Archive for the ‘Working with Sellers’ Category

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posted by on Prospecting & SOI, Working with Buyers, Working with Sellers

Just this week I was asked three times essentially the same question: “What do I do with a backburner prospect (BBP) to stay in touch and not lose his/her potential business?
For example:

  • “I met with a homeowner who wants to sell his home ‘sometime;’ maybe by the end of the year.”
  • “I hold frequent open houses and meet many visitors who have ‘just started looking;'” and
  • “A friend asked me to ‘keep an eye out’ for a particular kind of home in a particular neighborhood.”

Since they asked, here are my thoughts on the matter!

First and most important…DO NOT put the BBP on any sort of drip campaign or systematized follow-up!!!! Puh-leeeaze! That’s what every other real estate agent is doing (and yes, they are likely talking to several) and trust me, being added to a drip campaign doesn’t endear you to anyone.

What to do instead? Howzabout this? Follow-up personally each and every time you do follow-up (to be discussed shortly). Put a reminder in your planner at appropriate intervals to check in with your BBP, no pressure or pitches, to remind them that you’re ready, willing and able to help when THEY are ready (see below).

Second, add the BBP to your regular Sphere of Influence communications if you do any – i.e. your mass email distribution list or snail-mail/doo-dad list.

Third, when you do follow-up with your BBP come armed with something of value (besides just “Are ya ready to buy/sell yet? Huh? Huh? Huh?”). This should be easy enough – if it’s a homeowner wanting to sell at some point, let her know when a neighboring property comes on the market, goes under contract or closes. And if previewing is allowed in your market, make a point to preview new listings in the area as they come up.

If it’s a BBP buyer, just keep an eye on the market he’s interested in. Put yourself on an auto-search for them and make an effort to preview new listings that come up so you can speak intelligently about them when you follow-up. Again, don’t just put THEM on an auto-search and hope they contact you if they see anything interesting… be more proactive than that!

And finally, when you do check in, never pressure your BBP that they need to BUY NOW or SELL NOW. In fact, just the opposite. Be casual, low-pressure, patient… “Just checking in – when you’re ready, I’m ready!”

Now, what if your BBP doesn’t respond to your check-ins? Don’t fret! They may have changed their minds about buying or selling and it’s nothing personal. Or they might have other things going on right now and you are a low priority for them (again, it’s not personal). But if you’ve checked in several times with no response, just make a final call/email saying “I don’t want to bug you, so I’ll leave the ball in your court. Just track me down when you need me and I’ll be ready!” I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised how often they will call you to apologize for not being responsive!

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Earlier this week we did a show in the SWS Virtual Studio called “Listed to Sold: Beyond the Old 3P’s” where we discussed various strategies to getting listings SOLD so that our sellers can move on with their lives and we can enjoy a well-DESERVED paycheck. I say well-DESERVED because the premise of the show was that you can (and should) go way above and beyond the “Old 3P’s” (Put a Sign in the Yard, Put it on the MLS, Pray) if your goal is to be the Best Listing Agent You Know (and I truly hope that IS your goal!).

At the end of the show, I surveyed the audience to see what tip or tips they found the most valuable toward reaching that lofty goal, and here’s what they told me:

Favorit-est Tip #1 (by far): Make your seller a partner in the pricing process. Show up with a detailed CMA along with clear summary pages, but don’t include your suggested price. Go over the data with your seller and then ask them to sit on it overnight with a promise to call them in the morning to discuss.

Favorit-est Tip #2: Price is not always the best solution to a non-selling listing. Sure, recommending a price reduction is an EASY solution, but is it the best? Unless you’re just grossly overpriced (and that shouldn’t be the case, right?), there is probably something else that is keeping your listing from selling. And you can almost always fix the problem much less expensively than you can price for it.

Favorit-est Tip #3: Explain the two types of seller’s regret

Favorit-est Tip #4: Don’t overpromise and under-deliver in your marketing. If your listing has a substandard feature – e.g. a rickety garage – consider being upfront about the issue in your marketing so buyers aren’t disappointed. In the example of a crummy garage, consider removing all mention of the garage in the MLS and let buyers be pleasantly surprised by the large storage building in the back yard!

Favorit-est Tip #5: Approach difficult conversations with your seller with a positive attitude“as if” you know they are going to be willing to consider your advice and suggestions.


posted by on Working with Sellers

Last Thursday we did a little show in the SWS Virtual Studio called “How to Wow Your Seller” where Susan Haughton and I discussed various things a listing agent can do to ensure that her seller clients are talking about her behind her back, letting everyone they know how thrilled they are with the service they’re receiving. At the end of the show, we asked the audience to share their Favorit-est Tips and below are the results of that survey.

