyers are so interested in a specific property and so willing to compete for it with others that they will plunge into the deep end of the pool to do whatever they can to win.  They may start with their “highest and best offer”.  Others, despite being interested, are either risk-averse or perhaps distrusting of others when told there is competition.  Some may wish to avoid competition to prevent over-spending or they may need to meet a deadline for finalizing a move.

One of my favorite analogies is comparing buying and selling Real Estate to “playing poker”:  each party wants to know more about the other.  Buyers may want to know whether there is competition for a specific property.  Some people, including licensed agents, may think the answer a matter of courtesy or simply being honest.  However, the PAR listing contract is the governing document.  The language in paragraph 13 (“Additional Offers”) states that “Unless prohibited by Seller, if Broker is asked by a buyer or another licensee(s) about the existence of other offers on the Property, Broker will reveal the existence of other offers”.  A separate matter is whether the actual terms are confidential or not.

Let’s assume that the word “existence” means written, executable offers and not the mere expression of interest from someone.  If the seller permits this disclosure, the listing agent must say “yes” or “no”:  they have to answer truthfully!  If prohibited from answering the question, the agent must respond with words to the effect that they are not authorized to answer the question.  Is providing knowledge about competition in the seller’s best interests?  How important is the “if asked” aspect?

One of the primary reasons that a seller should hire a professional is to rely on our knowledge and insight.  The Internet and your friends and family may or may not provide a great deal of data and knowledge but a professional can put it all together.  I tell my seller-clients that I assume that I AM PROHIBITED from making this disclosure and discuss my thinking with them.  I may ask them to change that later but I have never had a seller disagree.  Which is more likely:  a buyer will make an offer when they know there is competition OR a buyer will walk away when they do not know?

Taken literally, if not prohibited from answering the question, a listing agent would have to disclose the existence of low offers which may not interest their seller-client.  Does that make any sense?

Unfortunately, many buyer-agents do not even ask if there is competition.  I am told that many listing agents are allowed to disclose the existence of other offers and think it a great strategy but should they disclose that without being asked by the buyer’s agent?  Many buyer-agents do not even make the effort to confirm that a property is still available.  Bright MLS allows listing agents 3-business-days to update the listing status so an “Active” property may not really be available.  Can a buyer be harmed by their not knowing that someone else purchased the property?  At the very least, time was wasted preparing an offer.  Even worse, perhaps their showing should have been canceled!

Strategies may differ but it must be noted that the seller is the boss and makes the decision about disclosing.  An experienced agent can advise but is compelled to abide by their client’s wishes.

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

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

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