Time is of the essence in this business and an extra 24 hrs can mean the difference in a deal or no deal or thousands of dollars at times. There are tight timelines at times in the buying and selling process. Timely action & communication can mean the difference between whether a buyer gets a house or not, and whether a seller gets a good offer or not. Part of my role is to ensure that you are not in breach of contract and that we are able to respond in such a way that we get positive results from the other party involved in a transaction. That said, I never want a buyer or seller to sign something where they don't know what it means. I also want the buyers and sellers I work with to always feel comfortable about making highly informed decisions about one of the biggest decisions of many buyers' and sellers' lives. If you don't, the likelihood of buyer's remorse or seller's remorse is much higher. It’s never too late or too early to reach out to me.
What Sellers Need to Know: Fast Response Times for Showings
Fast showing responses for sellers is critical. It can mean the difference of a property getting shown and then getting an offer and not getting shown at all. If it's already been more than 24 hrs between the time when a showing request is made and when authorization is provided, the buyer may have already made an offer on another property. Even a 15-minute delay can mean that a property is shown or not shown, an offer is made or not made, if the buyers are already in the neighborhood and happen to see the for sale sign during a 1-day tour of many homes at the end of which they make an offer.
The best option for listings, in markets where it's available, is Showingtime. Showingtime enables buyer's agents to reach out to a seller or tenant about showings with no middleman involved to slow things down. The buyer's agent can still reach out to the listing agent, as I always do when representing buyers, but the showing request itself reaches the occupant, if applicable, instantly, and vacant properties can have instant confirmation. Alternatives to Showingtime are typically cheaper, and nothing compares to it because of the significant problems I've seen with competing platforms.
In some cases, a listing agent will ask for emails only for showing requests or may ask for the office to be called when the office is only open 9-5 M-F. They're shooting their sellers in the feet doing that, but I've seen it happen with the sellers having likely no idea about how bad that is for their sale.
Even if you have Showingtime, that doesn't solve everything, because slow listing agent responses to questions & slow occupant responses to showing inquiries can still result in canceled appointments. Some Showingtime agents are still very sluggish to respond to questions about listings unless that question is about a listing that has been previously shown where an offer is being considered. Even when an offer is considered, some agents are still very slow to respond to questions.
If a seller hasn't stated in advance of listing that pictures and video are allowed at their property, it could slow down a virtual showing at their property, in some cases by more than 24 hours, especially if an estate sale with more than 2 parties needing to agree on something like that.
In Virginia, while a tenant can allow showings in less than 24 hrs, they can't be mandated to do so. Tenant flexibility is one of the important inquiries to make prior to deciding whether you want to evict tenants or stop their lease prior to sale.
What Buyers & Sellers Need to Know: Timelines for Inspections
A fast timeline for a home inspection or any other buyer-paid and arranged inspection is good for a seller, while a longer timeline for any seller-paid inspection is best for the seller. If the buyer is responsible, it's best to get the buyer in and out and get the property back on the market if it doesn't work out. Conversely, if the seller is arranging for the inspection, and especially if they are paying for it also, it's better to not have to deal with it and sink money into it until after the buyer has removed any contingencies for inspections they have so that money isn't spent needlessly that may need to be replicated for a future buyer since inspections only are good for a certain time period (i.e. 30 days for a termite/moisture inspection).
A longer timeline for a home inspection or other inspection that the buyer is performing and that the seller is performing is favorable to a buyer, but in the case of ones that the buyer is paying for, it means that the offer won't be as strong.
With home inspections, 5 days is tight, but doable. I typically don't recommend it if you're including more than 1 inspection, depending on the inspection type. For instance, chimney inspections can be bad for trying to get one fast. Mold inspections can take days after the actual inspection to be sent off to a lab. 7 days is also tight, but even more doable. If you're a 1-offer scenario, a 7-day timeline is often something I recommend if only performing 1 inspection as long as you don't have your heart set on a certain inspector. If you have a home inspection, mold inspection, and chimney inspection, even 10 days may be tight. Also, the more rural a property is, the more time you may need. If you have 3+ inspections in a very rural area, 14 days for inspections may be needed. If you're getting under contract for land, you'll need even more time than that in some cases for things like wetlands delineations if the property appears to have wetlands based on the US wetlands mapper.
