Transparency at the Offer Table. Not Just a Pipe Dream
At a recent mastermind session our group talked about the frustrations we often feel when we are at the offer table. There are many opportunities for the evening to go wrong because the process is secretive and often skewed to favour the listing agent and there is always a chance that we, acting as a buying agent, will have to go back to the buyer and let them know that they didn’t get the house. Sure, it could be as simple as price, but as you know, there are many chances for error, incompetence or fraud.
So in our meeting, we wondered if there were a way to sell a home with complete transparency. Could we make the process so fair that everyone who offered and lost could walk away knowing they were given every opportunity to buy the house? We worked through several possibilities, talked through potential land mines, and played devil’s advocate on a number of different scenarios.
One of our solutions could be best demonstrated by this example. You’ve listed a property for $699k and have received 5 offers. You’ve told all the participating agents that you will be running the process as follows…after everyone presents you are going to meet with the agents collectively and disclose only the price of the highest bid. At that point you will give the agents 1/2 hour to speak to their clients and return, if they so wish, to participate in the second round. Four agents return for the second round and present their offers again and once more you meet with them and announce the winning bid. This process continues until there is only one agent standing. In many ways it mirrors an auction process but requires the skill of a buyer agent in negotiating fairly with the seller and the seller agent. All agents are present and counted for so there is no chance that there are phantom offers. At no time is it made clear which agent has the leading bid, nor does that agent know how close the other offers are. The winning offer is successful based on its merit (and or price) and there is no opportunity for shenanigans. In the event of an offer from the listing agent, the manager or someone else from the office manages the process and the listing agent is unaware of the other offers.
From the surface the idea seems to have merit until you dive into REBBA 2002, which is the Act that we must follow (in essence, our play book). In it, there is expressed direction that an agent does not have the right to disclose any terms of an offer even if directed to by the client seller. So if you liked the idea of a completely transparent offer night, don’t hold your breath.
It occurred to me that rules and regulations are brought about to govern the way business is conducted TODAY. When the way business is conducted changes, the rules (or laws) get updated. We see that happening today with the Condominium Act which was first enacted in 1998. Certainly a lot has happened in that world over the past 16 years and even with tweets and updates, one wonders if an act that old holds the answers to an ever-growing segment of the real estate market. Like the Condominium Act, I wonder if, when first established, REBBA 2002 could have ever imagined a market as strong and unrelenting, or something as strange (back then) as bully offers.
At the end of the day, the only answer is hard work. As the listing agent, our job is to run offer night in the most professional way which, among other things, means refusing to represent your own buyer. We need to keep the lines of communication open with every agent bringing an offer, explain the process that will steer the presentations and stick to them religiously, and above all be fair and honest to everyone involved in the transaction. For buyer agents, come prepared with your best offer, have a good deposit, and make sure your buyers are nearby. Keeping simple rules will make the transaction go smoothly, eliminate confusion, and keep everyone out of court.
mark mclean is the Broker/Manager at the Bosley Real Estate Queen St W office and President-Elect for the Toronto Real Estate Board. The opinions expressed here do not reflect the opinions of TREB or Bosley RE.