Letters to the Seller. What’s the intent?

Google will give you 1,040,000 results for “Dear Seller Letter”. From upstart real estate agents to the biggest players in the field, including Realtor.com, love letters to sellers are promoted as the key to success for buyers negotiating in Seller Markets.   A lot is being written about something that has nothing of real evidence to prove its value. There is no scientific evidence to support the notion that the love letter makes a difference. Oh, there are incidents where people believe it made a difference, even THE difference. But those incidents do not qualify as a scientific study.  On the other hand, substantial evidence supports the fact that people who submit offers with the most favorable price and/or terms for the Seller, provide the most definite assurance that they are capable of closing on time, and are committed to honoring the terms of the contract, are highly likely to have their offer accepted.

In spite of the lack of evidence, advice from people in the real estate industry encouraging buyers to write Dear Seller letters continues to pour in.  I scanned a dozen web site stories and saw  versions of this  suggestion often encouraged:  “…always include a photo…” of your family.  Apparently the “family” photo makes your Offer stand out. It shows the Seller who you are. It shows the seller you might have something in common. It tells the Seller you will be good stewards of the home they love.

Could those reasons be faint cover for communicating another message? What is the intent of these letters?  If the intent is to persuade the Seller to look favorably upon the Offer because of the appearance of the buyer, arguably a line has been crossed.  The Wisconsin law says a licensee is subject to disciplinary action “…if it is found that the licensee treated any person unequally solely because of sex, race, color, handicap, national origin, ancestry, marital status, lawful source of income, or status a a victim off domestic abuse, sexual assault or stalking.”   

There is a better way to make a Buyer’s Offer stand out, and we are all capable. The licensee who improves their ability to craft Offers to purchase with terms more favorable to the Seller, while providing the protection the individual buyer desires, is safe and worth their fee and then some. It takes more work. It requires thinking. You will be challenged. And it’s what we are licensed to do.

Are we more than drifting toward Fair Housing violation accusations? Is it time for  a national dialogue on the practice? I think we are, and it’s time to talk. What do you think?

 

 

Broker Liability for Misrepresentation

Cases and Lessons from Wisconsin Courts provided by the WRA in the October 2016 issue of The Wisconsin Real Estate Magazine could keep you out of harms way.  Intentional fraud is one way to be found liable but deception is not required to be liable.  Being negligent  or failing the expectation of strict responsibility (A licensee is expected to know better or the law was specific in my obligation and I failed to be responsible) will put us on the wrong side of liability just as well.

If it hasn’t happened yet, it will happen where an owner balks at disclosing and asks you for your advice on disclosure.  Case Study #1 in the feature article makes it clear and simple—Disclosure is the way to go.  Case Study #2 we see too much of. As-is is no protection for seller or brokers. There  is no way to wash hands of liability for saying take it as is when an adverse fact is known.

The WRA legal division has a finger on the pulse of Wisconsin real estate law issues. Take time to read their Cases and adopt their advice. Maybe share the Case Studies with your clients.  You will never regret disclosure.

Earnest Hemingway on Writing Counter Offers and Contingencies

My aim is to put down on paper what I see and what I feel in the best and simplest way. Earnest Hemingway on writing

Real estate Counter Offers are ideal forms for saying a lot without writing much. In fact, if we have a well drafted Offer to Purchase, the less we write on a Counter Offer, the better the chance of being understood and steering clear of creating a contradiction or a whole new issue.

Here’s a simple method of saying the most while writing the least.

You have an Offer where the drafter used  Additional Provisions on page 3 of the Offer to insert this condition:  “This Offer is contingent upon Seller crediting buyer $3,000.00 at closing to be applied toward buyer’s mortgage loan costs and prepaid expenses.” You presented the Offer and the seller’s only objection is this $3,000 credit. Seller is willing to agree to the rest of the terms, provided the buyer will accept a $1,000 credit instead of $3,000.    Pick up a WB 44 Counter Offer. Notice on line 6 the first condition is already written in. It reads All terms and conditions remain the same as stated in the Offer to Purchase except the following:_________________________________.  

Rather than rewriting the entire contingency and possibly altering the intention, change only what needs to be changed.  In this case $3,000 needs to be changed to $1,000.0.

Line 7 of the Counter offer will look like this:

7 (1) Page 3 of 9. Lines 165 to 172. Additional Provisions. Line 167 change  “$3,000.00” to “$1,000.00”.

I like this method as a recipient of the Counter Offer because the wording tells me where to look. Done right, it’s like having an instructor saying: “OK Meyer, See the Offer in your hands? Good. Now first go to Page 3 of 9. Then go to Lines 165 to 172. This is the Additional Provisions section. Here’s all you gotta do,  change $3,000.00  to $1,000.00.

We are licensed  to write terms that make sense, can be understood, and properly reflect the intentions of the parties. If everything else is acceptable, leave it alone and walk the reader through the form to the changes your client prefers. That should work for anyone who wants to be precise and isn’t paid by the word.

It’s none of their business that you have to learn (how to write). Let them think you were born that way. E. Hemmingway

 

 

Find The Good In Every Offer

Every Offer we receive is better than the Offer that was not submitted.  I think I am a logical thinker  when my client receives an Offer to purchase from one person who looks at the house and no Offers from five parties who also looked at the house, the one offer in my hand is better than any of the Offers that were not written.  Regardless of the terms, this Offer is a good thing and here’s why:

  1. There is at least one favorable term in every Offer. The Offer is an invitation to talk about terms.
  2. The Offer the seller will not accept has terms only the seller and buyer will know. Any buyer sitting on the fence will be told “An Offer is in.” What’s more likely to inspire a person to move off center better than anything known to man? The fear of loss.
  3. Zero Offers leave you two Offers short of a competition. One Offer is half way to a seller’s market.

