Real Estate is a Compliance-Based, Standardized Business…The Agent is Easily Replaced.

The more we work to standardize the real estate purchase agreement, the closer we get to eliminating the real estate licensee from the transaction. 

Programmed computers are better than humans at compliance-based work. We prove we believe this by suppressing innovation and forcing licensees to check the same boxes and write the same words in the blank spaces, with little regard for their customers’ and clients’ circumstances. To see this in action, attend a real estate training session, or sit in on a forms committee meeting. Talk to REALTORS. Ask them WHY they check this or that box, include this or that contingency, and fill in this blank but not that one. The answer is likely to be a version of “That’s the way we always do…we were taught to do that.” It doesn’t matter if they are relatively new or seasoned licensees; repetition and standardization eliminate the opportunity for customization.  

Ask the leaders of the committees assigned to revising the existing real estate forms why they choose to include standardized contingencies where there had not been one before? Is simple and the same better for the consumer? How do we know?

The Price of Simplicity

 Without thinking and customizing purchase agreements to the situation, and the parties’ personal preferences, the differentiating factor between offers is the price. And when the price is the only way to differentiate, the consumer will pay higher and higher costs. When the consumer can find something less expensive and more effective than the common real estate licensee, they will turn away from REALTORS and run to the innovative, robotic alternative surely to become available sooner than later. 

Think. Customize. Learn. Resist Becoming Trained.

When the real estate industry looks at their business from the perspective of delivering a better product to the consumer, standardization and repetition will be seen for what they are; detrimental to the consumer and the broker. Tech giants see the future of real estate is in robotics and AI. The non-thinking, box-checking licensees, will be out of work. The computers can pick the boxes to check and the words to write in the blanks, and they can do it more accurately than humans. Those who have a future as a real estate licensee will be the people who think, learn, customize, and contribute to the consumer’s better experience.    

The solution to overpaying is in the Offer.

Price is a one-time thing; security lasts longer

Two lines is all it takes to include a price in an Offer. The remaining 579 are dedicated to the rules of the transaction, and the promises made with exceptions. On price alone an Offer might be judged good or bad. It’s the easiest condition to see and when it’s good, it shines like a bright star. So bright in fact that a person may overlook the essential aspects of the Offer. Rules and caveats are ignored at great peril. Price is a one-time thing; security lasts longer.

Getting the most money in the shortest amount of time is said to be the goal of home sellers, and maybe it is until we have more information. When we take the time to look at the ‘more information’ we discover that security, not price is the overriding factor in negotiations. Price being objective ($100 is greater than $50) is simple to see. Security is subjective. (A $100 bill today that I can never spend is not as appealing as a $50 bill I can spend in a week.) It’s harder to see but becomes clear when we know what the rest of the words mean.

Real estate transaction drafting is primarily a trained practice. When working with a practitioner trained to insert this here, that word there, and cross this off but not that, the client is left looking just as unprepared and insecure as the next person. A wise seller will not get tied up in an uncertain contract. A big price won’t distract them from the clutter of the Offer.

On the other hand, the person working with the professional who understands that the contract is filled with qualifiers, exceptions, caveats, and cautions will have more to offer to appeal to the desires of the seller. Price will always be a factor, but it’s not the only factor. It is in the lack of conditions where buyers are given a chance in highly competitive markets. Knowing how to structure Offers is a skill under developed in the world of fill in the blank and check the box, one-size-fits-all, standardization. At Essential Real Estate we made it our business to know the conditions of the contracts so our clients can make informed decisions about what goes into their contracts, and what is left out.

New WB-11 Residential Offer to Purchase: Changes

More of the answers owners typically want to know are right where they should be–on the first page. Price, Binding Acceptance, and Closing date. The definition of a fixture is front and center on page 1, with some clarification tweaks.

An Offer to purchase is as simple as a written form of a conversation a Buyer may have with a Seller. It makes sense the the Offer document would flow from beginning to end the way the conversation would begin and end. Buyer: “I’ll buy your property for this amount, on this day.” Seller: “OK”.

