The question for a Sacramento listing agent when working with offer negotiations is often whether sellers should sign purchase offers coupled with counter offers or should sellers sign strictly the counter offers and deal with the rest if and when it comes to fruition? Part of this rests on the urgency of the matter and the situation at hand. For example, if the seller and I might believe the buyer will not accept the counter offer, then it seems sort of pointless to sign all of the other paperwork. Or, if the seller is in a rush and doesn’t have time to sign a bunch of documents, we might just deal with the one-page document in the heat of the moment.
You might read this and wonder why would a listing agent and her seller send a counter offer if they don’t believe the buyer will accept? Many reasons for this. First and foremost, it is almost never a good idea to ignore a purchase offer because it’s an attempt, even if it’s a feeble or ridiculous attempt, to buy a home. My policy is a counter offer is probably a wise idea. Because you never know.
People are freaky weird. I realize this but not everybody does. Every time you think you know exactly what a person will do you are probably proven wrong half the time. You can’t always predict future actions. People will respond however they want, and it could be very different under certain circumstances, and since you don’t possess first-hand information (unless you listen to this person snore at night and, even then, there is no guarantee), you can’t really know how somebody will react until you hand over the ammunition.
Second, the buyers might decide to counter back with different terms but same end result or they might counter with a completely opposite issue. Sending a counter offer shows the seller is willing to negotiate and work with the buyer to sell the home in some manner. It could even be a full-price counter offer, and that’s perfectly acceptable.
Sometimes, it’s a negotiating tactic to send the entire purchase contract signed by the seller, along with a counter offer signed by the seller. That signifies to the buyer that the seller is motivated to move forward and that the seller fully expects the buyer to accept the counter offer. I generally advise my sellers to sign all of the paperwork because it’s a more positive statement to send to the buyer. Especially since it’s a bit subliminal.
A buyer’s agent made me laugh out loud yesterday when he said, “You’re so famous I can’t believe I’m talking to you; you’re everywhere online.” I get a big kick out of that kind of reaction because I truly don’t see the celebrity perception that some people form. I’m just a Sacramento real estate agent who writes about real estate every day and sells a bunch of homes in Sacramento every year. It’s not like I’m on TV or anything. I’m not a best seller at Amazon. I put my pants on one leg at a time like most people — mostly because I’m too old and cranky to jump into them with two feet like some 20-year-old surfer dude.
I call a lot of buyer’s agents these days, especially when I see they have showed my listing, for example, on which almost every buyer who sees it wants to write an offer. I figure it’s better to discuss the situation upfront. Text messages and email are all too easy to ignore. But a phone call is kinda jarring to many agents; it’s too personal, I sense, whoa, what is this sound? My phone is ringing and I’m in the middle of playing Plants vs. Zombies, the new Beach wave. What the?
I call agents because I figure it’s better to talk to them before they write an offer. So many never call the listing agent to get more information or glean insight. If I don’t talk to the agents, they’re left staring at their buyer’s bright and shiny face who asks, “How much should I offer?” And the answer appears to be: Whatever you want. I get offers all over the board these days, and some are pretty wild.
Much of this confusion, not all of it, unfortunately, would be resolved if the buyer’s agent would just call the listing agent before writing an offer. One question to ask is how many offers do you have or have you received? That would shed a lot of light on the situation. Without breaking fiduciary to her seller, a listing agent can also help guide the buyer’s agent to writing an offer that is likely to get accepted.
There is always more behind buying a home than numbers and pictures. There are people involved. It’s not just an address with four walls and a roof.
My focus is to make the seller happy and get the seller into escrow and closed. I don’t mind calling buyer’s agents and talking. It’s how we used to do business in the old days before agents threw offers at the wall to see if anything sticks and then resumed reading Facebook.
The one thing all Sacramento agents should try to avoid have happen with their buyer’s purchase offer is to give the seller’s agent and seller a reason to issue a counter offer. A few weeks ago, a seller had a counter offer out, and while we waited for the response, another buyer swooped in and submitted an offer that the seller accepted. After pulling the counter offer, of course. If one can avoid the counter-offer situation all together, a Sacramento agent can increase the odds her buyer won’t lose the house.
The Elizabeth Weintraub Team members realize this and we try to avoid counter offers at all costs. When my husband and I bought our house in Hawaii, for example, there was already a counter out. Our offer caused the seller to pull that counter, too. Buyers, don’t ever let the fact that there is an existing outstanding counter offer discourage you. Jump on that baby like hot fudge on a sundae.
Some Sacramento agents never call the listing agent before submitting an offer. Even in this market of low inventory and high demand, which makes this a seller’s market. They just shoot over an offer, thinking this is how they’ve always done it, but maybe that purchase offer contains things that need to be countered. Now they’ve set up their buyer for possible failure.
