Technology has allowed us to implement a lot of changes in the real estate industry, and yet some of the older, somewhat obsolete practices remain.
When it comes to the presentation of offers, many listing agents simply ask for the offers to be emailed, in order to save time, and forego the “dog and pony show” of a dozen agents “presenting” an offer, one after the next.
And many buyer agents relish the opportunity to save time, and head home early.
But once in a while presenting in person makes all the difference…
Have you ever heard a story about a young couple who provided a lovely, hand-written note to the seller of a home they wanted, and how the seller was so touched that she sold the house to them in the midst of a flurry of offers?
Yes, I’m sure you have.
We’ve all heard a story like that.
But in reality, that story, or one of a hundred versions of it, has probably been told ten thousand times for every time it’s taken place.
And those stories are being told with less frequency, as instances like that rarely, if ever, happen in our market.
I don’t do the whole “photo and letter” thing anymore because it just doesn’t work.
The last time I did that? Wow, I think it has to be back in 2007.
I was presenting an offer for a young couple who were buying their first condo, and in 2007, the market seemed to be a little calmer, and a little more reasonable in all respects. Back then, you really could sit down at the table with the seller, pull out a photo of your clients, and tell a story about them – with the seller listening.
There were 12 offers on that condo back in 2007, and the listing agent called me to say that the seller loved my clients, but we didn’t have the highest offer.
The sellers wanted us to get the property, but they wanted to play fair.
So although we were the second-highest offer, they would give us and the buyer with the highest offer a second chance, and they would allow us to resubmit.
We did exactly that. We added $7,000, and resubmitted.
That $7,000 got us the condo.
I went to meet the sellers to sign the papers, and they were gushing about my clients.
It wasn’t a rouse to get more money – it was real.
My buyers were both 25-years-old, engaged to be married, and living together for the first time.
The sellers told me that when they bought the condo, they were 25-years-old, engaged to be married, and it would be the first time they had ever lived together.
Their sentiments were real.
My buyers reminded the sellers of themselves, a few years earlier, and it made them think about the people involved, along with the money.
They really, truly wanted my buyers to get the condo, and although they played it fair, and didn’t just say, “Add, $5,620 to your offer and we have a deal,” they went out of their way to give us a shot.
That’s the one instance I have of the old “photo and letter” trick working.
I’m not the only one who’s used it, but as with everything else in life, eventually the trick got worn out.
I remember taking offers on a house in Davisville Village a few years later, and I had four different agents pull out the photo and letter. My clients were nice people, but they asked me, “Holy crap, do we really need to sit and listen to all these goddam letters?”
Call them callous if you want, but by that point, the letters and pictures had lost all value.
Fads come and go, as do their effectiveness.
But where I see many agents making a mistake these days is foregoing the in-person presentation.
When I got into the business, every offer was presented in person. It wasn’t even a question – you just showed up to the brokerage at 7pm, and you presented your offer to the seller.
And I’m told by older agents that before me, and before this red-hot market, every offer was presented to the seller directly – even for houses that had been sitting on the market for five months. That’s just the way it was.
Sometimes I’ll email an offer in. It all depends.
There was a house earlier in the year that got 19-offers. I knew the listing agent, and I asked her, “Do you really want me to line up with all the BMW’s, Mercedes, and Audi’s and wait my turn?”
She laughed, and said, “You’d be doing me a favour if you just emailed it. I know you. I trust you. I’ll keep you posted.”
By “I trust you” she meant that my sending the offer by email, with a scan of the deposit cheque, was just as good as me showing up in person. I had done deals with her before, and she knows and respects me, as I do her. There’s a level of trust there. She didn’t “need” me to show up in person, and with 19 offers, there was nothing for me to gain by presenting in person.
She took the highest of the 19 offers, as she said she would, and it wasn’t mine.
Now conversely, let me tell you about when showing up in person does make a difference.
A couple of months ago, I had an offer on a very small but functional home that wasn’t in the best shape, but had been a single-widow’s home for over two decades.
There were four offers on the house, and I showed up to present my offer – fourth. I figured I was the last to register, and that’s why I was presenting fourth, but I would soon learn that it was because the other three offers had been faxed.
Yes, faxed. People still fax offers.
The lady was really sweet, and we talked for quite a while when the listing agent was on the phone.
She said she hadn’t bought or sold a house in forty years, as her husband did all the legwork on this place, and she really didn’t like the “game” of real estate in 2016.
She said that she had feared selling her home, after reading the media coverage of our real estate market leading up to her listing, and that she didn’t enjoy the experience of having her home for sale.
She said she was home for a lot of the showings (which I think is a mistake, but it’s up to her), and she expected to chat and interact with the buyers (again, not really what she should have expected), and she was surprised to see how quickly people came through, or how they didn’t speak to her, or how they didn’t respect that this was her home.
I felt bad for her. Maybe her agent didn’t prepare her. Or maybe she chose to see the good in people, and that good didn’t materialize the way she had expected.
I shook her hand, thanked her for the opportunity to present my offer, and went out to wait in my car.
The listing agent called me back in five minutes later, and asked me to sit down.
He told me, in front of the seller, “Mrs. Smith really likes you.”
It reminded me of being in Grade Six, when you’d ask your buddy to ask out the girl you like, for you, instead of doing it yourself.
“Mrs. Smith would like you to get this home,” he said.
He pulled out the three file folders with the other three offers, and put them down in front of me. He didn’t show me the contents, but almost seemed to use them as a symbol of the other three agents and buyers.
“David, you have the third-highest offer of the four,” he said.
“But none of those buyers or agents could be bothered to show up in person and meet Mrs. Smith, and grace her with their presence, as they ask her if they might purchase her home.”
“So if you’ll match the highest offer – not beat it, but just match it, Mrs. Smith would love to sell her home to you and your clients today.”
I don’t know if she was so pissed that it was resonating with him, or if he was and old-timer who was genuinely insulted that the other three agents didn’t come in person to present, but either way, the two of them wanted dance with the only boy at the party!
The fact that he wanted me to match and not beat the highest offer told me it was almost a “screw you” to the agent who had the other offer. I could have beat the offer by $1,000 and he’d be able to say, “Sorry, you came second,” but it was like he was going out of his way to make a point.
Suffice it to say, we matched the offer, and my clients bought Mrs. Smith’s house.
Here was a situation where I should have lost, and just a little bit of personality and courtesy got me a second life, and eventually, a deal.
I guess you never know who you’re dealing with. The listing agent, the seller – you have no idea what makes them tick.
But you can’t go wrong with doing the right thing. Most offers are presented in person, so it’s never a bad idea. And in this case, it was the reason we prevailed.
Not every listing agent is going to feel the same way, but I still believe that if you, as a buyer agent, want people to know you and respect you, you have to show them your face, and shake your hand.
There are no virtual agents. You can’t sit behind a computer and sell real estate. This is still an in-person, handshake business. And if a listing agent has any doubts that you, the faceless, name-on-paper, with a faxed offer, and no deposit cheque, are reputable enough to show up the next day with the cheque, then he or she will look for a friendly, familiar face in the crowd, and strike a deal.
Because I’ve been in that situation I just described as well – where I’ve had the second-highest offer, but the highest offer was faxed to the listing brokerage by an agent that the listing agent had never heard of, and he or she wasn’t there in person, so the listing agent told me to come up in price and the property would be mine.
If you’re a buyer, and you’re offering on a home in a multiple offer situation, ask your agent if he or she is presenting your offer in person.
And then tell them that you want them to.
In a tough marketplace, why make it even tougher by shooting yourself in the foot before you even take the first step?