"I'll leave it to you . . . ", the text message said, ""to decide how to make our home look better."
While that's certainly not the first time a Seller has turned over their project to us, it's unfortunately all too rare; such trust is usually limited to those Sellers who live out of town OR out of state, and even then, there can be some serious Monday-morning quarterbacking. As a whole, most Sellers tend to be wary of turning over there beloved home - even to Realtors - whom, let's face it, up until the listing presentation, were often veritable stranges. Afterall, they rationalize, who knows the home better than we do?
No one, which is why Sellers should absolutely hire a professional, neutral, third party to sell what is often, their single-largest asset! With all due respect, (and a liberal amount of tough love) Sellers tend to be the least objective people in the room.
What Sarah and I have learned in our nearly three decades of combined real estate experience is that the process of selling one's home is akin to a Rorschach test.; everyone (and I mean EVERYONE) is going to approach the process differently. Depending on their lens, their perceptions, their emotional balance, their baggage, their egos, and their expectations, each Seller is going to walk away with very different experiences, even when their results have been nearly identical.
Although we wish we knew exactly how Sellers would respond before they received their offers, as human beings that bring their own personal histories to the transaction, that's unavoidable. When there's a tremendous amount of money on the line, when stress has taken up residence, when fear comes up to bat, when greed sneaks in, and when rumors of other outlandish sales seem to be the norm instead of the exception, that's a recipe for all kinds of irrational behavior, unrealistic expectations, and misalignments. (Let us politely but firmly guide you back to earth.)
Furthermore, pricing is largely smoke and mirrors. If Sarah and I list the property closer to the anticipated sales price, the spread is going to be far more negligible than if we price well below what we may reasonably expect ("reasonable" being the operative word here.) Both are viable strategies, but they create very different optics . . . In either case, the market is going to decide the value, irrespective of a Sellers' wants, needs, desires or demands. . . (I know I keep repeating myself but it's important that we understand the dynamics at play.)
BUT given that it's been a year of incredibly outrageous results with equally incredible demands, on the advice of a close friend and a FANTASTIC business coach (Thank you, Allison Elvekrog of Mountain West Partners), Sarah and I took the time this week to craft an FAQ that walks Sellers through the inkblots.
Here are just a few of the smudges to explore . . . (I'll print the others in the next few columns).
How long will it take to sell my property?
That depends on the condition of your home, your learning curve as a Seller, your willingness to negotiate in good faith, the market demand, the available Buyers in the market come time to sell, your timing and presentation, the prevailing interest rates, the pricing strategy, and your home’s positioning relative to other “like-kind” homes. In short, there are a lot of moving parts and many variables to the successful sale of any property. If we have appropriately priced and prepared your home, properties typically trade in less than two weeks.
Can I skip the costs of preparation and staging?
Yes, you can but there will be a significant trade-off for doing so. Home purchases, by and large, are emotional purchases, not pragmatic ones; therefore, the more engaging the home and gardens, the better the result. Dollar for dollar, staging brings the best return on your investment and statistically sells a house for 17% more than its unstaged counterpart and 11 days faster. In short, the difference to your net return can be hundreds of thousands of dollars, not just a few bucks. Given the dramatic results, why would you shortchange yourself?
How long will it take to get my home ready for the marketplace?
A typical home requires 3-4 weeks of preparation, assuming that everyone’s calendars align. This is obviously much easier to accomplish if we have a running start, as opposed to signing a listing agreement once you have already moved out. It’s important to understand that the preparation period requires each segment of the link to take place in a specific order. If one task gets delayed, it can cost us weeks, not days, to reschedule the Stager. Consequently, once our calendar is set, we do our best to adhere to it and ask you to do the same.
What should Sellers expect?
Sellers should expect this journey to be more difficult than they imagine. Under the best of circumstances, a move is challenging and complicated, both logistically and emotionally, but psychologically, the physical relocation may actually be the easiest part. Once the movers have come and gone, we descend with a Swat Team of professionals to essentially update and transform your house into a marketable product that’s often unrecognizable, or dramatically different from how you and your family lived in the home. While this quick turnaround can feel disconcerting, or worse yet, highly offensive, the changes we suggest are not personal; the intention is to bring you the greatest level of interest, which in turn, should bring you the highest and best result.
Moreover, once your property is ready to be unveiled and marketed, you may feel extremely vulnerable knowing the market is now judging your home. This too can create real anxiety, irrespective of the reasons for selling, or how prepared you believe yourself to be. Selling is a highly emotional journey, and it is fraught with unexpected findings and discoveries.
Therefore . . .
And we're just getting started. (You can find the full FAQ document here)
How can we help you?
Julie Gardner, has been writing The Perspective for 17 years and has published more than 650 essays. She is also a frequent contributor to the Sound Off column in the Real Estate section of The San Francisco Chronicle.