But first, know that your sellers aren’t going to be “wow’ed” by a big flashy display or expensive closing gift. No, wowing your seller (or your buyer for that matter) is far more a function of the Total Client Experience – how satisfied they are in the day-to-day with your communication, your attention and your expertise. If your client is less-than-wow’ed with you during your transaction together, no Flashy Wow or Fancy Closing Gift will change that.

My point is that the Favorit-est Tips you will read about might seem kind of mundane, even ordinary, but I promise you, if you do these things for your seller, you’ll blow away most of your competition because they AREN’T doing them!!

So… without further adieu… How to Wow Your Seller: The Favorit-est Tips

Favorit-est Tip #1 (by far): Contact the seller every day for the first ten days of the listing. While putting a sign in a yard may be just another day at the office to you, it’s a Big Deal to your sellers and they want to feel that you care as much as they do about your new listing. The best way to let them know this is to be in frequent communication about all the things you’re doing and what’s happening so they know they’re Always On Your Mind. This is really easy to do since there ARE a lot of things going on in those first ten days!

Favorit-est Tip #2: Ask your seller for feedback on how you’re doing. That this tip was so popular surprised me. But yeah, a few weeks into the listing (after you’ve been showering them with attention the first ten days!), just ask your sellers if they’re satisfied with your service. I think I’d fall over in a faint if a real estate agent ever asked me that!

Favorit-est Tip #3: Give the seller a Market Snapshot when their home goes on the market. A “Market Snapshot” is a list of the current competition for your listing – aka the other homes on the market competing with yours. Every few weeks, update this report with a “State of the Market” report, detailing recent activity such as new listings, price reductions, homes under contract and withdrawn, etc.

Favorit-est Tip #4: Preview any new competition as it comes on the market and share your findings with the seller. Keep an eye on the market activity surrounding your listing and preview any new listing that comes up. This gives you a great excuse to contact your seller with feedback and keeps you up-to-date on the market activity in the area. Win/win!

Favorit-est Tip #4a: Offer to take your seller out to preview the competition for their home. 

Favorit-est Tip #5: Provide the seller with a Calendar of Events detailing what will be happening during the listing period, as well as during the Contract-to-Closing period.

Other Tips: Provide prompt feedback after an Open House, send the seller links to your online advertising, prepare a thorough CMA and be able to intelligently discuss the data within it, prepare a new CMA every six weeks, use “we,” “our,” and “let’s” when discussing strategy.

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In keeping with our tradition of posting the Favorit-est Tips after our How-To shows in the SWS Virtual Studio, below are the Favorit-est Tips from yesterday’s show: The Proper Care & Feeding of Sellers from Contract to Closing.

The show was about a listing agent’s duties and responsibilities during the critical Contract-to-Closing period to keep everything on track and heading toward the closing table. We used my Listing-Under-Contract checklist (which you can find in my VIP Lounge) to refer to, although interestingly, a few of the most favorite tips weren’t even ON my checklist! (Thank you SWS Coach Deb Stephenson for adding your brilliance!)

So, without further adoooooooo…. Here are the Favorit-est Tips as voted on by the live studio audience, in reverse order of Favorite-ness!

Fifth Most Favorit-est Tip
Prepare the seller for the inspection by 1) asking them to vacate the home during the inspection so the buyers can begin emotionally moving into the home and 2) setting the expectation that the inspection may go badly so that if it does, they aren’t shocked, and if it doesn’t, they are pleasantly surprised.

Fourth Most Favorit-est Tip
Put up your SALE PENDING sign fairly quickly after contract. This is great marketing for YOU and for the local real estate market. SOLD signs always breed more SOLD signs and that’s a very good thing.

Third Most Favorit-est Tip
Do a walk-thru with your seller before the buyer does his or her walk-thru. This gives you the opportunity to make sure the buyer won’t find anything amiss and create a ruckus right before closing. Wish I could take credit for this one, but it was Coach Deb’s.

Second Most Favorit-est Tip (seriously)
When you pick up your sign and lockbox, take some toilet paper rolls with you to make sure there’s TP in the bathrooms. Many sellers inexplicably take their half-used TP rolls with them and it’s a drag for the buyer when they arrive with their moving truck… and there’s no TP to be found. The buyer may never know it was you, but it’s just good karma ;-] – Thanks, Deb, for this visual.


