May a listing agent wait up to three days before delivering my buyer’s offer?

QUESTION: I delivered an offer to a listing agent 24 hours ago and just found out that she has not submitted my offer to her seller. When I asked why, she told me that she was waiting on two other offers that she expected to receive today, and would be submitting all of the offers to her client simultaneously. Has the listing agent done anything wrong?

ANSWER: While the agent’s conduct may not be a clear violation of the Real Estate License Law or the Real Estate Commission’s rules, her delay in delivering your client’s offer fails to meet the Commission’s published guidance. Therefore, her conduct could, if reported, result in discipline.

The timely delivery of offers is addressed in both the License Law and the Commission’s rules. Section 93A-6(a)(13) of the License Law states that a licensed agent may be disciplined for “failing to deliver, within a reasonable time, a completed copy of any purchase agreement or offer to buy and sell real estate to the buyer and to the seller.” Whether 24 hours is an unreasonable period of time in your situation is subject to debate.

Real Estate Commission rule A.0106(a) is more specific. It requires brokers to deliver specified written documents, including any written offers, within three days of the broker’s receipt of the executed document. The listing agent has not violated the letter of this rule. However, the analysis does not end there.

The Commission has published a Guide titled License Law and Rules Comments. That publication states: “Regarding offers, (Rule A.0106) does NOT mean that agents may in every case wait up to three days to present an offer to a seller. Rather, it means that an agent must, as soon as possible, present to the seller any offer received by the agent. If the agent is the ‘selling agent,’ then the offer should be immediately presented to the ‘listing agent’ who should, in turn, immediately present the offer to the seller. The ‘three-day’ provision is included only to allow for situations where the seller is not immediately available (e.g., seller is out of town), and represents an outside time limit within which offers must always be presented. In all cases where the seller is available, the offer should be presented as soon as possible.” The listing agent has failed to follow this guidance. You should, at a minimum, remind her of what the Commission expects of all licensees.

As a reminder, some agents mistakenly believe that sellers must consider offers in the order they are received. In fact, even though listing agents are expected to present offers immediately, their seller-clients are certainly permitted to wait on other offers before considering and responding to any offers.

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