Real estate agents are under an obligation to present all offers to their seller client. The REALTOR® Code of Ethics Article 1, Standard of Practice 1-6 states that offers and counteroffers must be submitted as objectively and as quickly as possible. However, not all real estate agents are REALTORS® and required to abide by the Code. In Massachusetts, 254 CMR 3.00 also requires all agents to present offers and states: “All offers submitted to brokers or salespeople to purchase or rent real property that they have a right to sell or rent shall be conveyed forthwith to the owner of such real property.” Many MLS Rules and Regulations, including MLSPIN, also require that a seller agent present all written offers to their client. The MLS may also have a rule that allows buyer representatives to request to be present for the presentation of the offer to the seller. Despite the requirement that offers be presented, there is no legal obligation to acknowledge receipt or send a formal rejection of an offer, making it seem like your offer is floating out in the great abyss. Under both Massachusetts licensure law and the REALTOR® Code of Ethics, the only situation in which a real estate professional is exempt from presenting an offer to a seller is if the seller client has provided an explicit instruction to the agent to not present offers that do not meet certain criteria, such as a minimum price.
If you are concerned that your offer may not be presented, or hasn’t been presented at all, the best action you can take as a buyer’s agent is to ask that the seller provide you a formal rejection in writing. That will demonstrate that the offer was presented and the seller chose not to accept those terms. The buyer can then move on, or submit a new offer with different terms. In recognition of this issue, the Professional Standards Committee of the National Association of REALTORS® voted at their May 2018 meeting in Washington DC to amend Standard of Practice 1-7. Under the newly amended SOP 1-7, of Article 1, a listing broker or agent will now be required to respond in writing that an offer was submitted to the seller if the cooperating broker who submitted the offer so requests. The listing broker or agent must respond in the affirmative unless the seller has provided written notification waiving the obligation to have the offer presented.
A buyer may choose to contact the seller directly to inquire as to the status of their offer, but it is likely that this course of action will ruffle some feathers. If a seller wishes to work with a buyer directly, they would not have hired an agent.
A last resort, if you are truly convinced that the listing agent has withheld your offer, is to file a complaint with your local REALTOR® association or the Board of Registration. This is not an option to take lightly, but is available if necessary.
If you have questions about this article or any other matter pertaining to your real estate business, please contact Attorney William G. Mullen, III or the brokerage counseling hotline at 617-399-7842.