I was literally writing this blog post in my head as the scene unfolded.
This story is about two things:
1) Good agents versus bad agents
2) Getting emotional when you can least afford it
Not everybody will agree with everything in this story, but what can I say? Toronto real estate is not for the faint of heart…
How can I tell people not to get emotional in the Toronto real estate market? It’s like telling me not to hurt myself at the gym as soon as I get back from whatever injury I was previously nursing.
It’s just going to happen.
But when you do get emotional, at the wrong time, and for the wrong reasons, you need to snap out of it quickly, or risk making a mistake.
And most importantly, your real estate agent need to be the one to spearhead that process.
As I said in the introduction, this story is about both emotion, and the idea of a “good agent” versus a bad one. I could have lead with a title referring to either, but in the following story, the emotion was the precursor to the agent’s bad decision, and the whole scene was overshadowed by a competing agent’s good decision.
A listing of mine, for which I’ll change all the details in the following story, sold the other night.
This was not a brand-new listing, it was not under-listed, and there was no “offer night.” That’s important to note, as it explains some of what went down.
On Wednesday afternoon, I received a call from a buyer’s agent saying she would likely be bringing an offer on the property. We had been chatting back-and-forth, she was asking “the right questions,” and I knew that her client had been at the open house on both Saturday and Sunday, with her father, taking measurements and mapping out where she would put her furniture.
The offer came in around 3:00pm, and it had an 8:00pm irrevocable.
The irrevocable was very short, and so I told the agent, “I won’t be able to get back to you before 8:00pm, my client works late, and it’s just too quick. But based on your offer, you know we’re signing this back, right? So the ‘deadline’ doesn’t mean much here; I’ll get back to you around 10pm.”
All that was true, and it was fair. Some deals happen faster than others, but there was no reason to give us a 5-hour irrevocable, on what wasn’t a fantastic offer. If your offer is exceptional, and likely to at least meet the seller’s expectations, and hopefully exceed them, then by all means. But in this case, it was odd, so I was up front about my time commitments, and that of the seller.
Around 6:30pm, another agent sent me a message saying she might have an offer as well. I knew this agent, and I had worked with her before in the past, so when she said, “I’m probably going to have an offer,” I didn’t take it the same way as I do these days when a rookie agent has a good showing, gets all excited, calls to say he’ll have an offer, and then falls off the face of the earth.
I called my client and left a message, saying that we had an offer, and might have a second, and to call me when he was free at work.
At 7:30pm, the second agent registered her offer, and I called her to chat.
Her offer was around the same price as the first offer; neither were fantastic, and both really represented “starting prices.”
She was skiing in Mount Tremblant, but had the can-do attitude, and was ready to work.
I told her, “Your offer looks like a starting point, and that would be fine, if we weren’t in multiple offers.”
“I know,” she said. “My client wanted to start out with this, and there’s room on the price, no doubt. She loves the property, and she wants it. How are you going to handle the offers?”
How are you going to handle the offers. That’s a great question, and that’s key.
If you’re a new agent, take note. You need to ask the question, and you need to listen to the answer.
“We have two offers,” I told her. “Both represent starting offers, and I’d have done the same if I were in your position, and there weren’t multiple offers. But we are where we are, now. So let’s be fair. Let’s have both agents to back to the two buyers, and ask them to put their best terms on paper.”
“That’s great, David,” she said. “I’m so happy you’re on the other end of this deal.”
It’s not hyperbole, folks. This is verbatim. It sounds familiar to Monday’s blog post, and that’s not intentional here. To echo some of the comments from Monday’s blog, this really is a relationship business.
“It won’t take me long to get back to you,” the agent said. “My clients are out to dinner in Toronto, waiting patiently for my call. I’m on my hotel-bed in Tremblant, with the laptop out. Let me see what I can do about the price, the deposit, the closing date – I’ll get back to you.”
And that was that.
I got on the phone and called the second agent, exchanged pleasantries, and basically told her the same thing.
“So we have two offers now,” I said, “And I think the fairest way to handle this is to simply have both buyers put their best terms on paper, and we’ll reconvene shortly. I’m not here to grind anybody; I’m a fair guy, and I feel bad that only one buyer can be succesful tonight, but that’s the way it goes.”
And I waited.
I waited for a response.
But there was an almost-deliberate-feeling pause, before she spoke up and said, “Our offer has expired.”
And folks, I knew exactly where this conversation was headed.
Didn’t I tell you at the onset that I was basically writing this blog in my head as it happened?
“Yes, I know,” I told her. And again, I waited.
“Our offer…….you see……expired, at 8:00pm,” she explained. “And it’s now 8:10pm,” she added.
“Yes, I know,” I told her. “But I told you at 7:30pm that we had a second registered offer.”
“Whhell,” she said, with that overemphasis that stems from displeasure, “My client is a little hurt.”
Hurt? Geez, I hope it wasn’t her signing-hand…
“She’s upset,” the agent explained. “And she’s not prepared to do anything tonight. We’re going to sleep on it, and we’ll come back to it tomorrow.”
Here’s where the emotion became quite apparent, but I speak not of just the buyer, but rather the agent too.
And as a result, I might add – immaturity, misguidance, and in my opinion, inexperience.
