"I see you've been on the market for 106 days," I wrote to the listing Agent. "What's going on with this home and is the Seller willing to take less? I may have interested Buyers, but the house is WAY overpriced."
"No," she said, "the Seller has countered EVERY offer presented and we've lost every single Buyer as a result. The listing expires this week, and I can't wait."
There's a Halloween tale no one needs.
As an Agent, an unsuccessful listing represents not only hundreds, if not thousands, of marketing dollars, it's also equates to countless hours and wasted time that could have been better spent on Sellers that are actually intent on selling, and that's a spooky tale . . . .
Which isn't to say that it's easy to spot the Freddy Krueger's before you sign on; it's not, but if Sellers start out with a listing price that's WELL out of sync with respect to what the market will reasonably bear, that's the time to ask yourself - trick or treat?
OR if the Seller says, "Lets just run it up the flagpole and see what happens."
OR if the Sellers are unwilling to listen to your advice.
OR if the Sellers are intent on micro-managing the process.
OR if the Sellers aren't on the same page of the playbook as to value, timing, or how much to invest in order to get the home ready for the marketplace.
OR if the Sellers make no move towards packing, relocating, or moving out.
OR if the process starts to feel like The Nightmare on Elm Street . . .
it's probably time to RUN!
With all due respect, Sellers (like willful teenagers) aren't particularly easy as a subset of incredibly stressed-out individuals. (They're STRESSED OUT!) After all, this is their home, they know it inside and out, they've built their memories within its four walls, they are usually heavily invested, and often, they're simply NOT ready to move on, and that's when things can get touchy. (Think SCREAM.) Nevertheless, you've hired me to sell your house, so at the risk of being the Wicked Witch, please let me do my job. (This isn't personal, it's business.)
Suffice it to say, that "listings" are the Candy Corn of a Realtor's practice and are usually the transactions on which we can count on being compensated, (Buyers are like more jawbreakers; they're slooow.) but if the Sellers won't negotiate in good faith, AND if they aren't interested in the experience you bring to the process, and if they question your every decision, such listings are like finding rocks in your trick-or-treat bag. Sadly, like every other Realtor, I've learned this the hard way, and unfortunately, more times than I should probably admit (yet, here I am).
Why do Agents insist on staying the course?
Maybe it's because we're co-dependents; maybe it's because we have our own masks on, but I suppose it's because as independent operators, it's hard to turn down what we perceive as a 'sure thing,' especially if there have been lean months. It's also because most Agents are natural-born problem solvers (we wouldn't be in this business if we weren't), so resistant Sellers present as just one more challenge to overcome. Additionally, it's because we believe that the Sellers will get more reasonable when the market speaks.
As my good friend (and business guru), Anna Scott, reminded me last week, "There's a difference between what we WANT to believe and what's actually true. Once we remove our desires and our egos from the equation, we are left with the stark reality of what's REALLY going on. Our task is to see the distinctions clearly."
In other words, turn on the lights!
Conversely, there are properties Sarah and I aren't necessarily sure we want to represent, and then we meet the Sellers, only to discover that they are entirely open and willing, have already begun to move into action, and are ready to follow our suggestions to the letter. In those cases, no matter how haunted the house, our initial objections go out the window as we are clear about the Sellers intentions, we know they have faith and trust in our abilities, and we know they're REAL SELLERS! (They're like discovering full-size candy bars in you bag of treats.)
Whatever the journey, Selling a home involves a good deal of intimacy, quick decisions, and MORE than a small measure of discomfort, consequently not every Agent is right for every Seller. We all bring different styles and different personalities to the equation, which is why interviewing three Agents for the job at hand is usually a good idea. And on the flip side, Agents should also be willing to say "no" when the early warning signs are clear. Norman Bates ISN'T going to evolve into your dream client over night, and no one wants to work this hard to achieve a less-than-satisfactory result, least of all, your Realtor! (The world is already scary enough.)
But if you are serious about selling, we're dead serious about joining you on your journey in a way that's honest, diligent, and relatively painless, keeping in mind that 'relatively painless" is a subjective concept to be sure. Remember this: discomfort is a given, pain is an option. So, let's save the drama for Halloween night, price appropriately, work together, and get your house on the market and sold ASAP!
We're ready when you are. Trick or Treat!
(BTW, anyone wanting to just "test" the market need not apply. That's a horror film we've already seen.)
How can we help you?
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.