There’s a home I’m looking at buying, but the seller’s agent says he’ll only bring our offer to the seller at a certain date and time. Is that allowed?

When a buyer presents a written offer, they generally expect that the seller will see it right away. And it’s true that the seller’s representative is required to provide all written offers to their client as soon as possible.

However, the seller can provide their representative with a written direction that states when they want to be presented with offers. In effect, the seller can redefine what “as soon as possible” means.

Why wouldn’t a seller want to see all offers right away? In most cases, sellers do this to ensure their home gets a certain amount of exposure before offers are made, and often they hope that it will lead to a competing offer situation – kind of like announcing the launch date of a new movie or book to generate some interest before it’s available. There are advantages and disadvantages to this strategy, and sellers should discuss it with their representative to make an informed decision.

So what happens if you try to make an offer before the date and time the seller has specified? It all depends on the details contained in the written direction that the seller provided. If their direction explicitly states that no offers will be considered, then the seller’s representative can’t bring the offers to the seller. If the seller’s direction permits offers to be brought to their attention under certain circumstances, then the seller’s representative would have to comply with those specific directions.

In addition, if instructed by the seller, the seller’s representative can hold onto offers that are submitted early. So let’s imagine that the seller only wants offers on Friday at 5 p.m., and they don’t want to be advised of anything before then. If you submit an offer on Thursday, the seller’s representative could hold onto it and present it to their client on Friday at 5.

The direction should be very specific about the seller’s expectations so that there’s no doubt about the proper course of action. That’s because the representative is obligated to follow the direction to the letter. There’s no room for them to break the direction at their own discretion.

Time-specific offer requirements add an additional twist when you’re looking to buy a home. Fortunately, the guidance of a registered real estate professional can be very helpful. An experienced representative will have a thorough understanding of the process. And they’ll also understand local market conditions, which can help you decide on your next steps.

Joseph Richer is Registrar of the Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO). He is in charge of the administration and enforcement of all rules that govern real estate professionals in Ontario. You can find more tips at reco.on.ca, follow on Twitter @RECOhelps or on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/RECOhelps.

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