2 wrong ways and 1 right way to win in multiple offers

I recently got to experience a part of real estate that I don’t do often. I got to be a seller. In all of my life, I have only been a seller 4 times. I sold the first house we owned a long time ago. I sold two rentals in the past several years. And just this week I sold another rental property.

The first sale of this house fell apart and it came back on the market. Two of the offers I got were from people who had seen it when it was first on the market.

Wrong way #1

I got an offer from somebody who had lost in multiple offers the first time it was on the market. It was the exact same offer with just the dates changed. The buyer’s realtor seemed a little upset that I didn’t take it the first time and was a little snarky in letting me know that I should have accepted it then. Here is the thing. If I didn’t pick your offer the first time when I had other offers, why would I pick it again when I also had other offers. They should have changed some terms to make it more attractive to me. I even told the buyer’s realtor what I didn’t like about the offer.

Wrong way #2

I got a phone call from a realtor who had a couple of questions about it. This realtor asked if I did “Escalation clauses.” I wasn’t totally sure what he meant but I did tell him one of the offers I had in hand did have an escalation clause, so I guess I do them. He then told me how they were not fair to buyers and that he wouldn’t show my house to his buyer. Since I had two other offers in hand, I really didn’t care. He called me later that night and said his buyer wanted to offer $150k for the house that they hadn’t even seen yet. The list price was $130k. Both my offers were $130k and $130,500. If he had submitted an offer earlier, and done the escalation clause he was opposed to, his buyer might have gotten my house for something like $131,500 instead of $150k. He dropped the ball. Instead of riding his high horse about a perceived injustice in the market, he should have shown her my house and written an offer. But no, he lost his client the house and was willing to let her overpay for it.

Right way #1

I get a phone call from a very wise agent. She tells me how her people saw the house the first time it was on the market. They currently live on that side of town and want to stay. That tells me these buyers really want the area. She tells me that they are preapproved with a local lender. Always the best choice. I asked her who she usually recommends for a home inspector. One of the inspectors she mentions is one I personally use when I buy houses. I tell her that and the next thing I know, they have scheduled an inspection with the inspector. So, I am a seller and a realtor. What am I looking for when examining offers? The best terms I can get from a buyer that I feel will mostly likely get the deal done. This agent recognized my concerns and adjusted. In the end, her ability to think about what she could do to get the house for her buyer is what got it.

This is what you need a realtor for. Today’s market is like a traffic jam. You can have a realtor who sits there not moving and complains, a realtor who just stays stuck in the same lane, or one who figures out how to get around obstacles. I feel sorry for the buyers represented by the first two agents.

How to price your house in a Seller’s Market

I have always said a house is gonna sell for what it is worth. I said it when it was a Buyer’s Market. I’m saying it now. Overpricing your house is the surest way to make the process take longer and likely sell for less than it could have. Price it right and buyer’s all rush to see it when it is a new listing, regardless of the market conditions. They are afraid of losing the house if they like it. You want that sense of urgency.

Back in a Buyer’s Market, the goal was to drop the listing on the market at the right price and hope to get multiple offers. It is the same today, only with a few tweaks.

Today the list price is more like when an auctioneer begins the auction with a number low enough that they know they will get that first person to raise their hand. Then the price keeps going up until nobody else raises their hand. The list price is more like a suggestion these days. You still do not want to start off with too high of a list price. I often suggest a list price to sellers. They will tell me how strong the market is and want it to be higher. Then when a house sells for more than the list price, they feel like they left money on the table and undersold it. That is not the case. If you had several buyer’s bidding up your house, that means you got every penny out of it.

What I like to do is examine the most recent comparable sales in the neighborhood. I figure out what the house is worth compared to what other buyer’s have recently paid for houses around my listing. Then I put it on for that price since we know 100% that number will work. The worst thing that could happen is you sell it for full price. Then I drop it on the market late on a Friday. That way everybody sees the listing and starts scheduling showings for the weekend. It is good when buyers see other buyers coming and going. It shows them it is a hot listing and they better decide fast. Once I get one offer, I let all other realtors who have shown it know. You don’t tell them before they show it. You wait until after they have shown it so they don’t assume they won’t get it and cancel the showing. Even if the offer sucks and is not one I can suggest my seller accept, just having one enables me to leverage any other offers up as high as any buyer can go.