The MOST Favorit-est Tip…!
Prepare for and attend the appraisal. Have good comps with you that support the price, as well as any that don’t and be able to explain the lower ones. Also bring an itemized list of any repairs, improvements or features the home offers, with approximate costs. Don’t annoy the appraiser with random chatter or get in his way, but do be there, be charming, and offer to help measure.

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I just got off the phone with one of my consulting clients. Poor guy. I nearly took his head off with my impassioned rant about the priorities of the real estate industry. He handled it well, I must say, although I could tell his patience with his trusted mentor (that would be me) was wearing thin. But I just couldn’t help myself…

Nothing like a good rant to re-energize your day!

We were talking about the pursuit of expired For Sale Signlistings. My client has all sorts of ideas on how to approach expireds (I really hate that label, but shall use it here in the interest of clarity) with promises of doing a better job than the last guy, and getting the house SOLD.

I innocently asked how he planned to do that. “Do what?” he asked. “Do a better job and get the house SOLD,” I answered.

He seemed a little stumped by the question. Perhaps even confused as to why I asked it. So, I attempted to clarify.

What, specifically, are you going to do differently from the last guy to assure a different outcome? If you’re going to tell a seller you can do better, what ARE you going to do better? I mean, you don’t want to go in just saying ‘My sign is prettier than HIS sign,’ do you?”

My client thought a moment and came back with “Well, I don’t want to criticize the other agent and say that I’m a better listing agent than he was – that would be rude.”

And I agreed. It might be rude, even unprofessional.

BUT… I disagree with all my heart that he shouldn’t be able to say, with all sincerity, that “I am the best listing agent I know.” That’s not arrogance and it should be the truth. Anyone who pursues the business of homeowners who want to sell their properties should feel, no, KNOW in their hearts and souls that they are the best thing that could ever happen to that homeowner. If they don’t feel that way, they should not pursue his business.

So, if you’re pursuing expired listings – or any listings, really – what IS your differentiating factor? What makes you “better” than the agent who didn’t sell the house, or anyone else the seller might be talking to?

That’s not a trick question! It’s a question every agent should ask him or herself before venturing out the door to pursue business.

So… HOW are you special? WHY should a seller hire you over the other guy or gal?

posted by on Working with Sellers

Related to a recent blog entitled “READ THIS Before Your Next Price Reduction Recommendation, today’s post is about HOW to recommend a price reduction if it comes to that without blowing your credibility, or, frankly, ticking off your seller.

In a perfect world (and why not strive for that?), a price reduction is rarely necessary. In this perfect world, real estate agents price, prepare, and present their properties properly (I love alliteration) and therefore homes sell in a reasonable amount of time without the need for a price adjustment. Agents don’t capitulate to the demands of sellers to overprice a home, nor do they “buy” listings with inflated estimates of market value, planning to push for a price reduction six weeks later.

Okay, so it’s not a perfect world and L’il Miss Smarty-Pantz JAH didn’t always score a 10 on the beam either when it came to pricing her listings for sale. Pricing is an art, not a science; the “right price” is a constantly moving target, and can be affected by many factors outside our control. So, it happens. Sometimes a price adjustment is the right thing to do.

So, what might be some ways to approach the price reduction conversation with your seller without jeopardizing your credibility (hey, YOU suggested or agreed to the price in the first place!) or otherwise creating unnecessary drama and angst between the two of you?

I have a few suggestions, but would like to hear yours!

1. Prepare the seller ahead of time that a price adjustment may be required if the market doesn’t respond as favorably to the home as we hope it will. But do this carefully, not with a pre-printed price adjustment form or with a snotty attitude of “Well, we’ll TRY it your way if you insist, but BE PREPARED to reduce the price,” but rather as if you have just as much to lose as the seller does. In other words, “as if” you’re on the seller’s team… which you are, right!?

2. If you recommended (or agreed to) a price believing with all your heart that you were in the ballpark, but discover that, um, you weren’t, take the blame. Admit that you were wrong and that you’re very sorry you got the seller’s hopes up. Perhaps something like:  “Bob and Sue, I blew it. I really thought your house was nice enough to overcome XXX, but I was wrong. I’m glad we gave it a try, but I do think we’re going to have to reduce the price significantly. Let me tell you what I’m thinking…”

3. As pontificated about in the original blog, it’s best NOT to lead with a price reduction as your primary solution, for several reasons. One of those reasons is that if you are able to suggest alternatives to a price adjustment and the seller rejects your suggestions (e.g. stage the home, replace the carpet, mow the lawn, etc.), then you can feel much better about recommending a price reduction because it’s actually the seller making the choice to reduce instead of fix or improve.

