It's a new day, a new month and a new year and from where I sit, it's going to be an incredibly active 2020. Even though I managed to take a few days off to be with family during the holidays (I hope you did as well.) Jill, Sarah, and I also met with several Sellers to sign listing agreements and set marketing calendars for the weeks and months ahead.
As an aside, Agents usually need 3-4 weeks to bring a house to market, so NOW is not too soon to reach out if you are thinking of selling this Spring, or even further down the road. In fact, savvy Sellers contacted us last Fall, providing a running start, which in turn, allowed them additional time to begin the process of purging and packing (no easy feat). In short, the sooner, the better for everyone involved.
Even so, if this wasn't you, and you ARE interested in selling your home this calendar year, we're here to help you manage the process and achieve your goal.
However, not every goal is achievable, even though we may wish it to be. Last week, Sarah and I met with a Montclair Seller who took us through his home which was currently in the midst of extensive renovations. As Agents tend to do, we walked through the house, complimented the progress, took photos, made some suggestions for additional improvements, pointed out a few missing items on the "To Do" list, addressed the all-important timeline, met his crew, and then got down to the nitty-gritty.
"What are your expectations in terms of price?" I asked the Seller, cutting to the chase.
"I've put $200,000 into the house," he said as he mentally calculated the costs, I couldn't sell it for less than $1,900,000."
(Is that so?)
With comps in hand, I politely pointed out that nothing in his neighborhood had sold for anywhere close to $1.9. (In point of fact, nothing had sold above $1.7.) Moreover, as Mr. Seller had bought the house for $670,000 just a few years ago, his $200,000 investment, while significant, didn't equate to a one-million dollar bump in valuation. Even in the world of Real Estate where market value is HIGHLY objective, results tend to be planted in the real world, not in fantasy. My job is to separate the two; a position that doesn't always make me the most popular girl in the room. In this case, the delta was too large as our estimate for the sale was closer to $1.6.
"With all due respect," I said, "that seems highly aspirational," (which is Realtor speak for: "Whatcha talkin' 'bout Willis?")
Here's the thing: Agents - and their Buyers - are pretty good at math and 2+2 should equal 4. To be clear, the price a Seller paid for a property isn't necessarily relevant, especially if that Seller bought the house 40 years ago and has enjoyed tremendous appreciation throughout the decades.That being said, the starting price can, and often does, factor in. Educationally, it may tell us where the Seller sits emotionally and financially. And while that's important (certainly, it is to the Seller), it's the informed Buyers who will ultimately decide the market value of the house - not the Seller.
With respect to this hill home, its presentation - although much improved - still needed additional updating and fine tuning, and its location far up the hill, made it extremely challenging to draw crowds.
Which isn't to say that this less-than-perfect property won't sell, or that it will fail to find an audience, OR that it ultimately won't do better than we anticipated, but that the listing price going in should reflect any perceived shortcomings, or alternatively, that these shortcomings should be corrected prior to entering the market (take your pick). In other words, when Sellers set the price too high, they end up chasing the market down instead of up, and take it from me, that's never a good position to be in.
"With all due respect," I said, "we don't want to waste anyone's time by promising an end result that most likely isn't attainable. So if you are married to the idea of this home selling for nearly $2 million, we're likely NOT a good fit for one another."
Sarah nodded in agreement, having also run the numbers prior to our meeting. (We come prepared.)
"Well," he said, "I'm sure you know your business . . . (which is Seller speak for "I don't believe you."), but I think it's worth more and I won't sell it for less." (Here's where I point out that Buyers don't care what you think, what you want, what you need, how much you will take, or what you believe you deserve; the numbers must be supportable.)
"In that case, we wish you well and hope you get your price," Sarah kindly added, and then we shook hands and departed, much relieved and with ZERO regrets. (We've both been down this road before with frustrating results.)
Earlier this year, I had the identical conversation with a different set of Sellers here in Piedmont only to lose the listing to a competitor and then watched the price get reduced by the listing Agent twice over the course of six weeks before it sold AT THE PRICE I HAD ORIGINALLY SUGGESTED! (Duh.) Imagine how unhappy those Sellers were with their Agent when she failed to meet their unrealistic expectations? (Probably very.)
Did it irritate me to lose the listing to someone who was willing to list higher? (For sure, I'm only human.) But I'm also honest and if the loss of a listing is the price of honesty, so be it. In a world teeming with Agents, Sellers will always find a less forthcoming representative who's willing to list high and sell low. (Those Agents will wait for the MARKET to educate you!) It just won't be me. It won't be us, and to be perfectly frank, I believe there is no more dedicated team to help you sell your home here in the East Bay. Sad to say it, but CREDIBILITY can be a tough and lonely road to walk.
In the end, no matter the property, our experience is what you are paying us for, so let's make sure we are on the same page before we begin the journey. Our goal is to meet your expectations and deliver you a positive result, not dupe you into believing we can deliver the moon, only to fall well short. (There's nothing but disappointment down that road, although it may be the path of least resistance.)
Moreover, such a strategy wouldn't be fair to any of us, and as selling a home involves a tremendous amount of intimacy, faith and trust, not to mention considerable time and investment, the least we can do as professionals, is to start the transaction with the truth. (You should expect nothing less.)
So here's to 2020 - the year of perfect vision and clarity. Let's make it great.
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.