What really happens when you get an offer on your home

So you’ve just got a call from your agent to say, “good news! We have an offer.” If you watch Property Guys, Drew and Jon show up at the door, tell the owners that they have a great offer just under asking, and the owners agree to sell. Thirty seconds later, Drew goes out and puts up a SOLD sign. And that’s all it takes. Oh, the power of television!

In the real world, it’s not quite so easy.  As soon as I know an offer is coming, I have to get hold of anyone who has expressed an interest in being kept on the loop about that property and let them know an offer is on the way so they can decide if they want to offer too. And if they do, there are a whole pile of steps and notifications involved in multiple offers that I’ll save for another blog post.

But before that happens,  I have a chat with the agent who is going to bring the offer. The agent will let me know if s/he wants to make the offer presentation in person to my clients  or send it to me by fax or email. Sometimes we’ll talk about what closing date is reasonable. We usually try to work out when the irrevocable period (that’s when the seller has to respond to the offer) will expire and there may be other terms we’ll discuss as well.

The one thing we don’t usually talk about is price: that can change when a buyer sits down to sign the offer so it’s prudent not to disclose it and perhaps inadvertently give away a bottom line. But the agent will often let me know that this is going to be a “first” offer, or an “opening ” offer, or that there is “some room on price,” which means the buyer is offering a lower amount than s/he’s willing to pay, and expects a counter offer from the seller.

These days, the offer usually arrives by email.  I take a look at it before I pass it on to the seller for review. I’m interested not only in price, but also the closing date and conditions like whether the buyer needs financing or not. If they want a home inspection, how long are they asking for to get one done?  Do they have to sell another property first? Conditions like leaving a property broom-swept are reasonable; ones requiring the seller to paint every room, not so much.  I want to know what’s being asked of the seller before I  go over the offer with them.

Sometimes when a condition is one that I know won’t be acceptable, I’ll give the other agent a heads’ up. Then I let my client know we have an offer, describe the basic terms, and send the offer off for their review. We arrange a time to meet and once we do, I answer their questions and explain the offer. I find out whether they want to counter on price and if so, by how much. If there are other conditions that need to be tweaked (removed or changed), we discuss those as well.  Then I place a call to the other agent to let them know what we’re proposing by way of counter, or if there aren’t any, to let them know we’ll be accepting the offer.

Often the agent will discuss any changes we want to make with his or her client and let me know right away that everything is fine. If so, all we have to do is initial them, sign where needed, and send them back with our own irrevocable period for acceptance by the buyer. As soon as the buyer initials those changes and signs the acceptance,  we have a sale.

Most times, we can get things sorted out between agents with just a few phone calls. There are times when the parties are simply too far apart and we can’t make it happen. But that’s rare. The object is to make the selling process as smooth as possible by hammering out as much as we can verbally, then confirming it through the written offer. But it isn’t until we have an accepted and signed offer, and all those conditions are met and removed — which can be days or weeks later, not minutes, with all due respect to Drew — that we actually go out and put up that SOLD sign.

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