4. Related to #1, when a seller wants to push the price beyond your comfort level and if he’s not too far removed from reality, agree to try his price for a week to ten days, no more. Don’t get snotty about it because the fact is, you don’t have a crystal ball; maybe the market will respond more positively than you expect! Say something like this: “Okay, let’s try it for a week or so. It’s a bit higher than I’d like, but I don’t want to give away your money if I’m wrong. If we aren’t getting the activity we need or if the feedback indicates the price is high, we’ll reduce it to $XXX,XXX, deal?

So… there are some suggestions that worked for me… any you’d like to share with the class?

posted by on Working with Sellers

I have a friend who listed her house with one of the top agents in her area. They went on the market about two months ago, at the exact price the agent recommended and supported with his market analysis. Showings were brisk at first, then trickled off, as typically happens. Feedback has been generally positive, although the home is rather unique and simply not practical for many buyers, and the feedback has reflected that.

A few weeks ago, out of the blue, the agent recommended a $50,000 price reduction. This caught my seller friend by surprise since the feedback she’d received never mentioned that pricing was an issue; most of the negative feedback centered on the unique features of the home that made it “not work” for the buyer. But no one, to her knowledge, had mentioned price as an obstacle. My friend asked the agent for an explanation of his recommendation, but no explanation cometh, the agent simply reiterated his recommendation that she reduce her price.

My friend came to me for advice. I suggested she ask him the following questions as to the WHY of his recommendation:

  1. Has there been consistent feedback that we are overpriced? (If so, it has not been shared with us.) 
  2. How is the overall market right now? Is anything in our price range selling? Is the market typically slower this time of year?
  3. If the market is not interested in our home at the current price, would your recommended price reduction change that? 
  4. Will reducing the price by $50,000 overcome buyer’s objections to the unique character of the home, or will buyers still expect a more traditional home?
  5. Are homes in your recommended price range getting more activity than homes in our current range?

and the kicker…

6. Has the market changed significantly since you recommended the price we listed at? 

My friend is not categorically opposed to reducing her price if that’s the right answer, or to withdraw the home from the market and wait for a better time to sell. But she wants (and deserves) information. A coherent explanation. Some evidence that her agent (who is supposed to be looking out for her best interests) put a little effort and thought into her situation — and his recommendation.

Contrary to what we like to believe, our sellers are not stupid and they aren’t unreasonably stubborn. But when we recommend a list price, back it up with data, and then, like clockwork, push for a reduction to that price six weeks later without explanation or exploration of other solutions, home-sellers have every right to be frustrated with us and to question our credibility. To doubt our commitment to their best interests. Or perhaps, to reach the conclusion that we’re just lazy.

(My friend is thinking all these things about her agent and I can’t blame her).

The moral of the story… before you recommend a price reduction, make sure you have answers to all the questions YOU would ask if it were YOUR home on the market and your agent advised you to give up a chunk of your equity. DO your homework, not just to pacify the seller, but also to determine if, indeed, a price reduction is the right solution. Maybe it is, maybe it’s not. But be a PROFESSIONAL real estate agent and find out.

Oh, and it wouldn’t hurt to price it right in the first place.

When Your Listing Isn’t Selling, What’s the First Thing to Fix – All together now…
STOP! Before You Reduce the Price!
If Price is All That Matters, What Do They Need Us For?

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A few months ago, I was contacted by one of my customers who had just purchased my Listing Analyzer for Expired Listings which is a dandy little tool to help agents figure out why an expired listing didn’t sell with the Listing Analyzerprevious agent… and what they can (and should) do better this go-around.

She was a little miffled by something she saw in there – specifically – my implication that the previous listing agent “failed” to sell the house and that somehow, that was HIS/HER fault!

She asked me: “So, Jennifer, you’re saying that if I can’t sell a listing, it’s MY fault?”

Yes. That’s exactly what I’m saying.

Are you a bit miffled with me now, too? ;-]

Here’s the thing.

When a seller wannabe honors us with his business, we agree to take on a serious responsibility. Our job as a listing agent, when done right anyway, entails far more than just getting some signatures on an agreement, putting a sign in the yard, entering some words into the MLS and installing a lockbox. More than just holding open houses, creating pretty brochures, taking good pictures and pursuing buyer feedback. More, even, than just pricing properly!

It’s our job to know:

1) if the property is sellable at all (not all are), and,

2) what it will take to sell it and,

3) how to effectively communicate with the seller wannabe so that he understands and accepts how his actions and decisions affect the final outcome, and how to inspire him to do his part.

