Out of the Area-Flat Rate Brokers?

Posted on September 28, 2010

This is a long story, but I will try to make it as brief as possible. Basically, I am just wondering what kind of experiences other agents are having when out of the area, flat rate brokers are listing homes in the Naples area, and we are forced to handle both sides of a sales contract’s negotiations?  I’ve had several experiences, none of which have ended in a sale.
Here is my latest experience:
I’ve been working for about six months with a potential buyer. They have been to Naples once, looked at homes with me, and narrowed their search down to one particular geographic area. They have two price points: one for a “tear down” or a home which needs some updating; and one for a newer home. I systematically run a hotsheet for them and have continued to send them new listings, back-on-the-market listings and price reductions on a regular basis. I have gotten to know their likes and dislikes very well, and they have come to trust me as a real estate professional. They put an offer in on a home about 8 weeks ago which did not go together because of multiple offers. [Yes, we are beginning to get multiple offers in Naples Florida again] They were disappointed that they did not get that home because, although it needed a lot of work, it was in a perfect location. But, they were confident we would find another property!
~Recently, while I was away on vacation, another listing came to their attention. I called the listing agent to check on the status of the home, and to get additional details. I was told to call the seller directly. It seems this home is owned by a man who, at one time was licensed. The listing brokerage is located in Hollywood Florida, and it is a flat fee agency. I came to find out later that the seller paid them $250. to have them put the house into the Naples MLS.  All discussions and negotiations would be between me and the seller. I was a bit taken back by that to begin with, as this is not common practice. Because I was out of town, my assistant Sam made the appointment with the seller to go to the home and take photographs to send to me and the buyer. Once this was completed, the buyer decided they wanted to make an offer. I then did a market analysis of the home’s value which they reviewed and a fair offer was submitted. The seller kept insisting that negotiations could be done verbally. It gets a lot more complicated from here, but to sum it up, after a week of counters we had an agreed upon cash price, no conditions other than for the buyer to fly to Naples for a visual inspection, and the customary structural inspections to be completed as per the sales contract. I decided to cut my vacation short in order to be there personally to show the buyer the home. Airline tickets were purchased, rental car and hotel reservations booked…..THEN, 24 hours after the accepted sales contract had been faxed to the seller, and a day before the buyer was expected to fly to Naples to see the home, my assistant gets a call from the seller (mind you, he didn’t call me), to say he never received his last counter-offer, which had been accepted by the buyer, in writing. I’d like to interject that numerous conversations had been made the day the seller’s last counter-offer was accepted including confirming a time for the visual inspection, as well as requesting the seller put together lists of his service people for the buyer such as lawn care, etc.–all of this being documented in emails correspondences. Sam called me frantically, as she knew she had sent him the signed contract, and she knew that the buyer and I were heading to Naples the next day to look at the home. I called the seller immediately, and needless to say, a bit of a spitting match ensued, at which time I just turned the phone over to Chip who is always more level headed in these situations [good partnership]…sorry, but I have a “slight” problem with people totally jerking the whole wide world around, without any regard to all the lives being effected…After speaking to the buyer, they were able to postpone their trip, and get a credit for their airline tickets…Thank goodness! I then called the seller back to apologize for getting upset earlier, and he just took up where he had left off and continued to keep yelling at me, still denying that he knew it was an accepted sales contract…so I just hung up!  
Now, for those of you that might read this blog post, I’m curious: Do you really think that a seller is saving himself the list-side of a commission when he lists with an out of area- flat fee real estate company? I think that if he had a good agent working on his behalf, he could have possibly negotiated that difference, all the while staying detached from the emotions that are involved during these negotiations.
I’m not really sure what happened…maybe he got seller’s remorse, maybe he got another offer…One thing I am certain of, he definitely was too emotionally charged to handle his own negotiations. Luckily, the buyer was able to change their plans…and when they do make their next visit to Naples, there are a lot of nice homes from which to choose. This story will have a happy ending!