Whether you're buying or selling, offer timeliness is a critical element of the home buying and selling process. There are times when it's important that an agent doesn't rush you, but other times, such as with offers, where an agent would be derelict in their duties if they didn't give you a gentle nudge along in the process. Like expeditious showings, expeditious offers for buyers and expeditious offer responses for sellers are critical. I've seen where properties go on and off the market in <1 hour in at least 1 case, and in more cases, <12 hours.
Buyer Example 1: Winning an Offer Before a Better Offer Was Made
I've seen where my buyer made an offer soon after it hit the market, the seller accepted, and another buyer made an offer too late that was significantly stronger than our offer.
Buyer Example 2: Winning an Offer Day 1 On the Market
I've seen where my buyer knew about a "coming soon" listing because I sent it to them (which isn't possible in all MLS, including REIN), we saw it the day it hit the market, we made an offer with a deadline, and the seller accepted our offer on that first day.
Buyer Example 3: Unresponsive Buyer
I once had a buyer who shared that they wanted to make an offer. After sending them an offer for their review/signature I followed up with them around 9 PM that night, asking if they had any questions. I didn't hear back, & they typically were fairly responsive. I followed up with them the next morning, asking again if they had any questions. They did have a few questions which I answered within 35 minutes. One of the questions they asked highlighted one of their biggest concerns about the property, growth visible on the walls. I asked at 5:13 PM if they had any more questions, and relayed to them, "The listing agent said, "There are 2 offers in my email, will be reviewing the offers this evening with the sellers."" It is important to note that in many cases, even though I typically ask listing agents to relay when other offers are present, they often won't prior to accepting another offer. At 9:30 PM, still not having heard back from the buyer, & with most decisions by sellers on multiple offer situations made prior to 9 PM, I asked the buyer, "At this point I am assuming that you decided to not submit an offer. Right?" The next morning they shared that they felt I was rushing them, that a coworker had died the day prior, and that they no longer wanted to work with me. If I hadn't been following up with them, I would have been an apathetic agent about their best interests, and in doing so derelict in my fiduciary duties to them to protect their interests at all times. If they had simply told me the day before that a co-worker had died, or even if they hadn't told me that, if they had told me that they would prefer for me to follow up less, I would have sought to respect their wishes, even if it was at the expense of their offer's chances of success.
Seller Example 4: Losing an Offer Because the Seller Took Too Long to Respond
Did you know that if the seller takes too long to respond, the buyer may walk? In some cases, offer deadlines are included in offers, but even when they aren't (& they typically aren't in Hampton Roads), it's important to know that buyers have the ability to withdraw their offer at any time. In some cases, a buyer will make an offer, and not stop the process of showings at other properties. When I've had sellers take too long to respond despite my follow-up to encourage them to expedite review/signatures, I've seen where buyers' agents told me that the buyers and they would be seeing more properties without withdrawing their offer. I've also seen where buyers withdrew their offer with no notice after the seller took too long.
Buyer Example 5: Buyers Lost Offer Because They Were 2nd Chronologically
In one example, when I asked a listing agent why my buyers lost an offer, he stated that it was because our offer was second. The offers were otherwise very similar, but simply because our offer was 2nd, the listing agent stated that the other buyer won. My buyers never had a 2nd chance to up their offer. It's important to note that it's rare for this answer to be given, and I've only had it happen once when both offers were presented prior to the offer being made. The buyers I was representing had a number of questions, and those questions delayed the offer. I generally advise asking questions before the offer and doing a lot of research before seeing properties and before deciding on an offer, but too much time in research & too apathetic of an approach on offer timeliness can make you lose out at times. Questions themselves can also negatively impact the offer, though again, it's rare.