So, Ms. Smarty Pantz, are you saying YOU sold all YOUR listings because you’re so freakin’ perfect?

Nope. I didn’t sell all my listings and I’m far from perfect. But when my listings didn’t sell, I’ll be the first to say it was MY FAULT.

Agree? Disagree? Unsure? Tell me!

posted by on Working with Sellers

I just read Paul Hiebing’s blog about Updating Listing Photos ( which reminded me of something else to think about…

Especially in these days of extended marketing periods, we listing agents need to stay on top of HOA fees which can and do change. If you listed a $50,000 condo last November that had a monthly fee of $175, you might want to check and make sure the fees weren’t increased recently. If your MLS listing says $175 and the fee is now $200… everyone will be in for an unpleasant surprise, quite possibly at the closing table.

Twenty-five bucks may not seem like a big deal to you or me, but believe me, to a $50,000 condo buyer (and his lender), it may be a deal-breaker. And whose fault will it be?

Yours? Well, yes, of course, your advertising was wrong.

The Buyer Agent’s? Yes, she should have confirmed it.

But does it really matter? What DOES matter is that you both look bad!

Don’t let this happen to you! Make the phone call!

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 doe run

I’m getting ready to move across the country from Alabama to Colorado, and need to sell my beautiful home-in-the-country-on-four-acres. Not being an active real estate agent in Alabama, I hired a local agent to get it done for me.

This is only the second time in my life I’ve not sold my own property myself. The first time was a new construction townhouse assign & flip deal in Steamboat Springs (Ski-Town USA) which wasn’t even built yet, so that doesn’t really count. This time… it’s the real deal. shambles

It’s SO enlightening to be on the Other Side.  When my agent came out to look at the house, it was in shambles. Painters painting, boxes everywhere, an as yet unrepaired hole in the ceiling from a plumbing leak and a trashed yard with land mines (I have 4 dogs) and piles of old wood.  I could see the dismay in her eyes and could imagine how I would feel in her shoes. It sure didn’t look like a place that buyers were going to fall in love with! Yes, I promised her it would be clean, tidy, sweet-smelling and land mine-free by the time it went on the market, but we’ve all heard THAT before, haven’t we?

(BTW, this breaks rule #13 in my book about listings: “Insist on a showing-ready home before you price.”)

Ah, yes, the price. “Well,” I told her, “I owe $225,000 on the house, so I need to sell for at least $240,000.” (Go ahead, roll your eyes at me; I deserve it.) Luckily, she was going to suggest $248,000 (as long as I get it clean, tidy, sweet-smelling and land mine-free). Check out Broker Bryant’s seller-dictated pricing formula here. It’s a hoot.

So, my agent gave me my to-do list (paint the blood-red closet and the purple master bedroom, fill in the holes dug under the fence, replace the ceiling fans on the porch, etc. etc. etc. etc. etc….). I found myself arguing with her about the importance of some of the items, but she respectfully reminded me that: “Buyers want to fall in love. The more maintenance or cosmetic items they notice, the less likely they’re going to fall in love. You can’t price a home (nor should you want to) to compensate for leaving little things undone. Do you really want to risk losing the few buyers we have in this market because you didn’t want to paint a closet?”

Okay. Yeah, I get it.

I crack myself up. I wrote a whole book on how to get your listings sold and overcome seller objections to your recommendations… and here I am, being the typical argumentative seller.

It’s good for the soul to be on the other side – I’ll keep you posted!

posted by on Working with Sellers

Last fall, I wrote a book specifically for the NAR convention called: 74 Ways to Sell Your Listings in Today’s Market.

But after it went to press, I slapped myself in the head because there’s one topic I didn’t cover in the book and I should have.  So, I’ll address it here. 

The question I didn’t answer was: “If I do each and every one of your 74 thingees to sell my listing, can you swsguarantee that it WILL sell?”


Sure wish I could. With all my heart, I wish I could promise everyone who buys my book and puts my advice into action that their listings will sell within xx days. But that would be a lie and I’d never lie to my friends.

Here’s the thing. There simply may not be a demand for your listing right now. There may literally be NO buyers for what you’re selling.

I had a broker once who made the statement “There’s an a$$ for every saddle.” Cute, huh? All she meant was that every home will sell eventually. And it was true, back then. Today? Not so much.

There simply aren’t enough buyers out there. Very few of today’s buyers are willing to take a chance on their home purchase. If your listing offers any sort of investment risk, it may not be sellable. Right now, anyway.

