Things get personal with residential real estate. They get intimate. No wonder, since “home” is where you live, eat, sleep and do all the other things that humans do.
This is why good agents become their clients’ familiar friends. A close relationship — if client and agent are lucky — inevitably develops. It’s one of the most rewarding aspects of my practice.
Yet there’s a downside. In interacting with people we love, it’s a challenge to remain honest. We align ourselves with our friends’ wishes and dreams, and pretty soon objectivity and candor go flying out the nano windows.
Example: Betty and Bob’s condo has it all. A panoramic bay view, 3 bedrooms, 2.5 baths, 2-car parking, a remodeled kitchen and a private deck. 75 prospective buyers have visited the house over three weeks of marketing. Nobody has made an offer.
Betty is now reviewing all marketing materials. She asks their agent, Joan, to change the order of the photos on the website. She suggests that Joan should highlight the fact that there’s a garbage chute in the hall: “We have just LOVED having that trash chute,” she says, in all sincerity, “I don’t think people appreciate how convenient it is not to have to walk the garbage downstairs.”
Okay. The truth is that spotlighting the garbage chute’s presence won’t make one iota of a difference, and the photo sequence on the website is inconsequential. 75 buyers were drawn to see the property. The problem is simple: The price is too high.
But Joan, who has guided Betty and Bob through property preparation and staging over the course of several months, has begun to see the house through Betty’s and Bob’s lenses. As her clients’ perception of the value of the condo has risen — in proportion to the amount of effort and thought expended on readying it for sale — so has Joan’s opinion of value.
Joan belatedly realizes they’ve set the price too high by $100,000. Yet she hesitates to share this sobering truth. She doesn’t want to upset Betty and Bob because she cares about them, and she knows this will upset them.
Smart clients can help their agents avoid this trap by explicitly inviting the truth they don’t want to hear.
It’s sort of like parenting. You ask your teenager to be honest about how that bag of weed ended up in the glove box of the Prius. You promise him or her that — as long as he or she is truthful — you won’t get upset. Once the air is cleared, next steps can be calmly and coolly identified.
So, prudent buyer, be sure to ask for blunt answers to questions like these:
- Is it wishful thinking to hold out for 3 bedrooms at this price in this neighborhood?
- What offering price would make you feel 98% confident about our chances of winning?
- Are there terms in this offer we should eliminate in order to be more competitive?
- Is my lender up to the challenge of this market?
- How have other buyers solved this issue/overcome this difficulty?
- Am I sabotaging myself in any way?
Savvy sellers, request frank responses to questions like these:
- Do we need to follow the stager’s recommendation that we remove the carpet and refinish the hardwood underneath the entry stairs?
- Is this listing price one that will evoke a “run-don’t-walk” response from buyers?
- Are there enhancements we’ve refused to consider that you think would bring us a great return on investment?
- What are our blindspots where our home is concerned?
- If you could wave a magic wand and change one thing about our approach to selling the house, what would it be?
- For which selling-related tasks (purging, organizing, painting, etc.) should we get professional help rather than trying to DIY?
Buying or selling a home is a process that unfolds differently in every situation. But the relationship between agent and client is the key to every successful transaction.
Show your agent that you, too, are invested in the relationship. Let them know you’ll love ‘em even if the truth hurts. Then, listen carefully and keep an open mind.