It has been occasionally interesting, and infuriating at other times. Whenever a housing market gets as overheated as ours has been, people begin to take extreme approaches to get what they want. Some of these extreme measures push the limits on what has been accepted, ethical practice in the past. Unfortunately, one such extreme may become the normal practice.
Due to the overwhelming demand for new listings, it is becoming common practice to wait until Thursday or Friday to put a new listing in the MLS. The second part of that equation is that the seller will not review any offers until the following Monday. One can imagine the outrage of a buyer who has written a cash, full-priced offer with no contingencies. If the buyer has met all of the seller’s requirements, why not sign it and get on with the transaction? The answer is simply that the listing agent and their client are hoping for multiple offers to bid the sales price up. This becomes a slippery slope to be sure.
No law requires the seller to respond in a certain amount of time once a written offer has been made. In the past, an ethical sense of fair play and common courtesy usually required a response by the next day. With today’s digital advances, it is now possible to present offers and have them signed digitally even if the buyers or sellers are overseas. Yet instead of responses getting faster, many are dragging on for days. While arguably beneficial for a seller, longer response times foster hard feelings and concerns that the listing agent might be “shopping” the early offers. Truly shopping an offer would mean that the seller or listing agent gives hints or indications of how a subsequent party could out-bid a party with an earlier bid. I have seen this quite a bit recently to varying degrees.
Listing agents have a fiduciary relationship to the seller, therefore they are supposed to do their very utmost to get the best deal possible for the seller . . . within certain legal and ethical restraints. It can leave a listing agent walking a very fine line. It is easy in the rush of a market like ours for a listing agent to cross that line without ever realizing it.
The question that this issue brings to my mind is, “Is this the way we will conduct business even after the market returns to balance?” The market cycle will swing at some point and it will be interesting to see if sellers return to quick responses or if the waiting game will continue.
Jeff Stewart, CCIM Broker/Associate
Stanberry & Associates, Realtors