What Does ‘Open and Transparent’ Look Like in Real Estate?

For some reason I’ve never understood, most listing agents believe that they should not be open and transparent with buyers’ agents regarding the disclosure of offers in hand when there’s a bidding war for their listing.

At Golden Real Estate, we believe in being open and transparent. Here’s what that looks like.

Rule number one is to always tell the truth. We never mislead a colleague about offers in hand. If we don’t have competing offers, we’ll never represent that we do. This is a matter of ethics. The Realtor Code of Ethics, to which every Realtor swears allegiance, requires no misrepresentation about anything, whether it’s how successful we are or whether we have competing offers.

Agents from other brokerages, however, typically won’t disclose the price or nature of the offers they have for their listings. At Golden Real Estate, we not only disclose the price and terms of offers received, but we will let each agent know if their offer is surpassed by a better offer. We don’t want any buyer or their agent to have the experience of being blindsided.

This is good for both buyer and seller, and buyers’ agents invariably thank me when I explain this policy. After all, how would you as a buyer like to learn later that if you had only offered $2,000 more (which you were willing to do), you would have won that bidding war?

Similarly, how would you as a seller, like to learn that you could have gotten $2,000 more for your house?

Although this process essentially operates like an auction, where everyone in the room knows what they’re bidding against and chooses on their own when to drop out of the bidding, it doesn’t mean that we let the bidding go on forever.

After the buyers have raised their bids twice, it’s time to ask for a final bid, without offering to return if it’s not the winning bid. While this is our policy, the seller, of course, is the final authority on how long to continue the back and forth. By that time, however, they tend to be quite happy with the highest bid and agree to cut it off. To do otherwise risks antagonizing the buyers and their agents.

It’s important to us as professionals that we leave each party in a bidding war happy that we were transparent enough that they felt they had a fair chance to win a coveted listing.

This approach takes more work on our part than doing what other agents typically do when multiple offer situations arise, which is to inform agents that they have multiple offers and ask buyers’ agents to submit their “highest and best.” Then the seller accepts the best offer and other buyers are upset and angry that they weren’t allowed to raise their offer.

We feel, however, that our approach is not only fairer to buyers’ agents but also produces the best price for our sellers.  We wish that other listing agents would adopt this practice.

Transparency, however, does not extend to disclosing the price at which a home is under contract prior to closing. The reason for that is that if the contract falls, we don’t want the next buyer to know what the seller was willing to accept. That’s because we have an ethical and legal obligation to work in our seller’s best interest.

The only time I would disclose the price at which one of my listings is under contract is when an appraiser needing comps calls me. If we are cleared to close — past inspection, appraisal and other contingencies — I’m willing to help that appraiser know the price so he can do his or her job in appraising a comparable listing for a different seller.

Thanks to this practice, Golden Real Estate has a better-than-average track record when it comes to closing price vs. listing price. In some cases this has resulted in our sellers netting their full listing price even after subtracting commissions and the other costs of selling.

Call me or one of our broker associates at 303-302-3636 if you like how we operate and would like a no-obligation market analysis of your home.

What Is Negotiated When You Purchase a Home? More Than You Might Think!

It’s easy to assume that the main (or only) negotiation in the sale or purchase of a home is the contract price, but it turns out that there’s a lot more negotiation — both before and after going under contract.

Most contracts are or should be countered, and not accepted as written. For example, there are 39 different deadlines in the standard contract — everything from when the earnest money check is delivered to when the buyer gets to take possession.

If the seller is given extended possession after closing, will it be free, and who pays the utilities?  It’s all negotiated.

If a contract falls, it’s usually because of inspection issues, so the seller will want that inspection deadline to be as early as possible — preferably within 5 to 7 days. And there are other deadlines which allow a buyer to terminate and get his earnest money back, so a good listing agent will make sure they are reasonable. For example, I have seen contracts in which the deadline for terminating based on the acceptability of insurance costs is a week prior to closing. That’s ridiculous, because it takes only a couple days to get that quote.

The second big negotiation in any transaction is over inspection issues. Some buyers will want to have the seller fix every single problem identified by their inspector. (Once my seller received an inspection objection notice that didn’t even itemize the problems but said, “Seller shall fix everything listed in the attached inspection report.”)

Negotiating what the seller will and will not fix and what the seller might give as a credit in lieu of certain repairs is different in every transaction, and your agent’s experience in handling that process can be critical in obtaining a favorable outcome, whether you’re the buyer or the seller.

As I have written before, I advise my sellers not  to fix many of the known problems prior to putting their house on the market, but to save some of them as bargaining chips during the negotiation over inspection issues. Getting a back-up contract in place also helps with negotiating inspection issues. If the buyer is asking for an unreasonable number of repairs, I’ll provide those demands and the buyer’s inspection report to the back-up buyer. Often that back-up buyer will agree not to ask for any of those repairs, giving the seller the ability to tell buyer #1 that he won’t fix anything. This can be an effective technique.

Having multiple offers presents a great opportunity for negotiating matters that are important to the seller.  For example, a downsizing seller may have lots of furniture he’d like to sell. Rather than have an estate sale, I recommend making a list, with prices, of the items “for sale outside of closing,” and leaving it on the kitchen counter for every visiting buyer to see.  Many times I have been able to have the winning bidder include in their contract that they will purchase everything on that list at the prices shown. In a recent case, the buyer asked that all the purchased furniture be moved to the garage prior to closing — a sure sign that they bought the furniture only so they would win the winning war for the house!

If the home doesn’t appraise for the contract price, the buyer can demand a price reduction on threat of terminating the contract. Since the appraisal deadline is usually very close to the closing date, the seller may feel compelled to accept the price reduction rather than lose the contract.  But a good listing agent knows that the same reluctance exists for the buyer, so oftentimes the seller can negotiate little or no price reduction.