This week, a hand-written note in a pretty purple-striped envelope arrived in my mailbox from the "desk of Raul and Rosy," looking very much like a thank you note, or better yet, a party invitation.
Upon opening, the "friendly" inquiry went on to ask if Cliff and I would be interested in selling our income property on Echo (we're not), but as another darling house on the block had just come up for sale, I picked up my phone with the intention of passing it along to this sincere couple. (You never know where your next lead is coming from.)
Surprise, surprise, neither Raul nor Rosy answered the phone. Instead, I had reached a young associate who worked for a real estate investment company in San Jose, "but would I be interested . . ." (Click.)
While I confess that I have indeed written to homeowners (at the request of my clients), on more than one occasion, there's something about the way thisnote was packaged and the misrepresentation that bothers me immensely. When I grew up, we use to call it a "straw man." Now, I suppose, it's called "creative marketing." Hey Raul and Rosy, do you even exist?
With all due respect to the grind (and yes, you absolutely need to be creative and tenacious to be successful in sales), when I approach an owner about the possibility of selling his or her home, it's on GRUBB Co. stationary and the objective is clear. I'm not sending out mass mailings claiming to have a Buyer for a property (when I don't), NOR am I claiming to be something I am not.
Call me crazy, but I think transparency matters.
Little did the sender know that the letter would be opened by a Realtor, instead of someone less informed, so when I read "since I would be purchasing the house directly from you, there are no real estate commissions to pay . . ." I took notice. (Shucks, there goes my income.)
That's all well and good on the surface, and I'm sure it sounds extremely promising to those on fixed incomes with LOTS of equity in their homes, OR to those who feel overwhelmed by the thought of clearing out their basements, OR to those experiencing fear and uncertainty about what comes next, OR to those who don't exactly understand the role a Realtor plays . . . which is exactly why preying on ignorance often succeeds. We don't know what we don't know. So let's break down your concerns and explain why working with a seasoned professional makes good sense (and cents)!
Let's start with the many disclosures required by law, and the inspections -that while not legally necessary - certainly help protect the Sellers from unwelcome lawsuits after the close of escrow. Unless you are selling and buying homes on a regular basis, you may not know that these disclosures even exist, let alone that they are updated annually, OR that certain documentation MUST accompany every sale, irrespective of whether they are "on-market" sales, or "off."
"I can close quickly with none of the hassles of putting your home on the market," the letter continued . . .
Sounds great, right? Who wants to be hasseled? (No one!) Except it's the "putting your house on market" that results in the highest and best outcome in almost nearly every case. Unfortunately (or fortunately), It's the"hassle" that ultimately, pays BIG dividends.Your displacement and discomfort will be temporary. (I promise.)
Marketed and priced correctly, Bay Area listings are selling with multiple offers in less than two weeks, and often well, WELL above the asking price! In short, painting, staging and fully marketing your home will typically net far better results than selling off-market to a real estate investment company - and that's true in any market. While there are viable reasons to sell off market (and I have successfully transacted off-market sales many times), let's make sure it's your choice and your gain, and not some opportunistic flipper's.
Remember, professional flippers who are trolling for off-market opportunities aren't looking to make YOU rich; they are methodically hunting for the deal that profitably maths out for them. Thus, you should expect far lessfrom these investment companies than you would from Buyers that will openly compete for your home, come the offer date. And make no mistake, "investment companies" are far different than your well-intentioned neighbor who approaches you with the same goal in mind. In my experience, these Buyers often pay a premium to entice a Seller to potentially leave money on the table. Your neighbor isn't looking for "the deal." They're looking (and paying) for the opportunity!
Call me crazy, but I think intentions are important.
Finally, having a neutral, third-party negotiator working on your behalf, can mean the difference in tens, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars in the sales price. Flippers look to s-l-i-d-e in before the competition - as if they're doing you a favor - while good Agents will leverage as much interest in your property as we can in order to push the sales price ever higher. Moreover, it's our job to offload your stress and fear, not to capitalize on it. Our fiduciary responsibility is to you - not to our investors; and therein lies the biggest difference.
Do we really earn our commissions? Yes, we do.
From understanding the marketplace, to managing the preparation and marketing of a home, to closing escrow, our workload has only increased tenfold over time - as has our risk. Gone are the days when Realtors stuck a sign in the lawn and showed up for the Sunday Open with a few flyers in hand, while Buyers bought under the heading of "Buyer Beware."
Today, we are often orchestrating and conducting an entire REBOOT of your home that often falls just short of a major renovation. We're managing vendors, creating internet campaigns, scheduling showings, holding opens, vetting Buyers and their Agents, and continually responding to email and text messages, while simultaneously juggling your expectations and fear - and all of that happens before we get paid a dime! Nor are we guaranteed a commission unless we successfully sell your home. It's not an easy feat, and not everybody is cut out for the role.
Call me crazy, but I think actions make a difference.
Hey, it's your home and you are free to make whatever decision you choose, including affirmitatively responding to this seemingly, honest inquiry. I'm just suggesting that maybe you think twice about how honest Raul and Rosy's "all cash, as is" offer actually is before you take them up on it. (Not so honest after all.)
Call me cra. . . on second thought, don't call me anything, just call me.
How can I help you?
Check out my Instagram at: piedmontrealtorgirl
Julie Gardner, has been writing The Perspective for 15 years and has published more than 600 essays. She is also a frequent contributor to the Sound Off column in the Real Estate section of The San Francisco Chronicle.