Useful tips and guidance for how your real estate clients can help buyers and sellers navigate multiple offer situations.
While being able to present and negotiate multiple offers is an enviable situation for a real estate professional, it also increases the potential for confusion and missed opportunities. However, by following certain steps and procedures, real estate professionals can avoid the risk of complaints and lawsuits, and help both the seller and buyer understand their options clearly. It's important to remind your clients of their legal and ethical responsibilities and ensure they're up to date with the laws and regulations in their state that cover duties owed to their clients, timeframes for presenting offers, and what can or cannot be disclosed to other parties in a multiple offer situation.
Before we step into best practices for how your clients should guide buyers and sellers through multiple offer negotiations, be mindful of "buyer love letters," and how they can raise fair housing concerns. Sellers sometimes receive "love letters" from prospective buyers who are attempting to gain an advantage and stand out from competing bidders by sending written notes, photos or videos typically revealing their family celebrating a birthday or away on vacation etc. Such letters can result in a seller preferring a particular buyer based on an emotional response to what they have received from them. Real estate professionals should discourage the use of poorly written "buyer love letters" to avoid the risk of violating fair housing laws.
In multiple offer situations, your clients should:
- Discuss the current marketplace and guide them through the options they have for making an offer.
- Advise buyers that they may be uninformed of other offers put forward by competing bidders.
- Explain that the details of their purchase offer may be disclosed to other buyers by the seller, unless prohibited by state law, in an attempt to trigger them into making a "better" offer.
- Clearly explain the risks of sending "love letters" to buyers who insist on using them to distinguish themselves from others.
- Always discuss the positives and negatives of escalation clauses or addendums.
- Notify sellers about the potential for multiple offers at listing interviews, outline and explain their available options, and ask how they want to handle multiple offers in advance.
- As per above, explain the fair housing ramifications of poorly written "buyer love letters," and advise that such letters should not be accepted. If the seller insists on reading any letters they receive, urge them to seek legal counsel.
- If multiple offers have been received, speak to the seller and seek their direction about disclosing this information to prospective buyers.
- Aim to provide updates to buyer representatives on the status of their offers.
While real estate professionals can educate buyers and sellers about multiple offers and suggest various ways in which to proceed based on their knowledge and experience, it's ultimately up to their clients to decide which offers and counter offers to negotiate, reject or accept.