Whenever you’re new to anything—a new job, a new exercise routine, a new school, a new town—you’re apt to say some pretty ridiculous things, whether it’s down playing how difficult something may be or being unaware of the reasoning behind certain situations.
For real estate professionals, the art of buying and selling homes is second nature. But for first-time (okay, sometimes second-time) sellers, the process of getting their home sold can be a bit of a mystery. Most sellers are well-intentioned, but in the midst of what can be an emotional or overwhelming experience, sometimes agents may hear a handful of seller sayings that in retrospect and out of context, can seem crazy and out-of-touch, and—yes—even ridiculous.
As an agent, tactfully correcting these sentiments is par for the course. So, here are some of the most common seller sayings I’ve heard and some smart insights and trouble-shooting tips to keep them from running a successful sale afoul.
1. “But I spent X years or $XX on that!”
One of the biggest perks of home ownership is the ability to customize the home to the personal needs and wants of the owner and their family. One homeowner may find that a soundproof mediation room is a necessity, while another may think that the installed slide in the kids’ room is a wise investment. Sometimes it can be difficult for sellers to understand that while they may value (both emotionally and monetarily) a home feature, potential buyers may not always value that feature in the same way—and that means that they may not be willing to pay for it.
I was once involved in a sale where the sellers had spent decades cultivating a beautifully complex Japanese garden which the buyers, busy professionals, had no time or interest in maintaining. Not only were they not willing to pay a premium for it, they planned to rip it out and replace it with low-maintenance, low-water landscaping.
So what do you tell a seller who thinks that a particular so-called “enhancement” means that the home is worth more than the current market dictates?
Remind the seller that while some home improvements can increase the value of the home, many should be looked at as features that enhanced their quality of life while the owner lived in the home. But, when it comes time to sell, it comes time to let it go. Emphasize that the enjoyment of those special features was the return on investment. If an eventual buyer also happens to love them, fantastic! But sellers can’t approach the home selling process expecting every buyer to share your value system and pay through the nose for them.
2. “We just need to find a buyer who understands my tastes.”
There are certainly occasions, with rare properties, where there is truly a narrow niche of buyers that will have to find, understand and appreciate a property. In cases like that, with acreage, converted warehouses, horse properties, and the like, this saying is not ridiculous at all.
But this saying is ridiculous when it is uttered by the owner of a home with potentially wide appeal as a reason for not staging or preparing their home for sale, or in the effort to avoid neutralizing highly personal design and decor choices.
If you have a client who is reluctant to make these necessary adjustments, remind them that the goal is to maximize the home’s appeal to a broad segment of ready, willing and able buyers who are willing to pay top-dollar for the home. Why should a seller limit their ability to get the most offers possible?
There are two strategies to take here:
1. Take the seller around on an open house tour to show them examples of sellers who staged their home appropriately and those who kept the home as is and ask them which they feel is more prime for a top sale.
2. Work with your sellers on a Plan B ahead of time. Agree on a time period (30 days, for example). If the home is still on the market, explain that it will be time to course-correct and stage the home.
3. “I want to price it high, so I have room to come down.”
Now, in all fairness—there’s a time and a place for this. By that I mean that there are certainly local markets where it’s very much standard practice for buyers to expect to come in below asking, and sellers can price their properties a few thousand dollars higher than the target price point without killing their deals. Sometimes explaining to a seller when this strategy is appropriate can help them see why now may not be that time.
Explain that if other sellers are pricing appropriately and the seller’s home is priced too high over what the market will bear, many buyers won’t even bother trying to negotiate down. Rather, they’ll go find a home with a more realistic price, they’ll wait until the seller lowers the price or they’ll wait until the home has been lagging so long they sense the seller might be desperate, and will swoop in with a lowball offer.
Even in a relatively hot market climate, the aggressively priced homes get the most buyer traffic and, accordingly, get the most offers. In turn, these bidding wars drive the eventual sales price up. Overpricing it might actually sabotage success.
4. “That offer is an insult— I won’t even dignify it with a response.”
For sellers, a home represents a massive investment of money, time, hopes and dreams. It probably also represents personal tastes, style and some precious memories.
But once it’s on the market, sellers need to get a thick skin and decide not to take anything personally.
Let your seller’s know that if someone offers to pay many thousands of dollars for their home, it’s not an insult, even if the offer is far afield from what they are willing to sell the home for, or from what they believe it is worth. They might be deeply misguided, and not yet experienced enough in the market to know that the offer was unreasonable. Or they might just love the home and be going for it, even though it’s really outside of their personal resources.
Finally, they might actually just be trying to get the seller to come down a bit on the asking price. Some buyers see making a very low offer as part and parcel of negotiations.
In any event, home sellers should always respond to an offer made by a qualified buyer. Remind your clients that they can always respond with what would be appropriate counter. They might be surprised at how even a very low offer can come together with a respectful, reality-based counteroffer and a little negotiating.
5. “I need $X to get the home I want and take my Australia trip—let’s list the place for that.”
There are lots of respectable strategies for setting a list price, but all of them have their basis in one thing: data. Pricing can be the toughest conversation of all to have with sellers. Be firm: The market sets the home’s price. Not some desire for a big vacation. The ultimate value is based on what a qualified buyer is willing to pay for it—not what the seller “needs” to move.
Tell us! Have you heard any ridiculous sayings uttered by sellers lately?
|More seller tips for real estate agents:
6 Things Agents Need to Tell Every Seller Before They List
5 Ways to Get Found by Sellers this Summer
4 Statistics that Sellers Love and Can Win Listings