I have a chuckle when listing agents refer to Offers as “low-ball”. That comment is driven by unmet expectations, and  likely some fear of the seller’s displeasure. In the hand of a Realtor with an attitude of abundance,  that unacceptable Offer can be the most important piece of the puzzle for a client to go from here to closing in a hurry. Be grateful for any Offer and let the buying side know you appreciate what they’ve given you.

Let’s End “Now is the best time…”

Google lists 200,000,000 entries under Now is the best time to sell a house. Ten seconds later in six-tenths of a second she gave me 63,300,000 results for Now is the best time to buy a house.   Why are there a quarter of a billion persuasive cases made for this being the best time to sell AND to buy? Probably because millions of people think it is the best time for them to manipulate other people into doing something that benefits the manipulator for sure.  “Now is the best time” is an opinion and it’s cliche. The more it’s used (and it’s used a lot in advertising) the less it resonates. But “Now is the best…” is worse than dull, it’s possibly not true.

We can agree the best and worst of times are subjective. What’s good for me may not be good for you. Sure it’s possible a great number of analytical factors favor a buyer or a seller at any time, but those facts may be secondary to anything that matters more to a decision maker. If I want to keep my family together, even though the facts point to a “seller’s market”, today might be the best time available to me to make a commitment on a house.

How about this, instead of going the easy route of manipulation by spreading fear of loss of opportunity, property, time we let go of “Now is the best…”. Instead, can we let the 263,000,000 other folks trip over themselves trying to control people and we be the voice of reason?  Is this a good time to buy or sell real estate? I don’t know. It depends on you. What’s important to you?

 

She’s 78 And Selling 262 Homes in WI

Born in 1938, at the height of the Great Depression Fannie Mae has aged well. Like your grandma, Fannie Mae is kind, easy to get along with, and unlike Grandma Lucy, she has about  262 homes in  Wisconsin for sale. Fannie is smart. She didn’t set out to be a titanic real estate owner, she got there the new fashioned way…people she guaranteed would never, actually did, walk out on their home mortgages. (NOTE: No judgment (on the public) here. Public policy, corporate greed, lender malfeasance, illegal real estate practices, forced people into decisions they would never have made.) And just like that Fannie’s phat with homes for everyone. And by phat, I mean she’s EXCELLENT!

Want to be a home home owner or  a hero to someone? State at Homepath.com . Fannie is internet savvy. She built a fast, accurate, easy to use on-line process for finding homes and making offers. It’s so easy, us Realtors® can use it. Full disclosure, my first time through I challenged the system because, well because I do that. And I learned for you…don’t do that. Don’t challenge the system . Roll with it. Fannie isn’t demanding you jump through hoops; more like fill in the boxes. Follow these steps and you’re on the path home:

  1. Fill out your State Offer to Purchase Form
    1. Skip the inspection contingency and financing contingency…Fannie has her own
  2. Fill out the Fannie Mae Addendum…basically this form says we agree everything we  have for conditions in our State Offer to Purchase form attached is over ridden by this Addendum. That’s cool. The Addendum is easier on the Buyer than the WI Offer to Purchase which has a seller advantage slant.
  3. Fill out any other (there may be one other) Fannie Mae form
  4. Have your buyer sign in ink. If Fannie is accepting digital signatures today I’m not aware. Do it old school…sign in ink. Black ink. Use your best penmanship…Fannie want’s Catholic school quality cursive.
  5. Find the home you’ve written the offer for on Homepath.com and click on Make An Offer
  6. You  are now just entering digits and short summaries of contingencies…that’s easy!
  7. Last you upload your documents:  Affidavit of owner occupancy (investors are not permitted for the first 20 days), pre-approval letter, Offer to Purchase, Fannie Addendum)
  8. Submit your Offer and wait mere hours for a response…Fannie doesn’t work on weekends, but she’s efficient.

Go and be bold. Be fearless. Be Humble. Fannie is fair but firm…play by her rules and you’ll be happy. She guarantees it.

 

 

Choose To Fight or To Understand

Memorable outcomes of my fights to be right serve a purpose when I look at them and ask, “What did you learn?” It’s so easy to rush to battle, and so admirable to watch people who first seek to understand and then to be understood (Melanie Trump said that…no she didn’t, Steven Covey did in 7 Habits of Highly Effective People).

The art of understanding is in listening. When I’ve been most respectful I am shown the the feelings rooted in fear which may be a contributor to an attitude of battle. Respect is served with space and patience. In my rushing to results days, impatience bowls through the space and rumbles over respect. I know what patience looks like and accomplishes.  I’ve seen admirable patience in my sons, young people who let go, seniors who know what life is about, and other well adjusted people who probably have faith in the power of Karma.

I was just told that a person believes I’m not trying hard enough. She may be right. Trying hard is not a path I will walk.  I’m being patient. I’m being gentle. I’m listening and understanding. It’s freedom to be at peace with the world. I choose to not fight today. Let’s see if the universe accepts patience. I believe it does.