I spent last weekend bouncing back and forth between two new listings - each unique in their own way - and each entirely terrific.
Apart from these fantastic homes, I was struck by the similarities of the Buyers that came through. For the record, I held a Saturday morning open (to coincide with the Farmers' Market nearby), and a Sunday afternoon, 2-4:30 (as is standard). In short, I spent most of my weekend successfully manning open houses.
AND having spent nearly 15 years in such fashion; greeting people, their children, and their dogs (yes, people actually now bring their dogs to the Opens) I can categorically state that the public tends to break down into three distinct categories . . . neighbors who are generally interested, neighbors who are generally nosy, and potential buyers.
Not that I don't appreciated the first two groups of lookers and hobbyists (I do, and they each serve a purpose), but it's the last subset (the potential Buyers) that are truly instrumental to the process. Still, neighbors, whether generally interested or merely curious, fill the house with energy and desire, and that's typically a very good thing, except when they feel compelled to "share" about the property-line dispute, their opinions on the remodel ("It took forever."), or are incredulous over the listing price!
"This seems way too low," is just as disconcerting as "this seems way too high, don't you think?" (No, I don't), and while I appreciate your opinion (thanks for sharing), the listing price, more often than not, reflects the opening bid - not the targeted selling price we hope to achieve. Let me assure you that Realtors give a tremendous amount of time and thought to strategically setting the price where we believe it will create the highest and best outcome for the Sellers. No, we don't always get it right, but that IS the intended goal and in a marketplace that has too little inventory to meet the high demand, it's usually the appropriate course of action. (The pricing strategy will shift accordingly, when the market does.)
But I get it, you are comparing your neighbor's home value to your own and while this may prove to be a good and reasonable comp, it may also, in reality, bear very little relevance; your house may be entirely different (and usually is). Furthermore, this home's true value hasn't yet played out in the marketplace. (There's still another chapter to be written.)
Moreover, it's important to remember that we usually bring our listings to market looking their very best. (No one on the planet lives in a home free of mail, dog hair, and sports gear - or is that just my house?) In other words, it's not unusual for Sellers to spend $25,000-$50,000 getting their homes ready for market, which is why they look their very best. They should. We've spent weeks and months prepping them for their BIG debut!
Can you honestly say the same for yours? OR, as is more typical, have you put off home repairs and repainting? I'm reminded of the time a neighbor complained loudly about the ugly fence we'd taken down, only to point out her house across the street which was overgrown by trees and in need of just about everything (people who live in glass houses . . .).
And while I tend to believe that Sunday Opens are, more often than not, a casting call for Realtors, we do get a few real Buyers who arrive with their in-laws and kids in tow. You know they're real because they spend a good deal of time at the property, engage in polite discourse, ask pertinent questions, are on their best behavior, and are full of compliments about the presentation. (That's all good stuff.)
Often, they'll ask "Where do you think this house will sell?" At which point, I do my best to drop some breadcrumbs and explain the many virtues of the property, the neighborhood, and the community. (The truth is, I don't know how high it will trade.)
In the end, the Buyers will tell us the real value of the home, not the Agents, not the Sellers - and certainly not the neighbors. That's when we will ALL know the right price. (Hint: it's what the market will bear.)
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Julie Gardner, has been writing The Perspective for 12 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.