So, if your listing isn’t selling and you’ve done everything you could possibly do, it’s NOT YOUR FAULT!  Please stop agonizing over what else you can do or who else you can call. You’ve done your best and none of us are miracle-workers.

Stop losing sleep. Rest easy. You’re too cute to look so stressed out!

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I wrote two unrelated blogs yesterday – one about how I would rule the (real estate) world and another about how we real estate-types are put in an awkward position when negotiating our commission with sellers.

After a day and night to ponder my blogs and the commentary, I realize that these two blogs are indeed, very closely related!

To summarize blog #1 – I am currently negotiating a contract for a book deal. The person I’m negotiating with will also be my editor, if we come to agreement. So, this guy has to first wine me and dine me (cyberly-speaking) to pique my interest, then he has to put on his a&&-hole hat and negotiate against me – but after that, we have to work closely together over the next year to produce a killer product (my book). So, he has to build my trust, then shatter it, then build it again.

queenBlog #2 was a little ditty about how if I were Queen (that is, a managing broker), I would require my agents to convince me that their listings are worthy of my sign in the yard. Thus, any seller who wants to be honored with my sign has to sell US on HIM! Instead of the other way around.

So here’s my point.

We real estate agents are in the exact same position as my potential editor. We have to build the rapport that encourages our prospects to like us and trust us. Then we have to risk trashing that rapport and trust while we negotiate our commission and list price. If the seller hires us, we have to somehow rebuild the trust and rapport so that we can work together to get the home sold. It’s a tough job description.

What might be really cool would be to apply the car dealership technique of requiring management approval on any deal struck between buyer and seller, that is, listing agent and seller prospect. Here’s how it would work…

Agent meets with seller and builds rapport. Once rapport and trust are established, the financial discussions begin (commission and list price). Agent and seller work TOGETHER to come up with a proposal for the Queen to approve. The agent cannot accept a listing without that approval. Together, the agent and his new best friend, the seller, create a marketing plan which includes the list price, the agents’s commitments to the seller, the seller’s commitments to the agent, along with a proposed commission to be paid upon success. Both parties know that they have to present a reasonable proposal to the Queen or it will be rejected.

Let the Queen be the bad guy! It lets the agent off the hook, while bringing the seller more into the process of selling the home. Best of all, the agent never has to switch hats!!!

Under this scenario, I, as Queen, would be tickled to market the hell out of any listings that are deemed worthy.

I love it. Do you?

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Okay, that’s a little melodramatic and I don’t have time to talk about everything I would change. And, frankly, I have no interest in ruling any world.

jaSo, let me rephrase that. If I ruled my real estate company…

I’d pass this law: Any agent who works for me will have to prove to me, their queen, that the sellers they allow to hire them have either a strong NEED or a strong DESIRE to sell. No market-testers allowed.

My company’s listings would be 100% marketable. My company’s listings would sell. Buyer agents would flock to show my listings first because they are priced right, easy to show and smell good. Or if they aren’t easy to show and/or smell awful, they are priced accordingly.

We’d take 60 day listing agreements and not a day longer. That’s plenty of time to sell a home and frankly, I don’t want my real estate sign sitting in front of a house any longer than that.

Sellers would have to sell themselves to my agents. My agents would have to sell their sellers to me. 

If an agent didn’t like my law, they could leave. But I think they’d love it once they understood it.

Read Part II Here


posted by on Working with Sellers

Got a note from a SWS reader who is dismayed by her listing ratio – that is – the number of listings appointments she goes on versus the number of listings she gets. She described her listing strategy as such: 

I deliver a pre-listing package that is first class. I just created a Comparative Shopping analysis where I compare my company to the 2 others that I always am competing against. I give it to the seller and tell them to use in their other interviews.

I do my presentation with my last question to these sellers for my close; ‘if we agree on price will you let me handle the sale?'”

Here was my response…

I don’t know you personally, obviously, but some of the things you mention sound a little pushy and counter to your personality – therefore, perhaps you don’t sound sincere or “real” when you say them. I never try to “close” anyone during a listing appointment unless I can tell they’re ready to be closed. I think it puts people off – at least it would put ME off and any warm fuzzies I was feeling toward that person would fade. I try to go into listing appointments with the attitude that I’m there to help them, that I’m the best man for the job (if I am, I’m not always!) but it’s completely their choice as to whom they feel comfortable with.  

As far as offering a comparison of the other two companies – I dunno. A few things come to mind. First, sellers hire individual agents, not companies. By bad-mouthing another company (even subtly), you’re not doing anything to make the seller love YOU; you’re just putting down the competition. In my market, every agent offers something different, even agents in the same company. I know that my listing services blow away what the guy next door to me offers, but we both get plenty of listings. It’s really more about an emotional connection between the agent and the seller.

