A sign does not necessarily tell the whole story #708

#708 in a series of true experiences in real estate

Most houses that are for sale have For Sale signs posted, but not all of them. There are sellers who don’t want a sign.

Often when a house is in escrow, the agent adds a smaller sign at the top of the post that says “Pending Sale,” but not every time. Sometimes the agent doesn’t get around to it or is not confident that the sale will be completed.

Usually when the sign is taken down, it means that the house has sold, but it can also mean it didn’t sell. Maybe the owner’s plans changed and he has decided to stay there, or maybe he is changing agents and a new sign will go up before long.

Most of the time after a house is listed, it is held open on a couple of different days, one during the week and at least one on a weekend. But some houses are never held open. This can be because the owner is elderly or sick and doesn’t want people traipsing through, or perhaps because the owner has valuable personal property he isn’t interested in having a lot of people see.

Maybe you called the phone number on a sign and were told, “That house is sold.” But “sold” can mean different things. It may mean that the seller and a buyer have agreed on a price and are now working on completing the sale. It isn’t done yet, and there is still the chance that it never will be.

Or “sold” can also mean that title has been transferred to the new owner.

Smart agents say, “There is a pending sale.” Or “that house is in escrow but the buyers haven’t removed their contingencies yet.” This lets you know that there is still a possibility that you can buy that house.

Sales do fall apart. If the appraisal comes in low or the buyer loses his job, the loan described in the contract will not be available – perhaps an unsolvable problem. Or, if the buyer discovers that the furnace is broken and neither he nor the seller is willing to pay for it, the house may be available again.

To further complicate things, some houses are offered for sale to settle an estate or to provide funds for someone who is being cared for outside his home. Some, but not all, of these sales cannot close until a judge okays them. Once a buyer has made an acceptable offer, a court date is set. If another buyer is willing to pay more for the house than the original offer, he can go to court and make an overbid. To know just how “sold” one of these houses is, you must know how far along the sale process has progressed.

You may be able to ascertain some parts of the story of any listing by looking it up on the Internet. Or you can ask any active residential agent to find out for you.

But maybe right now you just want to see what’s out there generally, so you are going to open houses. You make up a list and plan a route.

By extraordinary chance, the first house you walk into is precisely what you want. You did not expect this to happen and are wondering what to do next when the person holding the house open says, “We’re hearing offers on Friday.” Or perhaps, “An offer was presented last night.” Now what?

Here’s another possibility. You walk into an open house, you’re thinking it looks pretty good, and the agent greets you with, “We already have an accepted offer, but it looks shaky. We’re looking for a back-up offer.”

Hopefully, you have selected an agent of your own. Further, you have all cash or you have been pre-approved for a loan and, in addition, you have available the cash you will need to complete a purchase.

Do this. Leave the open house. Call your agent – preferably one you have carefully selected. Your agent will gather information, help you predict your chances of success, and – if it’s possible – get what you are after.


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