The new WB-11 isn’t that simple, but it is formatted closer to the natural conversation. Highlights:

More of the answers owners typically want to know are right where they should be–on the first page. Price, Binding Acceptance, and Closing date. The definition of a fixture is front and center on page 1, with some clarification tweaks.

Page 2 has long been boiler plate with definitions and explanations. Now it’s a working page where Earnest Money and the rules of Earnest Money disbursement are together.

Page 3 Conditions Affecting the Property use the entire page. The list should be a closer match to the Condition Report items.

Page 4 now has only the Inspection Contingency and the definition of Inspections and Testing. By itemizing the 3 steps a buyer is authorized to take to inspect it’s expected the process of inspection will be better understood. Seller’s right to cure is unchanged.

Page 5 A radon testing contingency is part of the Offer for the first time ever. Good news for the testing and remediation business, not so good for buyers who will have that contingency included without understanding the three day test is unreliable for determining long term exposure, and the fix is almost the same price as the cure. Buyer agents may want to sharpen their Radon issue knowledge before they fall into the habit of checking the test contingency out of habit and costing their client an accepted offer.

Financing Commitment Contingency As long as we can remember, there has been no Contingency to Obtain Financing in any version of the WB-11. By labeling the contingency what it is, a contingency to be able to obtain a financing commitment, if a buyer wants the Offer to be contingent upon getting the money, they will know they have to create that contingency.

The satisfaction of the Commitment Contingency is modified to allow buyer signed commitment letters to be used to satisfy the contingency OR a Buyer’s written direction to deliver. However, a commitment sent by the lender does not satisfy this contingency. Essentially, this change reverts the practice back to pre 2011 and in line with the changes firms incorporated in the Addenda to allow deliverance to be done without a Notice from Buyer.

Default days and amounts have been added to fix the issues that come with leaving blank lines unfilled.

Page 6 Seller Financing: Wisconsin has a unique provision which made 100% of the Offers subject to a Seller’s right to provide financing if the financing as described was unavailable. This is now an optional condition of the Offer.

Non contingent on Financing Offers are not “cash offers”. The revised condition for the Buyer to provide evidence of funds available allows the buyer to provide verification that funds are available at the time of verification, or some other documentation. This change was driven by a need for buyers to bargain for the ability to make a non financing contingent offer when the funds are not available today, but will be available in the future when the sale of their real estate occurs.

Closing of Buyer’s Property Contingency: The forms committees worked to make this provision’s steps easier to understand and to tighten the Buyer’s ability to waive the contingency. A few options for proof of buyer’s ability to close are provided and the term “Bump Clause” is used to head the steps Buyer and Seller will follow once Seller accepts a secondary offer.

Page 7 There must have been a flood of confusion about who pays home owner association one time fees at time of closing. Why this condition was necessary is a mystery. Association fees have always been seller’s responsibility. I’m not sure why this one time fee is treated differently. Buyer’s who agree to pay this will want to know the fee in advance.

Page 8 Special Assessments/Other Expenses: Have you ever wondered what the term “Levied” meant? Wonder no more, it’s defined now.

What happens if an optional provision is completed but the box is not checked? Well, according to page 8, the provision is not part of the Offer unless the box is checked.

Page 9- 10 Foreign Investment in Real Property Tax Act (FIRPTA): Who knew a buyer is responsible for paying up to 15% of the purchase price to the IRS when purchasing a property from a “Foreign Person”. Page 9 not only includes a WARNING, the WARNING includes a provision to allow the Buyer to terminate the Offer, or withhold the 15% if Seller fails to deliver certification of Seller’s Non-foreign status NO LATER THAN 15 DAYS PRIOR TO CLOSING. Special care is needed to make sure this exit clause is closed on 100% of the transactions we are part of.

Page 10 Additional Provisions: We have a total of six lines to include additional provisions and those six lines are all on page 10.

Optional use date is November 1, 2019. Mandatory use date is January 1, 2020. I can’t think of any good reason to continue to use the old WB-11 after November 1.

On The Hood of The Car

Multi tasking is an illusion.