It’s not just the sales price a buyer needs to worry about. It’s not always the big things. Often, it’s the little things. Here are some of the small things that Sacramento agents can do to cause their buyers to lose the house by inadvertently forcing the seller to counter:
- Asking for personal property that is not included in the purchase price
- Bucking local custom on how fees are split
- Requesting government retrofits, i.e. water-saving devices
- Demanding to choose title and escrow
- Asking for longer than 30 days to close
- Not tightening contingency periods
Success is often buried in the details. In the fine print. And it is to a buyer’s advantage for her agent to find out if there are special things the seller might hope to see in the offer. Maybe the seller needs a few days to move or to rent back? Sacramento agents won’t know if they don’t call the listing agent. (Of course, that agent would have to answer her phone.)
If you’re looking for Sacramento agents who work to avoid counters for their buyers (and answer their phones), call Elizabeth Weintraub at 916.233.6759.
Even though I have been in the real estate business for 40 years, it still amazes me how buyers can be so sure one minute and so completely nuts the next. I’m wondering if there isn’t some sort of sign that buyer’s agents are overlooking, or if the agents are so completely focused on getting the paperwork signed that they forget to have a chat with the buyer. You know, something along the lines of: When you sign this contract, you have committed to buy a home, just in case they thought they were signing up for membership in Sam’s Club instead.
We have all become distracted by technology and the whirling world around us. Hey, anybody could have a temporary lapse, I suppose.
I just don’t understand how a buyer can be jumping up and down with such enthusiasm over buying a home, and not quite 2 minutes later falling into cold feet syndrome with severe regrets. Just a few days ago, an agent called to say his buyer was dedicated to purchasing a home in Sacramento. The guy was absolutely in love with this home, and his entire family was behind him. They were so obsessed with buying this home that they pulled out a wad of cash, $3,000 in all, and gave it to the buyer’s agent, begging him to obtain a cashier’s check with it on their behalf and draw a purchase offer.
Two other buyers wanted the same home in Sacramento. This was really good for my seller. She was excited and relieved to hear the news. We received two offers and waited for the purchase offer from the buyer with the $3,000 cashier’s check, too. Waiting, waiting, waiting. Then the agent called to say the buyer had a change of heart and was no longer interested in buying the home.
Doesn’t matter because we have 2 other purchase offers. It was tough initially choosing between them. They were very close to each other in terms of price, down payment and terms. The seller did an eeny, meeny, miny, moe and picked one. Signed the purchase offer. We sent it to the agent and 30 minutes later escrow shot over title information to the buyer’s agent. That’s when the agent emailed to say that after he explained the process, oh, so sorry, his buyer has flipped his gourd and will no longer be buying the home.
All this in one day. Sure hope the third time’s a charm.
Writing an FHA offer for a home listed with cash or conventional terms is sorta like trying to stuff a square peg into a round hole, yet buyer’s agents in Sacramento do it all the time. It’s not like we listing agents can play the listing police and stop the offers at the door. We have to present all offers to the seller, regardless of whether they fit criteria. It’s not the job of the Sacramento listing agent to determine whether an FHA offer should be presented; it’s just not our call to make, yet it can be a waste of time for everybody involved when buyer’s agents don’t do their homework.
It’s a lot of work for a buyer’s agent to write an FHA offer for a buyer. Not to mention, the emotional toll it takes on the buyer. Because after all, the buyer’s agent has shown Suzy Creamcheese the home of her dreams. Ms. Creamcheese has already figured out on which wall she’ll hang her flat-screen TV. She’s stuck photographs of this home on her refrigerator. She’s fallen in love with a home that a) she cannot buy and b) should not have been shown to her, and whose fault is that? Between the two agents, it’s not the listing agent.
The listing agent has most likely entered this particular home into MLS with cash / conventional terms. Was it an oversight or can the home be approved by an FHA appraiser, will it fit FHA repair requirements? Every so often in this business, you’ll find some listing agents who might automatically assume a home won’t pass an FHA inspection when it will, or their office staff might have forgotten to check a box and made a mistake when inputting the listing. The way to find out is to call the listing agent and ask.
Even so, the listing agent might not know the answer without asking the seller. Some sellers, quite frankly, do not want to sell to a buyer who is obtaining an FHA loan or a VA loan. There are a variety of reasons for that stance, which I won’t go into at this point, but one of which is often the fact the home might be tenant occupied with long-term tenants, and month-to-month long-term tenants require a 60-day notice in California. Not every seller wants to give their tenants a notice to vacate, for obvious reasons. Too much risk. Some prefer to let the buyer do it.
FHA guidelines require occupancy within 60 days. Notice from the date rent is due might exceed 60 days. Tenants might refuse to move. There could be problems. Yet, even if a buyer was willing to deal with the tenants, given a seller’s choice between a 15-day close with a cash buyer or a 35- to 40-day close with an FHA buyer — moreover, subject to all sorts of ways the transaction could blow up with that FHA buyer — which do you think a seller will choose? It’s a business transaction to many sellers, especially investors. They are not required to care about the buyer. It doesn’t make them heartless.
Buyers, before falling in love with a home in Sacramento, you might ask your buyer’s agent to find out whether the home you want to buy is a) listed to allow an FHA offer and b) likely to qualify for an FHA loan. Be aware that you’ll probably struggle with a CHDAP loan as well. Sacramento agents don’t create the markets; we just report on them, so don’t shoot the messenger.