by David Hamerslough

The link to the online disclosure packet has been provided to the buyer. Shortly thereafter, you receive a text from the buyer that reads “TL;DR.” You ask yourself, “What does that mean?” You respond to the text, asking the buyer if they had any questions about the information in the disclosure packet. In return, you get another text: “IB.” Now you’re really perplexed. Just what is the buyer communicating to you?

You don’t want to ask the buyer what these acronyms stand for, so you go poll your colleagues. Fortunately, one of them is familiar with the latest acronyms in use, and you find out that they stand for, respectively, “Too Long; Didn’t Read” and “Information Blur.”

Now that you feel good about at least knowing what the buyer has communicated, you start asking yourself how you should react to communications like these. Should you (1) ignore them, (2) be concerned about what prompted the buyer to send you these texts, (3) ask the buyer some questions, including whether they actually read any of the disclosure material, and, if so, what they read and didn’t read, what questions and concerns, if any, did they have, etc., (4) ask them why they had the response they did, or (5) respond to them with some combination of options (2)-(4).

You text the buyer with some of these questions and conclude by asking them if they can take the time to review all of the disclosures so they can let you know what issues, concerns, and/or questions they may have about the disclosures and how the disclosures may impact their current and/or future needs and uses with regard to the property.

The buyer’s next text message reads, “I’m extremely busy with work and other matters. That’s why I hired you to represent me.”

While the communication exchange in this example may strike you as being extreme, communications of this nature have always taken place and will continue to do so. Statements from clients that “I didn’t have enough time to review the material,” “I didn’t understand the material/it was too complicated/it was over my head,” or “let me know what you think or what I should be concerned about,” etc. are statements that all agents and brokers have received in one form or another when representing buyers.

Are the acronyms “TL;DR,” “IB,” and others a modern shorthand for older phrases such as “I don’t have the time to read all this material; please read the disclosures for me; that’s why you’re getting paid the commission”? Are communications of this nature an attempt by a buyer to shift the responsibility for reviewing and evaluating the disclosures back onto you as their agent? How do you communicate the importance of having the buyer review and evaluate the disclosures without them concluding that you are avoiding doing work that the buyer thinks you should be doing instead?

The real question is, what message is the buyer trying to communicate to you, and how do you respond/react to that message?

Here’s one approach – send the buyer a communication making the following points:

  1. Buying real estate is a significant business decision for anyone, but it also involves several decisions of personal taste and preferences. It is important that you make a well-informed decision about purchasing real property because you are the one who will own it and live in it. The property needs to be right for you and your needs, not mine.
  2. Your ability to make decisions about the property will depend on a number of factors, including but not limited to market conditions, your motivation (and that of the seller), your knowledge and experience, your careful review of any disclosures, documents, inspection reports, advisories, etc., all of which you need to consider before going forward with the transaction.
  3. Although many factors are beyond your and my control, one factor that is within your control is clearly communicating to me what specific questions or concerns that you have in buying any given property. Issues that are of concern to you may not be an issue of concern to me, and thus I cannot make those assessments for you. Once you do communicate your questions and concerns to me, then I will be able to help answer your questions and/or refer you to other qualified professionals who may be able to provide the right responses.
  4. In order for you to make a well-informed decision (or for me to assist you in doing so), it is important that you carefully read and evaluate all of the information and documentation that you receive and that you tell me about any issues, concerns, and/or questions that you may have regarding the condition of the property, its present and/or future use, or the mechanics of the transaction.

Another approach is to communicate these points to the buyer in a face-to-face meeting. If you take that approach, I do suggest confirming what you discussed in an email after the meeting, specifying what actions each of you will be taking and why. Both of these approaches will lead to a clearer set of expectations on both sides.

While the exchange in this example occurred after the online disclosure packet was reviewed by the buyer, the points that you might consider making are ones that could be made at the outset of any transaction or when you first start working with a buyer. Doing so may avoid miscommunications, assumptions, and unrealistic expectations.
As you already know, of course, every transaction and every buyer differ, so YMMV!