How much are you willing to say about a previously turned down offer on one of your listings? This was the topic of last week’s Mastermind meeting at our office and it created considerable debate. Here is the scenario…. You have a listing that has been around for nearly two months. In that time you have entertained two offers. The first one came on offer night but it was much lower than the Seller’s expectations. Just after the third week, you terminated the listing and relisted it at a higher price. (This tactic has limited success but, depending on the time of year and a bunch of other factors, can help sell the property). Within days you received your second offer which was lower that the first offer. Now you are cruising in on month two. You are still getting lots of showings and agents are asking questions…why hasn’t it sold? have you been getting interest? AND… have you received any offers so far?
We had a rather entertaining debate at the office and on the local real estate Facebook group. One thread suggested that the listing agent has a duty, according to REBBA 2002, to say absolutely nothing. I find the logic incorrect on this. While our duty is to inform agents about the number of competing offers we are bound to keep the contents of competing offers confidential, but once an offer is rejected and expired, is it still our responsibility to keep the contents private? If you agree with that logic than you would have to agree that an expired offer is still, technically, an offer. I don’t believe that is the case. Plus I find it hard to imagine an agent responding to my question about other offers by saying “I can’t tell you”. In my mind that is a loaded response that immediately puts any possibility of a new offer off the table.
Another thread suggested that it was okay to divulge certain information about expired offers, such as price and terms (like conditions or closing dates) provided the Seller has given his permission. Generally this is not a bad answer but I don’t think it ticks all the boxes either. Essentially it suggests that the Seller is directing the listing agent to say something like “the Seller is hoping to get $1M and the last offer was only for $850k”. Clearly the agent is acting on the direction of the Seller but is he advancing his listing in any way?
While I recognize that we work under a strict code of ethics and the law, I believe there are a number of responses that work without implicating your Seller in a position of greed or being unrealistic. “We had two offers. One came really quickly and wasn’t what we were looking for, and the other had some conditions that the Seller was uneasy with” or how about “we were back and forth but in the end the parties just couldn’t come to an agreement”. and end the conversation with “we are still getting plenty of showings and traffic is high at open houses”. No lies, no disparaging comments. Simple truths. What you don’t want to say are things like “The offers didn’t meet my clients expectations” or “both offers were below market value” or “my clients expectations are too high” or ” my client is looking for $X (even if directed by your client to say so)”.
I am reminded about the saying that a good agent will say more by not saying. That’s a valuable lesson to be learned. I believe it is alright to say that you had two offers, but, if pressed about the contents it is okay to be vague. Don’t fall into the trap of saying too much especially if you are asked about price. Simply direct the potential agent to do their own research on comparable solds in the area and let them determine value. 20 years ago our market was much different. Properties stayed on the market for months so naturally agents would ask about previous offers and yes, we would speak the truth. There was true kitchen table negotiating with candid discussions while not giving away too many details. My advise, strike a balance between saying something and not saying anything. That may sound strange but the reality is that human nature should be your guide. People want what others have or want. If you say that there has been interest and offers then potential buyers want in on that action.
Mark McLean is the Broker/Manager at the Bosley Real Estate Queen St W office, the Immediate Past President the Toronto Real Estate Board and a director at the Ontario Real estate Association . The opinions expressed here do not reflect the opinions of TREB, OREA or Bosley RE
No question that frustration levels are high these days. The market is still very hot and competition on offer night is as strong as it has ever been. They used to say that you had to make fifty significant real estate related conversations to get one deal. Today that adage has been tweaked to say that you need to make one hundred connections for the CHANCE to get a deal.
Part of my job as manager is to help agents figure out strategies on winning BEFORE they present. I decided to use this topic as a focus for my Tuesday meeting. Having lots of brains in the room allowed us to work together to come up with ideas on how to improve your chances. Frankly some of them seem very obvious but you would be surprised how often even the simplest idea can lead to victory.
There are the basic winning strategies. Have a well prepared and clean offer, include a large deposit in form of a bank draft, and have your client nearby. These three items should be enough to get you across the finish line. But there are some that may be less obvious. The truth is that it is not always the person with the biggest bag of money who gets the house. On the contrary. A solid offer, with better terms and conditions can beat a higher price more often than you think.