I recently put on a listing for $360k. We got 6 offers on it. Five had escalation clauses and we ended up selling it for $384k……and that must be the market value since that is what a ready, willing and able buyer agreed to pay. My seller is a good friend who was very happy with the results. If I had put the house on the market for $384k, do you know what would have happened? Since there was only one buyer willing to pay that much, I probably would have only gotten one offer. It would have been full price or less. I wouldn’t have been able to leverage the terms towards the interest of my sellers without the presence of more than one offer any more than an auctioneer could drive up the price with only one bidder in the room.

When it seems like it was meant to be

I sold a house this week that I wanted to tell you about.

The buyer is a first time buyer who was sent to me from two separate past clients. She works with a client who has become a friend of mine…..Thanks David! Her mother works with another friend who has used me before too……Thanks Doug! I don’t have this happen often when somebody is asking for realtor references and I get mentioned twice. It always makes me feel twice as good that somebody would take their time to connect two people they care about. Close to 100% of my work is getting referred to new people or people coming back to use me again. That is why I don’t ask for reviews and don’t advertise. I just don’t need to do either to attract new work!

The buyer was going to be in the super tight $150ish market. There is almost nothing ever for sale and when something hits the market, you are competing with cash buying investors who sometimes don’t even look at the house before making an offer. This was going to be a tough one.

Right after I started working with this buyer, I get a text from another client who was wanting to sell their house.

The sellers are past clients who I have thoroughly enjoyed working with several times. They bought a house to rent many years ago and it was time to part with it. The sellers did a lot of work to it themselves and it looked really good. The price point was going to be around $150k, which is very hard to find in the current market.

I just knew this was the house for my buyer. I mean, I had recommended it to the sellers when they bought it so I could certainly recommend it again to my buyer!

I told the sellers what I thought it was worth. I told them that I had somebody that was interested in it. I also told them that they could put the house on the market and possibly get a little more than the price range I thought it would sell within since you never know what a desperate buyer will do in this market. They liked the idea of me managing the entire transaction and keeping it simple, so I showed it to my buyer. Of course she wanted it. It was a gorgeous home in one of the most desirable neighborhoods in her price range.

The buyer is happy she didn’t have to frantically make an immediate decision and that she got a great house. The sellers are happy because they know I am managing the whole transaction and made it so easy for them. A win for everybody.

I seem to be having this happen several times a year now. A seller will tell me they are wanting to sell soon and then shortly afterwards I have a buyer tell me what they want and they describe exactly the house my seller has. Happens the other way too. I will have a buyer tell me what they want and then I will have somebody tell me they are ready to sell the exact house the buyer described. It’s sort of cool when this happens. It makes me feel like I am a small part of a bigger story.

How a Seller can protect themselves in a Seller’s Market

What?

It’s their market. Why would they need to do anything? Aren’t they the ones holding all the cards?

Yes, they are. However just because it is their time right now doesn’t mean they don’t need to do things to ensure they got the best terms possible and had a smooth transaction.

So here we go!

DO NOT SELL YOUR HOUSE OFF MARKET-I know this is very popular right now and us realtors love it because it is easier. It has become sort of a status symbol. Sellers feel like their house was more exclusive that it was. Buyers feel like they got an invitation to the after party. It isn’t a good idea though. The market is crazy right now. Buyers are tired of making offers that don’t get accepted. They want a house. I have seen numerous times where I will get multiple offers on a house and one buyer will go way over the list price to get it. Let’s say you get five offers. Four of them are pretty much the same and then there’s one that is waaaaay better. Come to find out, they had lost several houses and were just tired of it. Their attitude was that they were not going to lose another one again. Long story short, you never know what your house is going to sell for until you expose it to the market.

DON’T TAKE THE FIRST GOOD OFFER-There is no question that if you have a decent house and don’t overshoot the value with the list price, you are going to get multiple offers. Too often I see sellers in a rush to accept one. They know it is a sellers market but since they don’t buy or sell houses all that often, they are afraid of losing a buyer. It is up to their realtor to let them know that the buyer is not going to suddenly rescind their offer if it is not accepted within a few hours of receiving it. The only time you want to be in a hurry to accept an offer these days is when it is the ONLY offer you got. I think it is best to give the market at least 24 hours to see the house and let everybody know the cutoff for sending offers. That deadline implies you have multiple offers even if you don’t and makes buyers in a rush to decide if they want the house.

