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!

The Type of Market and How it Affects Searching for Price

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HIRE WISELY:  We are not all the same!

April 16, 2021

When Should You Reduce Your Asking Price?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HIRE WISELY:  We are not all the same!

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