Another thought I had about this is that by insisting that your company is better than the other, you’re almost insulting the seller’s judgment for even considering the other company and no one likes to feel that someone is questioning their judgment.   I think that having the competitive information organized in your brain is good, in case a seller asks you a specific question, but using it as a sales tool sounds risky.  

I hope this isn’t too harsh – I don’t mean it to be. I just think that sometimes we agents get so focused on the goal (GET THAT LISTING) that we forget we’re dealing with human beings who have their own sensitivities and opinions. Just be YOU, reliable, competent, knowledgeable, lovable YOU and you’ll win more than you lose!  

posted by on Working with Sellers

The Condition of the Property
Just last week, I had a conversation with a young man who is putting his house on the market. The home is tenant-occupied and shows poorly, which he acknowledges. However, he has photos of the home taken when he lived there that “show how nice the home really is.” He wants his agent to display the photos in the home so that potential buyers won’t be put off by the current condition.

Well, nice idea, but unfortunately it won’t work. What he doesn’t realize is that buying a home is an emotional decision, not a practical one. If a typical buyer walks into a home that meets all her objective requirements, but is dirty and smelly, she’s not going to fall in love. She’s going to wrinkle her nose, give the home a cursory look-over and leave. Part of the problem with “dirty and smelly” is that it’s so personal! Other people’s dirt and other people’s smells make it quite difficult to imagine oneself “at home.” Even unobjectionable smells like leftover breakfast or lingering hair spray in the air will make the buyer feel as if he is invading someone else’s space, not exploring her potential new home.

The vast majority of buyers will not respond to a home that shows poorly. Buyers don’t overlook even obvious easy-fixes such as an unmowed lawn. Of course, the buyer knows the lawn can be mowed, but she’s not thinking that way. She’s looking first for an overall “feel,” and if that first impression is negative or even neutral, she won’t explore further. She’s just not interested.

Many sellers ask if they should replace ratty carpet or just offer a credit. My answer? It depends. If the carpet is apparent from the front door, change it out. The first impression is so important and if bad flooring is part of that first impression, it will dramatically affect a buyer’s interest level in the home. If the carpet in question is in a bedroom or office, an allowance might be okay (but not ideal). Finished basements? I always recommend replacing the carpet if needed; some people are hesitant about “paying” for finished basement space, so the nicer the space, the better they’ll feel about it. In Old Denver where the homes are small, basement square footage is valuable and should be maximized to its full, livable potential. Which includes decent flooring.

The bottom line? A home seller needs to know that the better his home shows, the more it will sell for. Buyers will not overlook clutter, smells or deferred maintenance unless the home is priced below market. Again, your seller will make the final decision as to how much effort he’s willing to make to get top dollar, but it’s your responsibility to see that he has all the facts.

To be continued…

copyright Jennifer Allan 2007

posted by on Working with Sellers

We real estate agents should have strong opinions. We should be willing and able to share these opinions with our clients, especially our seller clients. We are not hired for our looks, so to speak, rather we are hired because we are experts in the field of marketing, selling and closing the homes of those who honor us with their business.

What if you visited with an attorney who told you had a strong case when in fact, you didn’t? Or if your physician told you that the little mole on your shoulder was nothing to be concerned about when indeed, it was pre-cancerous? If your CPA assured you that you were getting a tax refund when in fact you owed $5,463.75?

While you might leave your doctor’s, lawyer’s or accountant’s office in a good mood, that good mood would fade once you realized that you were misled. You would self-righteously proclaim that these professionals lied to you! Or that they were incompetent! Or that they didn’t have the balls to tell you the truth… and you might be right.

It’s the same in our industry. When sellers talk to us about selling their home, they deserve to know the truth. Even if the truth is difficult to hear…even if it’s ugly. Our job is not to make friends with our clients because we tell them what they want to hear, no, unfortunately, our job is to tell them the cold hard facts.

… to be continued …

posted by on Working with Sellers

Okay, rumor has it that the real estate market is in a slump. Is it true? S’pose so, everyone says it is.

I’ve been previewing my little heart out here in Charming Old Denver, catching back up on the market since my return to the trenches. I gotta tell ya, if YOUR market is anything like MY market, I can see why buyers aren’t buying.

