So, here we are. It's Wednesday evening and we have three offers. Enough competition that we should see proper market value, but not one of the feeding frenzies you read about in the papers. With three, especially since one is being delivered and not presented, we can do it at the house where everyone is likely more comfortable. One or two more and I probably would have moved it to a meeting room at our office.
As it turns out, a health issue means only one offer is actually being "presented". This is unusual, even though more and more offers are just faxed or otherwise delivered. There are special circumstances -- for example, an estate sale with the lawyer as executor -- where just sending in the offers makes sense. There are also lots of not-so-good reasons for this happening, ranging from lazy to devious. But most agents in most cases prefer to come to the presentation with their offer. They can give some insight into their clients, answer questions and get a better sense of the sellers' situation and preferences.
We encourage our sellers to make the "rules" simple and clear and in writing. By stating up front that we will take the best acceptable offer if it is at least $5,000 (equivalent) better than the next offer, we make it clear that we are not going to "game" anyone. Our reputation -- and putting it in writing -- means that agents can more often bring their buyers' best offer right away.
The result should be the best chance for the buyer, the best price for the seller and less stress and running around (and theatrics) for all concerned.
In this case, our sellers -- us -- were easy sells for this approach.
So, if you haven't been through it, here's how this goes.
Assuming everybody shows up on time, the first agent comes in ... introductions ... can I get you some water, etc. ... blah, blah ... and hands the offer to the listing agent.
When that listing agent is one of us, we have already explained the process to our clients. Said process begins by reading through the offer silently, making notes if one wishes. Most importantly, do not either start whooping and dancing ... or make gagging sounds and insult the parentage of the bidders.
With the first offer, we will go through it pretty thoroughly -- even the standard clauses that will be in every offer.
We then find a little out about the potential buyers, clarify any issues, say thanks and send the agent away -- maybe to their car, maybe to the basement, not usually to eternal damnation.
[By the way, sitting in your car on a Sunday evening in mid-winter, waiting for the phone call saying you just "lost" may be the most common setting for agents questioning their career choices.]
With the buyers' agent gone, we can discuss the merits and issues of the offer.
Rinse and repeat. It gets faster with subsequent offers as the standard stuff need not be reviewed and explained in the same detail.
Then it's done. All the agents are stashed away and it's time for a decision. This can be obvious, or obvious with a question (can you move your closing date a week later?). Or it can be so close that the written rules mean you have to ask those poor agents to go back and see if their clients wish to improve -- everybody's evening gets a lot longer.
Or it can just be tough. The classic would be one high offer that has a loose condition (say, home inspection) and a firm offer for less money. How much is "firm" worth? (The answer: "a lot").
An amazing number of little details, signatures, initials and phone calls later, we had that odd feeling that comes with selling your home of 21 years, albeit successfully. We, and the buyers' agent also had that exhilaration of a successful deal.
Two other agents had that unpleasant, but not uncommon these days, of not getting the deal and not getting the home that their clients wanted enough to bid on.
Saddest, are the two families who probably spent a lot of time stressing over what to offer for a house they must have liked and wanted and didn't get it. In this market, those couples may "lose" several times before they get their home. It is tougher than almost anyone can understand until they go through it. A good trusted, empathetic supportive, agent is very important here.
One more phone call to Florida: "Honey, I sold the house", a celebratory dram, and off to bed.
As I begin to drift off, my eyes pop open as I think: "Wait a minute. Where the heck are we going to live?"