Multiple Offers: Weak But Increasingly Common, And It's Your Listing Agent's Fault

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Listing Agents say they hate it when prospective buyers (of their listings) make offers on multiple properties, but they keep doing things to encourage it.

It is both legal and simple for buyers to make multiple offers. All I have to do is include some phraseology about this offer will be withdrawn in the event of the acceptance of another offer. Listing agents do the equivalent thing every time they negotiate multiple offers. At least they do it if they are hardworking and smart, rather than asking everyone for their "best and highest offer," a lame, weak technique that has precisely one advantage - minimal labor for the listing agent - and a laundry list of disadvantages. But it should not surprise anyone that if listing agents can do one thing, buyer's agents can respond by executing multiple offers, especially where sellers and listing agents miss deadlines to counter, take weeks to make up their mind, don't respond to requests for information, and have to be goaded into responding at all.

A single offer is stronger for both buyers and sellers. For buyers, it says that you have singled out this one property to make an offer on. You want this one, at least if the seller can be dealt with on a reasonable basis. It says you aren't going to flake out or abandon them mid-negotiation because you have found something you like better, and if you come to an agreement, you're not going to abandon that agreement without reason. Someone making multiple offers cannot claim any of this. For sellers, all of these are valuable features of an offer - perhaps more valuable than an extra $10,000 on the offer. If your agent doesn't understand this, that's a problem.

Furthermore, encouraging multiple offers encourages both lowballing and uncommitted buyers who don't care whether they buy your property or not. There's not much emotional buy-in, but many buyers will throw out a low-ball for marginal properties just to see if they get a response. But even if you do respond to such offers, they're not going to turn into the kind of offer that makes sellers happy.

For all the complaints about multiple offers I hear, though, listing agents seem to keep doing things to encourage them. Sitting on offers for weeks is a bad idea because buyers will move on. Sitting on purchase offers without response for six weeks or more. When the sellers finally respond, the buyers are already in escrow on something else. About a month ago, I got a response three weeks after the offer, two weeks after deadline to respond, during which time the clients decided they wouldn't be happy in the property after all. Agents who delegate assistants (licensed or not) to check boxes on offers are a definite turn off, as well - those assistants have no idea what is a good offer and what is not. They have never seen the property, they have no idea of the market it sits in, no real clue as to general market activity - and if the agent doesn't have their hands on the situation pretty constantly themselves, neither does the assistant. When I call an agent phone number in the listing, and there is literally no way of talking to the agent, or for that matter, any actual living person, that's a situation for a throwaway multiple offer, if anything at all. They're not taking prospective buyers seriously. Put in a lowball multiple offer, if they respond in a timely fashion, great. Otherwise, let's move on with our lives.

If you want buyers to make single offers, you need to respond to them promptly and individually. You need to take the time to understand the offer and the strong and weak points, and you have to understand how it matches up with your clients needs. This takes time, and it takes an agent who knows what they are doing - not a clueless unlicensed part time receptionist who is filling in boxes. This means that in order to get the most mileage out of the offers you get, you have to have a listing agent who has the time to spare for this particular listing. The corporate transaction mills are not the way to get that. There are many reasons I advise people against so-called "top producers," and that is only one of them. If you want the best possible price, you need an agent with the ability to invest enough time in your property to make a difference. Yes, I use loan processors and transaction coordinators. They're not allowed to interact with my clients, and they don't even enter into the picture until and unless we've got a full loan package ready for submission or a fully negotiated purchase contract. They're there to dot the i's and cross the t's - taking care of the routine fine detail work that most clients never know about - not so I can disengage myself from the transaction.

If the agency real estate office is doing everything they can to take as many listings as they can, to the point where the agents cannot properly service those listings, that's a situation where you're begging for multiple, weak offers. I put deadlines to respond on every offer I type. Reasonable deadlines, minimum of three business days, perhaps five, to give the other side plenty of time to respond. Most of my buyer clients have time pressures. They don't have three weeks to wait and see if one offer responds, after which they wait three more weeks to see if another offer responds, when they're operating under any kind of a deadline. I'm working with a client who's being posted here from elsewhere a couple months from now. When we started looking , even a short sale was a legitimate possibility, which should surprise you given my general opinion that buyers should avoid short sales. Inconsiderate listing agents trying to service too many listings have eaten most of the time we had to play with, causing us to now be in the situation of needing to make multiple offers on multiple properties. Buyer degree of attachment to any given property: small. Buyer willingness to negotiate on any given offer: small. Buyer willingness to offer an attractive price in such circumstances: small. And these "top producer" megaoffices listing these properties are wondering why, despite the incredible numbers of offers being made, they're not getting the kind of increases in value we saw a few years ago? Why the offers are all petering out at a low level? Why prospective buyers who do get accepted offers are so likely to bail out on the deal? Why actual sales prices aren't increasing?

Many listings want to accumulate offers for weeks. I've read several listings that say things like "no offers will be evaluated until (two weeks from now)." Okay, if we like the property, and nothing else catches our eye, we'll consider making an offer just before then. Keep in mind, it'll be ten days between when my client saw the property and when they make their offer, it won't be a hot "right now" offer or even a lukewarm "next day" offer. It'll be a multiple offer - only fair, since that's what the seller is asking for. And if my buyers find something else in the meantime, well, there won't be any offer made at all.

Let me ask: what happens when your best offer - most often the first, almost always one of your early ones - has moved on with their life? For that matter, what happens when all the good offers have moved on with their life? You're stuck with the low-ball offer from a flipper, that's what. I'd hate to be in a situation where I told my listing client there were 8 offers - but only the two lowballs were still interested because I had my head you-know-where. But that's what these agents are setting themselves up for.

If there are competing offers and one of them isn't nearly as attractive as another, there is no harm in saying so, and saying so quickly. Either they will drop out of contention or they will increase the attractiveness of their offer. If they increase their offer, my client is happy. If they drop out, my work with them is done, and they're now out there looking at other properties. The quicker I answer, the more likely it is that this prospective buyer will respond with a better offer. I'm perfectly willing to fax over (slightly redacted) critical pages of competing offers in such situations where their offer isn't even close.

Every offer needs to get a timely response, whether it's a rejection, a counter, or an acceptance. This is not only common courtesy, but good business, and the best way to end up with a good price on the final contract, one that the buyer is both willing to and capable of meeting promptly.

Negotiate with each offer individually. Asking everyone for a "Best and Highest" offer is very weak. Any buyer's agents that are worth a damn know how to respond to that one. Individual negotiations (if you happen to actually have multiple offers) works wonders. Put the multiple offer disclaimer on it if it's appropriate, and slap it back to them same day if you can. Keep the negotiations hot. Keep the buyer's memory fresh. Increase the buyer's mental buy-in if you can. This is labor intensive, but it leads to happy clients, bigger paychecks, and more clients. I don't see how anything else can be more important than those three things for an agent. I don't see how anything can be more important than just creating happy clients.

Encouraging multiple offers by acting like you don't care about prospective buyers is a good way to be forced to settle for less money than you could have gotten. I don't encourage it, I don't recommend it, and I very definitely do not practice it. I don't understand those agents and sellers who do. You get the buyers you deserve - the desirable buyers you earn by treating them correctly. Give them respect, give them attention, negotiate with them as individuals, and one good, seriously interested buyer is all that you need to get a good price for the property.

Caveat Emptor

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Dan Melson published on June 4, 2021 7:00 AM.

Properties With Accepted Contracts Aren't Available was the previous entry in this blog.

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