Last week, while trying to negotiate a full-price offer, I was struggling with a listing Agent who kept insisting that my Buyers bring back a higher purchase offer before she would be willing to present it.
"We don't want to offend the Seller," she warned.
Frustrated by this tactic, I calmly explained, "This is a full-price offer in a 'challenging marketplace' by very qualified and motivated Buyers - they are not bidding against themselves. Take the offer to the Seller and let them counter if they are so inclined. That's the appropriate process."
As professionals, it is not our job to get "offended" by an offer or a counter offer. It is our job to present any and all offers without opinion.
Do we often have insight as to how the Seller might respond to an offer? Yes, we do.
Are Sellers often offended when the purchase offer doesn't match their expectations? Yes, they are.
Are Buyers often insulted when their well-intentioned offer is abruptly rejected? Yes, they are.
Do real estate transactions often become too emotional? Absolutely.
Do personal feelings belong in the negotiation process? No, they do not.
While emotions can run very high between Seller and the Buyer, emotions should never overshadow the Agent's negotiation process. To the contrary, our job is to "depersonalize" the sale of a home; to remind the Sellers (and the Buyers) that any disagreement is merely a disagreement about the value of a property between two competing parties. The Seller wants as much money as possible for the home and the Buyer wants to pay less.
That's all. No offense or insult is meant.
The good news is that the goal for both parties is identical - to transfer ownership of the property. To the extent that each party can find the middle ground, this mutual goal can often be accomplished.
Objectively defining that middle ground is where good Agents often earn their keep. Employing an experienced REALTOR to handle third-party negotiations to separate fact from fiction is a smart decision when the stakes (and the emotions) run as high as they often do in real estate.
While it feels VERY personal to you, it shouldn't feel personal to us. As seasoned professionals, we recognize that it is the rare transaction that takes place without some back and forth and the less emotional we make this process, the better the results.
As empathetic professionals, are we aware that your feelings are important? Yes, we are.
Are we often entering into emotionally delicate, highly charged situations? Yes we are.
Are we attuned to your hopes, yours needs, your desires and your concerns? Yes, we are.
Are we working for the best possible outcome in spite of them and because of them? Absolutely.
Should OUR personal feelings come into play? No, they should not!
That isn't to say that as people, we don't understand your frustration from time to time. The Seller did counter back my Buyers' full-price offer - he asked for $80,000 above asking! (Now maybe that's just a wee bit offensive . . .)
As the mother of two very active baseball players, I have spent the last decade watching my boys play this quintessential American sport on numerous spring, summer and fall ball teams. Having now clocked too many games to count, one would think that I would have become an expert at "America's favorite pastime" - WRONG!
My exasperated husband still marvels at my lack of knowledge with respect to the subtleties and finer points of the game. Sitting in the bleachers, he'll overhear me questioning the coach's call for a bunt or worse yet, a "pick off" - a play that from my untrained perspective, invariably results in an overthrow - advancing the runners an additional base. Ugh!
"The pitcher and catcher have to attempt the pick off," my husband, Cliff, not-so-patiently reminds me, "or the runners will assume they can steal every base and will easily do so!"
Oh, now I get it! (light bulb moment.) In spite of my remedial progress with respect to baseball, I have come to learn that on a well-coached team, every player is moving on every play to collectively manufacture runs, secure outs and produce a successful outcome for the team! Cliff has been teaching me to place as much importance on what's going on AWAY from the ball, in order to better appreciate how the game is actually won!
Don't get me wrong, the ball is clearly important, but the game is much more complex than what meets the eye!
In real estate, finding a home is akin to focusing on the ball - Experienced REALTORS (like experienced managers) know that what happens between the plays and in the dugout, often influences the outcome more. Yes, I'll admit it's a home run when I direct you to the house of your dreams, but my real value comes into play by knowing the strengths and weaknesses of the other players, staying on top of the market, understanding the inspection reports and how they affect the value of the home, successfully negotiating the transaction, and following through to the last inning.
Here's my point: if you are only watching the ball; you are missing the majority of the game!
Understanding that your REALTOR is often working diligently between innings, may help you comprehend his or her role a little better - as well as your own. Given the mass availability of information on the Internet, it stands to reason that Buyers often seek out and find their own homes, but that doesn't discount the importance of their REALTOR'S involvement.
Once a property has been determined, securing and obtaining the home and protecting you from potential liability, is where the REAL work begins!
OH! (light bulb moment? ) Now, let play ball!
Piedmont currently has 24 active listings. While the beginning of the year saw a build-up in inventory as Buyers waited out the market, Piedmont activity has now settled into a more consistent rhythm of listing-to-pending sales. Buyers continue to be attracted to our wonderful community and that's great news!
Still, strategic pricing has never been more important. Price your home sharply and the market WILL carry it where it should go. Price your home too high and you are likely to be penalized as you chase the market downward.
If it is underselling you are worried about - avoid overpricing! This is where the real danger of selling a home "under value" truly lies.
While we are speaking of well-priced properties, Anian Tunney brings to market a terrific opportunity at 310 Highland Avenue. This 3bdrm/2bth home in the center of town is ready for your vision and is close to schools, the park and Mulberry Market. If "fixers" are high on your wish list, this house is definitely worth your consideration. Continuing on the theme of "fixers," the new listing on Howard Avenue offers 3+bdrms/1+bth, sunny breakfast room, lower level plus rooms and original architectural details. At $775,000, this home is currently the least expensive listing in Piedmont.
(Although the home on Howard Avenue represents the least expensive property in Piedmont, the best "value" is Carol Brown's listing at 21 Park Way. Do the math. Across from Dracena Park and centrally located, this home may offer the best upside potential of them all. )
Julie Gardner, has been writing The Perspective for 15 years and has published more than 500 essays. She is also a frequent contributor to the Sound Off column in the Real Estate section of The San Francisco Chronicle.