"Just give it to me straight. If you could pick the 'perfect' client," my Seller earnestly said, "what would that look like? In other words, what should I be doing to make YOUR life easier?
Wow, I'm in LOVE!
Suffice it to say, I have A LOT of conversations with both Buyers and Sellers in any given week and that's NOT usually how these conversations proceed begin. Usually, the questions focus on how I intend to make my clients' lives easier and what I can do for THEM - not the other way around.
That's reasonable; after all, they're paying me for my expertise.
Still, the best results come when my clients and I work collaboratively with one another on the sale of their home, which in fact, does require a fair amount of surrender and trust. (And yes, it's always an invasive process at best. Let me apologize up front.)
This collaboration begins with an open and honest assessment of your home and property, followed by FULL disclosure, resulting in a clear understanding of expectations, and ending with aggressive marketing and promotion that results in a bona fide offer that stays firmly in place through the close of escrow. (Have I lost you yet?)
Initially, these first meetings can be quite difficult, as I walk with you through your home - often with a professional Stager in tow - and point out the hurdles we may be facing.
"How do you feel about painting your dining room another color?"
"Can we take down some of your family photos and your artwork?"
"Would you mind if I removed the wallpaper in the baby's room?"
And the kicker . . ."What do you believe your home is worth?"
At the risk of offending, these blunt observations aren't meant to injure or hurt your feelings; they're meant to remove any Buyer objections prior to marketing. So while your design aesthetic may indeed, be very sophisticated (or more pedestrian) either way, I am probably going to steer you down several uncomfortable paths as we prepare to list and sell your home with the goal of achieving the highest and best result. (Remember, this isn't personal, it's business.)
First, a word about a "staged" home . . . Staged homes are purposely neutral by nature and designed to look like they jumped off the pages of a magazine. No one actually lives in a perfect and pristine environment in real life. The intention is to emotionally "hook" the Buyer and place them (not you) in the home. So to the question "Do we have to stage our house?" "No, you do not," but you'll likely pale by comparison to nearby homes that are "staged" and suffer for it in the end.
Once we have identified those cosmetic items that might benefit from a bit of updating and define your expectations, we begin, in earnest, the disclosure process; otherwise known as INSPECTIONS! A good inspection should not only point out the obvious, but the hidden defects of a home as well, and also quantify the cost to mitigate any such defects. In a perfect world, these reports would give your home a "clean bill of health," but absent perfection, better that you disclose potential flaws, than have your Buyer discover them once in escrow only to negotiate back the price, or worse yet, walk away from the sale altogether, and potentially tainting your home in the process. (Ouch!)
And while I'm laying out the recipe for the "perfect" Seller (Were you just asking to be polite?) he or she would complete their disclosures in record time and check off their "To Do" list in short order. They'd happily follow my suggestions, they would automatically trust and let go, they would set realistic expectations, they would defer to my experience and expertise, they would be flexible throughout the transaction, and finally, they would treat the sale as a business transaction first and foremost and NEVER take things personally.
Ideally, they would think I walk on water. Then they would loudly brag about me to their friends and refer me at every turn, sending LOTS of business my way. And like my faithful dog, Buck, they'd love me unconditionally, regardless of the outcome . . . Now, is that too much to ask?
Probably so, given that this is your home - perhaps the most personal of all one's assets and none of us is perfect. (Heck, we're not even close. )
So let's just agree to do our very best for one another. Fair? (I think so.) That much I can absolutely promise. Now, let's get to work.
How can I help you?
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.