A Little Grace Goes A Long Way

I can’t think of a time where showing a little grace was ever a bad idea. The last few weeks have been downright brutal in the real world, at least from our perspective. Escrows are falling for reasons that simply don’t make sense. Appraisals are coming in at 15-25% under the contract price and the list goes on. It’s the time of year where many sellers are thinking of putting their homes on the market, so we are being asked for opinions of value, interviewing for listings, and spending a decent amount each week talking about who we are and what we provide. As brokers, we each get to put our own spin on the business. After all, the service we provide is really what sets us apart. We all know a trained monkey can unlock a door and show you through a house.

In a recent transaction, we were reminded once again the value in keeping things in perspective as much as treating others as you would like to be treated. In this particular situation, we wrote a very strong offer on a new listing and awaited the news our offer had been accepted. After a bit of an extended wait, partially due to the sellers’ lack of availability, our clients were crushed to learn another offer had come in while we waited and the sellers opted to take it. What?! We didn’t know another offer was even received. Why weren’t we given an opportunity to improve our offer? This simply didn’t make sense. After some tense but respectful conversation with the listing broker, there was just nothing that could be done. The sellers made their decision.

In reviewing the “play by play” with the listing broker and scrutinizing how things were handled, we ultimately agreed to disagree on the strategy of whether or not you should disclose the presence of another offer, be it to buyers #1, who have already submitted, as well as whether buyers #2 should be given the heads up that an offer already exists. It’s a delicate dance but in the end, it was a great reminder that as independent contractors, we each have our own way of doing business. I certainly had my opinions as to why I feel like it’s always in the best interest of the sellers to notify all parties of other written offers and the other broker, after conversation with his seller and much consideration, decided it wasn’t in the seller’s best interest. They feared they would lose both buyers once they learned they were competing with one another and then they’d be left with nothing.

When I delivered the news to our clients that their offer had been rejected and another was accepted, they were just as surprised as I was. How did this happen? We asked to be notified if another offer was written so shouldn’t I have been told? Before making the dreaded call, I took a deep breath, opened my mind to the other perspective and really tried (though hard) to see the logic. In presenting the information, I could have easily started pointing fingers but I remembered that the primary thing that sets all Realtors apart is how they conduct themselves. I explained that while I may not have handled it the way it was handled, it was that broker’s judgment call and he honestly felt he was acting in his clients’ best interest. I also explained that ultimately he let the sellers decide how to address the multiple offers and provided them the pros and cons to each option and then respected the sellers’ decision.

When I questioned the manner in which it was handled, I wasn’t rude or disrespectful but explained I didn’t agree with it and really felt there was a better way to handle it. I was assured that offer #2 didn’t know about our offer either, so the fact that they were just a smidge better was simply the way the cookie crumbles. We requested to be in a back up position, which the sellers agreed to and also asked that offer #1 not be made aware we were there. Sitting in a back up position can be tricky. Often times you simply make offer #1 that much stronger because they know to mind their p’s and q’s for fear that any misstep or unreasonable request will enable that second offer to slide right in. We sat patiently, tail between our legs, and continued our search. My buyers are just the sweetest family so how could this happen? I was crushed.

Within a short period of time we learned that buyers #1 were backing out for a “life circumstance” unrelated to the property and we were back in the saddle. That was a phone call I couldn’t wait to make. I was thrilled for our clients and proud of myself for not burning my bridge with that other broker and just letting the whole thing blow up because I disagreed. With more perseverance, we got through the inspection negotiations. It’s an older house being sold through an estate, where for a minute it seemed the sellers were more sentimental than sensible. We were on the home stretch, or so we thought, when it was time for the appraisal, only to be blindsided by the value coming in at close to $100k less than the contract price. Wham-O! Here we go again. We all knew going in that this one would be tough to compare. It wasn’t a huge house but its location and other “intangibles” made it special.

Heck… that was obvious just in the amount of activity it received the day it hit the market. Unfortunately for us, the appraiser doesn’t care much about buyer appetite and if they can’t justify it on paper, they don’t. Back to the drawing board… with fingers and toes crossed, we could come to a solution that worked for everyone. It’s difficult for sellers to wrap their mind around being told their home isn’t worth what someone is already willing to pay. Ummm, isn’t a home worth what a buyer is willing to pay? Yes and no. The bank has to agree. Both we and the listing broker scrutinized the appraisal and while there may have been one or two better comparable sales out there, it certainly wasn’t anything that would bring us to the contract price. Together, we all round-tabled ideas until we came up with a solution that worked for everyone. We presented our case to the listing broker who presented it to the sellers. Our buyer brought a little more to the table to help lessen the gap and the sellers ultimately gave a sizable discount so we could make it work.

With a celebratory hug between the listing broker and myself upon the exchange of keys, we congratulated one another on a job well done. We didn’t see eye to eye at the onset, but we remained committed to the goal. All parties were well-represented and achieved the desired outcome. By having a little grace and reminding myself that it was the listing broker’s prerogative to advise his clients how he seemed best, it would do me no good to speak disparagingly of him. I didn’t agree with the way it was handled but it isn’t up to me to decide how other Realtors conduct their business. He wasn’t being unethical, he just had a different approach.

What we have grown to love about this business so much is the personal twist we get to put on things. What we do has very little to do with houses and land. It’s about relationships and experience. It’s taking years of experience and scores of transactions and putting that to work for our clients. The spring inventory is slowly trickling in so if you are in the market to buy, it seems as though you will finally have a few places to choose from. You’d still benefit greatly by aligning yourselves exclusively with a Realtor, so you are their first call when something great hits the market. As a seller, the values are still higher than they have been so if you are considering a change, we would love an opportunity to meet you and share a bit about who we are.