There is no doubt that E Signatures have made the home buying and selling process easier for all of us. However, there is a growing trend in Northern Virginia that I have discussed with many of my fellow listing agents that is very disturbing. The ratified contract appears to be solid. You may have received multiple offers for the listing. You’ve done all of your due diligence to insure that the best qualified buyer is selected by your seller. You have made sure the home is properly prepared for sale, in some cases including a pre-inspection, so there are no major issues.
The buyer does their own home inspection and no major issues are found. Their financing is totally approved. HOA documents have been delivered. Seemingly out of the blue, the buyer who “loved the house,” now backs out of the deal, leaving you and your seller with unrecoverable “time off market.”
Given the number of times this is now happening, this may not be a coincidence. I believe the increase in contract “fall-out” in Northern Virginia in many cases can be tied to the lack of “real commitment” on the part of the buyer, and the fact that buyer’s agents are not communicating the serious intent of an “E-Signed” offer.
The only difference between a personally signed and an e-signed offer is the delivery. Buyer agents are still obligated to review every detail of the offer with their client. Even if the discussion is not being held while you are sitting face to face, it still needs to happen. A contract is still a contract. (We think). As a buyer agent, if you are telling your client “just sign, you can always get out at home inspection or with HOA documents if you change your mind,” – then you are part of a growing problem. You need to make sure your buyer is actually committed before they hit send. There is a growing psychological issue of “we didn’t really sign it” with e signatures. Buyers need to be reminded that their signature, whether it is electronic or not, is legally binding.
If “a contract is not really a contract,” then where does that leave all of us? Right now it leaves many good responsible agents keeping track of the names of “serial buyers” who write and then back out of ratified contracts, and their agents, so they can instruct their sellers accordingly in the future.