“I’m sorry she feels that way,” I told her. “But we are where we are now – with two offers. This house will be sold tonight, either to your buyer, or the competing agent’s buyer.”
Ignoring everything I just said, she asked, “Why didn’t we get a sign-back before the offer expired?”
“The offer expired at 8:00pm,” I told her. “It was submitted after 3pm. That was a short irrevocable, and I told you my client wouldn’t be able to work with the deadline, and not only that, the deadline was meaningless given you expected a sign-back.”
She then told me that I never communicated this to her, so I asked her to hold on, I went into my Outlook, and forwarded her an email:
3:29pm: “Hi Jane, my seller is teaching until 9:30pm and home thereafter. We won’t be able to respond before 8:00pm, but I’ll do my best to get back to you tonight. David.”
Once again, completely ignoring what I had just said, she told me, “My client is really sore. She’s a first-time buyer, and this is certainly not what she expected.”
Expectations. Wow. If there’s one lesson to learn about expectations in the Toronto market – don’t have any.
“I can’t help that,” I told her. “But what I can tell you is that we’re going to look at both the offers shortly, and the door is open for you to resubmit your offer.”
“Why would I do that?” she asked me. “You didn’t choose to work with our offer the first time around!”
And this was when I began to realize that while some of the hurt was coming from the buyer, perhaps not all of it had originated there.
A good real estate agent checks his or her emotion at the door. You can’t let the situation, or another agent, rattle your cage.
I can’t tell you how much sh!t I have to eat in a given week, when dealing with agents I don’t like, or who can’t do their job, or who are obnoxious for no reason. But I keep calm, and I kill them with kindness. You simply have to in this business, and in this market.
When a situation doesn’t go your way, you accept it – immediately.
And when your buyer, or seller, gets emotional, you calm them down. You help them to see things the way they are, however they are. The situation might not be what they want, but emotion causes buyers and sellers to make poor decisions. An agent’s job is to keep them focused.
But here it seemed we had an agent that was encouraging, or fostering the emotional state that the buyer was in.
If I had to guess, I’d say they shared an equal amount of soreness at this point.
“I’m trying to help you here,” I told her. “Your client was at the property, at both the Saturday open house, and the Sunday open house. It seems like she really liked this place!”
“Oh she did!” she told me. “She absolutely loves it.”
“Well then please go back to her, and see what she wants to do.” I said, since this was the only rational, logical thing for a buyer’s agent to do in this situation.
“I’ve already spoken to her,” she told me. “And I know how she feels.”
She wouldn’t even make the call. She wouldn’t even talk things over, with her emotional, confused, first-time buyer. I couldn’t believe it. I started to wonder who was making the decision here.
And then she added, “You could always sign our our offer back.”
Wow. She was completely out to lunch.
An agent from Halton, 2-years into the business, running amuck in the Toronto market. Go figure.
Remember when I said it was important to note that the other agent asked, “How are you going to be handling the offers?”
This is a buyer-agent recognizing the situation – that there are competing offers on the property, and that the listing agent is in the dominant position, with leverage, and asking how the listing agent is going to handle offers.
You, as the buyer agent, don’t try to dictate the process, as the Halton agent did by suggesting we “sign the offer back.”
The other agent resubmitted her offer, with better terms, and with a photo of her buyer-client, and a personal note.
She was a true professional, and she understood the situation.
And in the end, we accepted her offer.
Now some of the cynics reading this might suggest that it seems I simply want every agent to push, or force, or talk their buyer into offering a higher price, or that I’m arguing an agent must do anything to get the sale.
I can’t tell you how often I talk my buyers out of making offers. An hour before the above story was going down, I had emailed one of my clients to tell her not to make an offer on a Mimico townhouse, because it seemed like she “wasn’t feeling it.” Her heart wasn’t in it, she wasn’t all-in, and it seemed like she wanted to see what detached bungalows came up for sale.
So I told her that we should hold off making an offer, and if we found something we liked more – great! If we didn’t, and the townhouse sat on the market for a month, perhaps the price would be lower, and it would be a more attractive buy.
The point of the preceding story is that we had a buyer who was in love with a property, was already mapping out her furniture, and who made an offer, only to find that the situation had changed – as it does all the time, in our market. Either she, or her agent, or both of them, then decided that life had dealt them a terrible blow; an unfair one, and they were going to take their ball, and go home.
I understand the buyer being emotional, that’s a given. But the agent? It was embarrassing.
I honestly believe the agent cost her client a property that night, and I felt bad for the buyer.
The young buyer who actually did buy the house had a great agent, and one who, if the tables were turned, likely would have dealt with the circumstances as they arose, kept her head, and lead her buyer through it.
Think back to my story in Monday’s blog; the situation was almost identical.
We made an offer on a condo, and as our bad luck would have it, a second offer came in therafter.
What did I do?
Well, I didn’t stand around kicking imaginary pebbles, like a sad cartoon character, but rather I kept my buyer-client informed, guided them through the process, made the listing agent my new best friend, and got the deal done for my client.
The above story could be about emotion, or, it could be an advertisement for why not to hire an out-of-town agent with 2-years experience. But I’ve seen experienced agents get emotional, and lose deals as a result too.
This market is a roller-coaster, and some people just don’t have the stomachs for it…