In the middle of a movie, while the kids want our attention, when it’s nearly midnight. Are any of these safe environments where you do your best work? A University of Minnesota study revealed multi tasking is a killer on our ability to remember. When remembering the directions of a client, or the caution you heard a week ago, a distraction free environment is a safe place.

There was a time when writing an offer on the hood of the car was fairly common. The WB 11 wasn’t the back of a napkin, but it wasn’t the complicated instrument it is today. Maybe the hood of the car has been replaced by the coffee shop down the street. Neither place is where we do our best work.

Building your business on sound practices of safety will never do you wrong. Compare the coffee shop to an organized desk, a quiet place, free from interruptions and sufficient time. Multi tasking can be done. Doing any of those tasks well is an illusion.

If more money won’t guarantee an accepted offer, what will?

Every home seller wants something so they can be somewhere by some date.  Knowing what they want most is the key to getting your offer accepted.

More money is likely a want of every owner.  Less stress is near the top of a person’s wants.  Stress is related to risk and perceived consequences.  Fear and worry are relatives of stress. We are safe to assume eliminating fear and worry about undesirable consequences will be recognized and valuable to a home seller.

Every REALTOR should have at least ten good ideas for you to consider, to present you and your offer more risk free, safe, and sound for the seller.

The ideas we have for you are simple to understand. You can think of a few by simply switching your perspective to the view from the Seller’s side of the table. If you were her, what would you want to see in an offer?  Before committing to be represented by a Buyer Agent, find out what smart strategies the agent has to give you an edge in a competitive market. If the first and last idea is more money, they have no idea.

An Offer. Just a conversation between two people…

It’s a cool fall evening. The street lights are on. A woman, carrying a tablet knocks on the front door of well cared for house. Her name is Betty, and she’s a Realtor. Betty is accompanied by a man.  A woman, let’s call her Nancy, opens the door.  Nancy is expecting the visitors. Nancy is the owner of the house. She opens the door and the conversation begins.

Betty does the introduction. “This is Roger Smith. Roger would like to buy your house. I’m Betty, and I represent Roger.”  Betty then goes silent.  She sits back and takes notes.

Roger, now sitting across from Nancy, speaks first. “I will pay Three hundred fifty thousand dollars to you for this house. To show I’m serious, I’ll give you Three thousand five hundred dollars.” Roger wants to acquire some of the personal property in the house.  He tells Nancy. “At the price I’m offering to you, I want that  stove and oven, the refrigerator, the dishwasher, your fancy wash machine and dryer, and that hot tub. And, I’d like that big screen TV on the wall in the family room downstairs.”

Nancy is listening to Roger. She doesn’t interrupt him. Betty, the Realtor takes notes and remains  silent.  Roger continues. “I’d like own the house on December 20th this year. Think about it for a couple of days. If you agree,  to get back to me contact Betty.  Here is her email address. And, oh by the way, I do need to borrow some money from Home Loan Bank before I can close. And one more thing, while I think this is a fair price for the house, to make sure  I’m not over paying, I want to have an appraisal. If that checks out we’re good to go. Oh yes, one last thing. I want to have someone inspect this place on my behalf. I’ll get that done after we agree on a price.”  Roger stands up. He says to Nancy, “That’s pretty much it. What do you think?”

Nancy thanks Roger, tells him she will think it over. After sleeping on it, Nancy decides she likes most of what Roger proposed. She would like to make a couple of changes. One is the price. Nancy will sell the house for Three hundred sixty thousand dollars. And, she’d like to own the house through the holidays.  She arranges to meet with Roger to explain her thoughts.

The Offer to purchase is between Roger and Nancy. Betty, the Realtor has a role. It’s an important role which can be done with care, competence, and precision. Betty’s role is to put the conversation in writing, offer some suggestions if necessary, and help assure the rules of real estate engagement are adhered to. The Offer to Purchase is written document of a conversation between a buyer and a seller. Because it’s a conversation between buyer and seller the items the parties discussed and recorded in writing are relevant. All of agreements are relevant…and if they aren’t in writing, they’re arguably not agreements between the buyer and seller.

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.