DON’T SELL THE HOUSE “BY OWNER’-I know this one sounds self serving. The temptation to save paying real estate commissions is appealing for sure. I see more for sale by owner sellers having deals fall apart or selling for less than they could have gotten for their house. This could be an entire blog series so I will just skim the top. To begin with, few sellers take good pictures of their houses. That makes people less interested in seeing it. Then they can usually only show the house when they are available. That means fewer showings. Then they don’t leave for showings. Buyers ALWAYS feel awkward when a seller doesn’t leave. They think they need to be in a hurry or can’t open closet doors. They feel like they are invading the sellers personal space. Even worse are the sellers who want to lead you around and tell you unimportant details about their home like telling you what the kitchen looked like before remodeling it. Newsflash, painting a picture in the buyer’s head of the old ugly kitchen does not help to sell your house. Then they go with the highest offer, which on the surface sounds good, but the buyer has to sell their old house first and they were preapproved by “By-Pass Mortgage and Bait Shop” which is located somewhere in Arkansas. Then they feel like they shouldn’t do any home inspection repairs since they have been living there and that leaking roof has never bothered them. In the end, few for sale by owner sellers know if the offer they have is the best one and if it is likely to close. They often kill their own sales since they don’t know what they are doing.

ALWAYS ASK FOR THE TERMS YOU WANT, EVEN IF IT WASN’T IN THE OFFER-If you have several offers, try to combine the terms you like from all of them. Sometimes it works. Let’s say you like the price of one offer, the closing date of another, the possession date of another, and the inspection type of another. What you do is pick the one that you think has the best chance of closing (cash or preapproved with a lender your realtor knows is good, bigger down payment, etc.) Then you see if that buyer can match the other terms you like. You might say to the buyer’s agent that you really want to work with their buyer but you also would like to close on such and such date like one of the other offers you got, and that you’d like the buyer to not do a home inspection like one of the other offers you got. It is a friendly way of letting them know that while you like them the best, you might just go with another buyer who has already agreed to those terms. My experience is that most of the time a buyer is more than willing to alter a closing date, possession date and possibly change their inspection type to get the house.

Want to know where the market is, TODAY?

I like to do these market updates every once in a while. When I do, I do them in real time. What do I mean by that? I meant that the info is right now. Most of the time when you are hearing about the real estate market, it is from sources that are a month or more behind, or it is from a national source that is giving you a dated snapshot of the market for the entire country. My data is taken from the MLS in the past 20 minutes and is specifically for the Bluegrass area.

I won’t geek out and break down all this data into price range, which town, or property type, but there were 24 existing home sales that went pending in the past 24 hours. Do you want to guess how many of them sold within 2 days of being listed? You would think it would be all of them based on what your realtor friends post online, or what you read in the news. But, of those 24 houses, only 4 of them sold in less than 2 days. There were 8 that sold between 2 and 10 days. 4 sold between 11 and 30 days. 4 sold between 31 and 60 days. And 4 sold between 61 and 90 days on the market.

Let’s look at the houses that closed in the past 24 hours. While pending sales give us a snapshot of what the market is doing right now, freshly closed sales give us a snapshot of where the market was a month ago since it usually takes 30 days or so to close.

How many of the closed sales do you think got full price, or over full price offers when these sales went pending last month? Again, you would assume all of them, right? Of the 23 closed sales posted today, only 8 of them sold for the full list price. 5 sold for over the asking price. One sold for $10k over the list price in a neighborhood where I have seen this happen frequently. That means 10 of the closed sales went for LESS than the full asking price.

I could go a lot of ways with this blog post, but I think I will take this chance to say that you really need an agent that knows when you need to offer the full price, when you need to go over the list price, and when you can make an offer for less than the list price. The market is so fast right now that I think a lot of buyer’s realtors are not looking at comparable sales in the neighborhood. They are just so focused on getting an offer in fast that they don’t really take the time to figure out what the house is really worth. To me, that is the most important bit of info we have to offer a client. I have had many listings in the past year where I had a ton of showings and didn’t get an offer on the first day on the market. Then the next day a realtor is frantically trying to reach me saying they are about to send a full price offer and are so glad the house is still available. Well, if I had 12 buyers look at the listing and didn’t get an offer, truth be told the house probably wasn’t worth the list price……but I am not going to tell the buyer’s realtor that, I just tell them where to send the offer.

That’s the data. I am by no means saying the market is slowing down. It is after all the middle of winter which is usually the slowest time of the year. I do think the market will stay strong for quite some time. I just wanted you all to know that not every house sells the first day on the market for full price or more. I want to help separate the perception of what the market is like compared to the reality.