Hey, It's the Bird in the Hand!
"I don't mean to talk down to you," Dr. Anne Becker, DDS, patiently said, "this is the talk I give to all my new, incoming patients . . . but I need to show you how to correctly brush your teeth." (Say what?)
At which point, Dr. Anne pulled out a HUGE model of horse-sized teeth she keeps in her office for 5 year olds (and me evidently), and a Sonicare toothbrush, and showed me how to slowly drag the brush along the gum line for proper dental hygiene. (Thank you for the detailed demonstration.)
Here's the thing, even though I've brushed my teeth twice a day for more than 55 years (that's more than 40,000 times!) it seems that I haven't quite been doing it right. As she explained, I'm suppose to be angling my brush at a 45 degree angle to "attack the colonies" under the gums (okay, yuck) for two minutes both morning and night, instead of scrubbing and sawing away at the teeth in a 30-second burst of energy. (Who knew?)
I'm guessing those of you with perfect smiles.
Here's where you're wondering where, exactly, I'm headed with this and how I'm going to turn gingivitis into a real estate story . . . (yes, even gingivitis makes a good backdrop).
My point is this: even when we think we are sure of the correct course of action, AND even after years of practice, we don't know everything.
Earlier this week, I put my newest listing into contract rather unexpectedly,which in real estate terms meant that the Sellers received a compelling preemptive offer on their stunning and much-coveted home in upper Piedmont.
For those of you unclear on the concept of a "preemptive offer," it means that although the Sellers had anticipated hearing offers after the second Sunday Open (which would have meant sometime early next week), the process was, instead, quickly put into high gear by a surprise, early offer - much to the other interested parties' dismay.
Because ALL offers (preemptive or not) must legally be presented to the Sellers within 24 hours of receipt, I met with the Sellers that afternoon, as the presenting Agent had very smartly put in a very short window to respond. (BTW, Sellers can politely decline to see these early offers, electing to wait, but it's also perfectly within their rights to choose to open the offer and respond, as happened in this case.) As several other potential Buyers had requested disclosures for the property, I quickly sent out a group email to their Agents, suggesting they write immediately if their Buyers were still interested, and so inclined. . .
Real estate is nothing if not dramatic.
To give you some historical context, the idea of setting an offer date is a rather new phenomenon, based on too little inventory, high demand, AND the assumption that multiple offers will emerge, thus allowing the Sellers to leverage the interest of all parties in order to get the highest and best price, AND in MOST cases in the Bay Area, that's exactly what happens. In nearly every other market in America, offers are written at will and houses stay on the market for months, not days.
Still, not every house trades the same way. As I mentioned in a previous column, some properties sell off-market, some run the full two-week marketing period, some quietly sell in a hybrid fashion, some inexplicably sit for weeks on the market waiting for the right Buyer to come along (usually because they are overpriced), and others sell in a day or two BECAUSE an offer came in that was too good to pass up. HELLO!!! (Hey, it's often a PLUMP "bird in the hand.")
Is a preemptive offer an aggressive move on the Buyers' part?
You bet it is.
Can it backfire?
Absolutely, especially if the Sellers opt not to respond, but are now aware of the number to set for every other interested party coming to the table. In other words, you could be tipping your hand when that wasn't your intention, at all.
Understand, should you write a preemptive offer, good Agents WILL and SHOULD tell any other potential Buyers that an offer has emerged, not only to be fair to the other Agents and their Buyers, but to try and improve upon the offer if possible. Remember, listing Agents have a fiduciary responsibility to the Sellers to get the highest and best price for the property, not necessarily to protect the other Buyers in the wings (although it's easier in many respects when the two go hand-in-hand).
As such, if you choose to go the "preemptive" route, you must make sure your offer leaves NO room for someone else to beat it. In other words, your offer must be compelling enough that the Sellers believe it won't be beat by anyone else should they wait another week or two (which happened on my own home sale a few years back, even after I swore I'd never, EVER, look at a preemptive offer.)
In short, Agents don't control the outcome of our listings, or often, have any idea how the chips will fall. (The Buyers set the market value and the Sellers retain the right to accept, reject or counter any and all offers, as they so choose.) As Realtors, we simply set the stage, try and meet our Sellers' high expectations, and ultimately, guide our clients as the story unfolds - hopefully with a happy ending. In this case, both the Sellers and the Buyers aren't just happy, they're ecstatic, and that's undeniably, the goal.
Which isn't to say that I'm not going to stress eat over the way this particular story presented (I'm gonna have A BIG SCOOP of ice cream tonight) and then I'll brush my teeth . . . correctly this time. (See how I did that?)
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Julie Gardner, has been writing The Perspective for 18 years and has published more than 670 essays on life and real estate.