I have been listing and selling real estate in Anchorage for almost forty years. It’s a job I love and will continue to do in the future. You would think after all those years of experience I would not make a simple mistake but I did. It has haunted me for the past several weeks and so in order to get it out of my psyche, I need to share it with you and also others in the business so that we can all learn from it and be reminded of our professional vulnerabilities. 

The vast majority of residential real estate offers are written on an MLS purchase and sale form (PSA) which is a legally well-written document. When properly filled out, the PSA has specific dates and times for performance of various contingencies and acceptances, including such items as the time to order a preliminary title report; the home inspection and buyer’s request for repairs; the time to order the appraisal and the closing date. Most importantly, any offer or any counteroffer has a specific date and time for a response. I missed a counteroffer deadline. The lesson I learned is that my email response of acceptance which was seven minutes past the stated deadline is not a legal counter. I knew that, of course, but under most circumstances the email would have been ‘good enough’ but this was a sought-after property with multiple offers. The legal DocuSign acceptance on an MLS form arrived approximately two and a half hours later but by that time the seller had accepted another offer which was their legal right to do so. I lost a sale but more importantly my buyer lost a significant opportunity. 

The lessons learned here are many. Emails, texts, PDFS and DocuSign have made our industry a bit sloppy. We have no control over when DocuSigns are going to arrive in an inbox. Two weeks ago, the internet carrier that most Alaskans use was down for several hours. Some people lined up at other carriers’ stores just to buy a second phone so that business could continue. But that is not my excuse. I was late in writing and sending the acceptance, whether seven minutes or two and a half hours. It is also a cautionary tale for buyers and sellers who are busy people. Make sure your realtor tells you when you must respond by. Voicemails, emails left on buyer, seller or realtor devices are not binding contracts.

As a broker, I review files on a daily basis and even a missing initial, if push came to shove, can void a contract. Many of us do business with family in addition to repeat buyers and sellers who become friends and/or long term professional associates. Twenty percent of all realtors do eighty percent of all sales so it is easy for us to forget, take for granted or make assumptions about business relationships that may not always be reciprocal in intent but the bottom line is this: follow the contract.