Buyer Example 6: Buyers Lost Offer Because We Asked Too Many Questions
In one example, a listing agent stated that my buyers lost an offer because we asked too many questions. It's very rare for that to happen, but is possible. The question that they cited as an example was where I asked if there were any hot-button issues that were important to the seller. If I was the listing agent, I would have loved to hear that question, as it's good for the seller to be able to state preferences for offers received, but in rare cases, too many questions can hurt you, and often you won't know until you hear back on an offer in a multiple offer situation if they're honest.
Buyer Example 7: Buyers Withdrew After Not Asking the Right Question Prior to Offer
While asking too many questions can hurt you in rare cases, it's more typically the absence of enough questions that you run into issues. In one case, on an occasion where a buyer cared about whether or not they could rent out the property after purchase, they didn't ask the question of the sellers prior to the offer. After finding out more details from their work after the contract was ratified, and after finding out that there was a rental cap in the neighborhood where the townhome was present, they decided to pull out from the contract using the HOA contingency to do so.
Buyer Example 8: Buyers Didn't See Property After Asking the Right Question
In one case, there were multiple offers on a distant property from me and from the prospective buyer. The listing disclosed that flood insurance was required for mortgages and the amount that was being paid. I asked if there was any history of flooding, and the agent responded that around $40k had been put into the property from flooding around 5 years ago. The buyer decided to not see the property, while all the offers on the property were likely from buyers/buyers' agents who had never asked the right question. While flooding history is supposed to be disclosed under typical circumstances, sometimes, even if a disclosure is legally required, it won't be disclosed.
Buyer Example 9: Buyers Didn't Make Offer After Seeing Issues In Person from Thorough Showing
Often buyers and agents will rush through properties. Sometimes they don't have any option to do otherwise, such as when the listing agent is only providing 15-minute showing windows. In other cases, it's because the buyer or the agent isn't thorough enough, and in other cases, the right physical tools & digital tools aren't available to do the kind of showing needed to identify significant issues. For instance, while I'm no home inspector, I've identified things like polybutylene pipes in a crawlspace after looking in the crawlspace with one of my powerful flashlights, significant problems in an attic where only agents with ladders they carry can access them after multiple contracts had fallen through on the property where the attic was in much worse shape than the living area & exterior, & otherwise that has stopped buyers from making an offer. Sometimes buyers and agents won't go into an attic even if there is a pulldown ladder. I've seen where walking into the attic you're able to immediately identify that there was a previous fire with much of the attic still black, with most of the wood charred and never replaced.
Client Communication Preferences
It's very important for buyers and sellers to be candid & share with their agent any difficulties with communication that they're having. While I have a default style of communication, my default style is not a one size fits all approach, so if I'm ever not adapting to your communication style to your liking, please let me know as soon as possible. In example 4 of "Offer Timeliness" the problem would have been resolved if the buyer had simply informed me that they preferred that I follow up with them less (even though doing so would be at the expense of their offer's chances of success).
I have had at least one occasion where buyers didn't read practically anything that I sent them via email, stating after closing that they may have dyslexia. I myself have difficulty reading lengthy textbooks, especially with a busy schedule, and I find that text-to-voice applications have been invaluable for me on any occasion where an audio form of content is unavailable. If you would prefer to hear more than you read, & you're working with an agent like me where much of the information that I have available is in writing, consider text-to-voice applications like Narrator's Voice.
Zoom is an excellent resource for communicating about offers, home searches, etc. in part because screen share and remote desktop are integrated options.
Email is another solid option for more lengthy discussions, discussions involving attachments, discussions involving spreadsheets, and late-night discussions.
Calling & texting are solid options when fast response times are needed. The advantage of calls is that you're able to get the tone in a way that you can't with text. With text, the advantage is that you're able to search for it exactly in the future and have the information in writing to not need to remember as much.