Like a good detective, its important to find out as much as you possibly can about who the seller is, how experienced is their agent, who are you competing with. The answers to this questions may help you in determining your strategy and potential offering price. Also it is important to present well. That means not just looking good, but making sure names are correctly spelled on the offer and that you have multiple copies for each seller even if the eventual offer will be signed digitally. It seems like a silly thing to do but before you head to the offer table ask the listing agent who you will be presenting to. If it is a family of five making decisions for an estate, bring enough copies for everyone in the room.
Ultimately the perfect presentation should include building rapport not just with the listing agent but with the seller. Being understanding yet firm with a sharp mind on the market and comparable sold properties in the neighbourhood will endure you as a professional.
Another helpful hint. After the offer is typed, find yourself a quiet room with no distractions and go over the entire offer line by line. There is nothing worse that wrong clauses, inclusions or names. Many years ago I received an offer on a property from an agent who was obviously in a rush. In an effort to save time, this agent cut and pasted clauses from another offer. When it arrived to me it had the wrong address and seller’s name on one of the schedules, the written deposit amount didn’t match the numeric amount nor did it match the amount on the cheque. Sloppy mistakes like that can cost you a deal very easily and there is nothing worse that having to go back to your buyer and explain why their higher offer was not accepted.
As I said earlier, these tips won’t guarantee you will win but they will increase your odds dramatically. Have any other tips that have worked for you? I would love to hear them. Drop me note.
mark mclean is the Broker/Manager at the Bosley Real Estate Queen St W office, the Immediate Past President the Toronto Real Estate Board and a director at the Ontario Real estate Association . The opinions expressed here do not reflect the opinions of TREB, OREA or Bosley RE
I’m trying to be polite here. The “WTH” stands for ‘What the heck”. A few weeks ago at our Mastermind session we talked about how an agent lost a deal over a relatively small item. In this case it was a $500 Ikea cabinet. As soon as that story came out others piped in about some of their lost deals too. It was surprising to see what buyers and sellers would walk away from. I put it out to my Facebook friends and got some wild responses.
One person lost a deal over a pool table when the seller was moving out of province anyhow. Another lost over a broken snow blower. Apparently the seller promised it to a nephew and buyer walked without it. Other inconsequential items included a fridge, a $100 microwave, a bookshelf, drapes and a flowering shrub in the garden. Of course it isn’t always about possessions. Sometimes it’s a technicality. I heard from one friend who had a deal fall apart because the age of the home was reported as 14 years old when it was actually 18 years old, while another deal died over a 6 month discrepancy in the age of the furnace. Another fell apart when the seller signed back an offer to close on the same date that was the anniversary of a death of a family member and was taken as a sign that this “wasn’t meant to be”.
Often the argument is just an ego thing where the buyer and seller just don’t like each other and dig their heels in but other times it is the telltale sign of something larger. Our job is diffuse the anger and turn it into a positive. Here is my example; Once I went on a listing presentation on a condo. The exact same unit on the floor directly below sold for $365k. I suggested to the seller that if we listed at $369k we might do a little better (being one floor up). The owner was insistent on listing at $379k so I thought, sure why not. It’s not wildly off base. After a few weeks we got an offer for $375k so being already $10k ahead I pressed my seller to accept. She wouldn’t. Insisted on the full $379k. We couldn’t make the deal work and the seller walked. So clearly my seller lost on a great opportunity….or did she? About a month later the seller listed with someone else at $379k and the condo sold way over in multiple offers. In effect, it turns out the original buyer lost. There is a lesson in here somewhere.
Clearly buying or selling a home is an emotional experience. Both sellers and buyers think they hold all the cards. Getting them together is the real trick. If you hit this critical impasse the first thing to do is isolate it. Is this a buyer getting cold feet or a seller who’s just not ready to let go? Knowing the true motivation will help resolve the issues. Sometimes however, people are just stubborn jerks. Other times you step up and buy them a new microwave. In the end, the buyer and the seller just want to know that someone cares. Finally, I heard from one friend who tells it like it is. His client was his wife. Many years ago she dug her heels in when there was only a $200 difference between her and the seller. The agent husband managed to get the deal together and it has been their matrimonial house for 20 years. He loves to tell the story about how she almost let the deal die over $200. Hilarious.
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.