It has become the norm for Silicon Valley residential real estate contracts to be emailed from the buyer’s agent to the listing agent. In years gone by, that wasn’t the case – “live presentations” were the norm instead. The buyer’s agent would ask the listing agent to set up an appointment and the two of them plus the seller(s) would meet, usually at the listing agent’s office but sometimes at the seller’s home, for this offer presentation. There are many advantages of presenting and receiving offers in person, despite its current lack of popularity.
The shift came with the prevalence of email and the privacy presumed to accompany it. For awhile before email took off, some real estate professionals were faxing offers. That saved time but seemed risky on a couple of levels. It never seemed very secure until efax came along (taking faxes directly to one’s email). Most faxes in the early days of using that machine belonged to the office. Anyone hovering by the fax machine could see very well the paperwork coming through. Just as seriously, though, it took away the ability to read the situation in person, to answer questions or to make a positive impression that would help the buyer’s odds of success. It was cold and impersonal.
Today, most Realtors presume that offers should arrive by email. The better ones will ask: “How would you like to receive my offer?” The openness to dropping off a sealed offer, present to the agent, present to the agent and seller, email, fax, or have delivered by courier pigeon – ok, kidding on the last one – indicates a willingness to go the extra mile and to get it done.
Because we live in an email and texting culture, most sellers do not want face to face offer presentations. In some cases, it’s a matter of the sellers being ill, elderly, or perhaps going through a rough time, such as divorce, that makes them prefer to not have to deal directly with the buyer’s agent. For many reasons, they may elect to have their listing agent receive the offer and then to go over it with them (usually in person, though not always).
Did you know that technically, the buyer’s agent has a right to present in person unless the seller has instructions to the contrary – in writing? MLSListings.com rules regarding presentation of real estate contracts includes this paragraph:
9.6 Right of Cooperating Broker in Presentation of Offer
The cooperating broker has the right to participate in the presentation of any offer to purchase he secures. The cooperating broker does not have the right to be present at any discussion or evaluation of that offer by the seller and the listing broker. However, if the seller gives written instructions to the listing broker requesting that the cooperating broker not be present when an offer the cooperating broker secured is presented, the cooperating broker shall convey the offer to the listing broker for presentation. In such event, the cooperating broker shall have the right to receive a copy of the seller’s written instructions from the listing broker. Nothing in this section diminishes or restricts the listing broker’s right to control the establishment of appointments for offer presentations.
That said, most buyer’s agents are not going to ask to see the written instructions. Why not? They don’t want to anger or annoy the listing agent or make a big fuss of this point. Make waves and maybe your offer won’t be accepted. Or perhaps it will, but you’ll get off on a bad foot and the whole escrow may be unnecessarily stressful and bumpy. Or worse.
Rather than make a big deal after the fact, if the buyer or buyer’s agent feels strongly about meeting the seller and listing agent directly, it would be a good idea to bring it up early, before the offer is ready to be delivered, and make the request as a favor or professional courtesy, politely. In many cases, listing agents will appreciate the higher standard of practice behind the request, and whether or not the live meeting happens, it will put the agent making effort visible in a better light.
And finally, if the contract must be delivered by email, remember that there are many things you can do to make a good impression even with an email delivery and improve the odds of success for your bid. One is to have the buyers write a personal letter to the sellers. As a buyer’s agent, write an offer summary to make it easy for everyone to get an “at a glance” sense of the contract. If you have Adobe Acrobat Standard, combine PDFs so the other Realtor will have an easier time opening, saving and viewing your paperwork. Include a cover sheet with the buyer’s agent’s contact info. Do whatever it takes to make it easy and simple for the listing agent and sellers to just say yes to the offer.