Because I’ve done quite a few sales involving multiple offers, I had a colleague ask me today for advice stickhandling a new listing where she’s expecting to get them. Here are my tips:
Most important, be sure to keep everyone in the loop. Our legislation requires that every one who has put in an offer is kept apprised of the number of other offers, but I go further than that. I make sure anyone who has expressed an interest in the property is told what’s going on. You never really know who will decide to compete. I like to keep the net wide while they are still making up their minds.
First, I make up a list of emails of every agent who has shown the property. Right now I have a new listing that is getting a lot of activity (28 showings since it went active Monday afternoon.) So at the end of each day, before the office closes, I am asking our support staff to print me off a copy of the requests for showings so I can keep track of things, and as I have time, I am looking up the email addresses for those agents so I can create the list. Getting my office to print off a list of agents with confirmed showings means I don’t miss any of them.
As soon as I get the first written offer, if I hadn’t specified a time in the listing, I set up a time for presentation of that offer to my seller. I send an email to all of the agents on that list telling them the time of presentation, and where it will be. Once again, if I haven’t heard from them already, I ask them if they want to be kept in the loop about offers.
Unless they say no, I keep sending further emails out to them every time another offer comes in, so that they know what’s going on, even though legally, I am only obliged to tell an agent who has made an offer how many offers I have received. If there are still new showings underway, I add the new agents to my email list as well. If an agent asks me not to be notified any further or tells me their clients are not interested, I remove them.
If someone asks me something specific that isn’t in the listing, but that I think would be relevant to all buyers, eg. how old is the roof, I might include that information in one of my circulars so that everyone is on a level playing field when it comes to information.
If I start getting quite a few agents asking to be kept in the loop, I will also send around a notification to everyone setting out the rules. This may be telling them, for example, that if I haven’t received a written offer by such and such a time before presentation, I may not be able to present it. As you can see, I need to know how many offers I have in hand so that I can meet my disclosure obligations which I can’t do if someone sends me a last minute offer. (Often, agents will ask for offers to be “registered” by a certain time, as otherwise, we just don’t have time to do the things we need to do.)
To give you an idea of what’s involved, I had sixteen offers on one property — I sent out over 800 notification emails, as I had to email all the agents who’d expressed an interest in being kept in the loop each time an offer came in and there were over 40 of them!
For agents who are planning to present their offers in person, I ask them to send me a copy ahead of time for that very reason. If they can’t, because they are on the road, or aren’t meeting with their clients and won’t have a written offer until shortly before presentation, I warn them that this could result in presentation being delayed. I send out the same circular to everyone again, but instead of saying I’ve received a written offer, it says I’ve been informed that an agent will be presenting a written offer in person but that I have not received the actual offer.
Note that all notifications refer to the number of written offers. We cannot say we have received an offer unless we have received one in writing. There is no such thing as a verbal offer under our laws.
If an agent brings a written offer at the last minute, we delay presentation while I send around the notifications again to let the agents know I have one. If not, just before presentation, I usually send around a notification indicating how many offers I have received in total and indicating that I did not receive the offer that I was expecting.
I am prohibited, by law, by the way, from disclosing the contents of any offer I have received, so all I say is that I have just received the third offer, or the fifth offer, or whatever. The only other disclosure required is if one of them comes from an agent in my brokerage: if so I have to disclose that this is the case.
At presentation, I go over each offer with my seller in the order I received them. Before then, as offers come in, I usually prepare a table that sets out the contents of each offer in a summary form so that it doesn’t take long to make a decision. This usually indicates the agent, their contact info, purchase price, closing date and conditions. I have my client write on the offers that we are rejecting “Presented at XXX date/time and respectfully declined” and sign it so that we have verification that the offer was presented.
Then we go back to the offers that looked interesting and discuss them until my seller reaches a decision. At that point in time, we sign up the acceptance of the successful offer and decline whatever ones we were debating by making the notation I mentioned.
Then I call the successful agent to let them know, and take on the unenviable task of notifying those weren’t successful. I always try to call them in person first to tell them, because I know what it’s like to work so hard on behalf of a buyer and lose their dream property: it’s not easy. I mark off on my table how I let them know – by personal call, by email, by message left, and so on.
Multiple offer situations are great for sellers, but pretty stressful for buyers. For every winner, there are several losers. The important thing we have to do as listing agents in these situations is to be scrupulously fair. We have to make sure that everyone knows what’s going on, that everyone is treated fairly, and that buyers know that the seller considered their offers fully before making a decision.