The inventory is CRAP! I’ve looked at 25-35 houses in the last two weeks and of those 25-35 homes, I found 4 that I would actually consider showing a buyer. The others? Well, they’re way overpriced (like up to $100,000 in a $350k – $450k range), and/or they show poorly and/or they’re HARD to show.

Now, these properties aren’t listed by “discount” brokers or otherwise unpopular types – they’re listed by some of the biggest names in the area.

I’m dismayed and frustrated. I actually HAVE buyers that would like to buy something, but I have nothing to sell them. And I blame the listing agent community. It’s our job to tell our sellers what they need to do to in order to sell their homes. I really want the listing agents in my area to do their job better so my buyers will fall in love!

Now I remember why working with buyers frustrated me. No, not because “buyers are liars” or because I hate being run all over town. I don’t mind that. What I do mind, deeply, is the inability, even in a “buyer’s market” to find enough decent listings to show my reasonably fussy buyers.

Okay, that’s my rant for today.

Related Rants

Preview Ten Listings and Report Back
Get Good… Or Get Out!
What Our Sellers May Not Know… But Need To

posted by on Working with Sellers

During the now-becoming-infamous Real Estate Radio USA interview earlier this week, I made the comment “I’m the Best Listing Agent I Know.” Arrogant, eh?proud

Not really. It’s not as if I said “I’m the prettiest girl I know” or “I’m the smartest girl I know.” It’s more along the lines of “I’m the hardest worker I know.” It’s a choice.

I choose to be a terrific listing agent. It’s not a God-given skill or something I was lucky enough to be born with. It’s a choice.

I choose to spend time (and gas money) properly pricing my properties. I choose to have relationships with exceptional home stagers and responsive home improvement contractors. I choose to be respectfully upfront with my sellers as to what they need to do to help me get their homes sold. I choose to own a great camera with a wide-angle lens. I choose to write killer MLS descriptions and ensure that they are accurate. I choose to work for a company who offers a 7 day/week showing service and to pursue feedback from all showing agents. I choose to frequently update my seller on the competing market activity. I choose to build and maintain rapport with my sellers so that they trust me when I offer advice and recommendations. I choose to keep my brochure boxes full. I choose to be prepared for and attend my appraisals. I CHOOSE TO CARE MORE ABOUT THE CLIENTS I HAVE TODAY THAN THE CLIENTS I HOPE TO HAVE TOMORROW.

I’m a heckova listing agent. Are you?

posted by on Working with Sellers

Y’know, it’s tough being a listing agent. No matter how good of a job you do, the margin for error is huge. If you sell the house too fast… you blew it on the price and “cost your seller money.” If the house takes too long to sell… well, we all know what happens then. We didn’t live up to our promises and we disappointed our seller.sold

I’ve decided that the best time for a house to sell is about two weeks after listing. Unfortunately, I don’t know of any way to make THAT happen with any regularity, but if I come up with something I’ll let you know.

Anyway, I just had a listing go under contract with multiple offers. Fortunately (for me), a good friend of mine had the same thing happen to him just a few days earlier and (unfortunately for him), his seller wasn’t prepared. She blasted him for underpricing her home and told him, rather snottily, that she had no intention of making any repairs at inspection.

So, Miss Smarty Pantz me, I warned my sellers up front about what I just named “Seller’s Regret.”

Here’s the thing. In today’s market, almost every seller will experience Seller’s Regret. But it’s their choice (sort of) which type of Seller’s Regret they’ll experience.

Type 1:  “Damn! We underpriced our home! We should have priced it higher! That darn Realtor – she cost us money!”

Type 2:  “Crap. I wish we’d listened to our Realtor upfront. We should have made the repairs, staged it right away and priced it lower. Now, five months later, our listing is stale, we’ve paid $9000 of interest-only mortgage and are fair game for low-ball offers, if we get any at all. Let’s look into renting it out (heavy sigh).”

If your seller is lucky enough to experience Type 1, he may never know the pain and angst of Type 2 and he may always wonder if he should have/could have priced it higher. My sellers admitted they had a twinge of doubt when the offers started coming in, but said that because we’d talked about it ahead of time, they felt pretty good about the outcome.

Whew. It’s tough being a listing agent!



posted by on Working with Sellers

Got this idea from Herb Hamilton’s featured post today “Doom or Gloom or Huge Success.”drive

Active Rainers – let’s have some fun. In the next 48 hours, go out and preview ten listings in your area. Any ten you want. Make it easy on yourself and preview the ten homes closest to your home. It’ll take you an hour or two.

Then report back. Of those ten properties, how many are being competently marketed? How many are not?

To my way of thinking, here’s what “competently marketed” means:

  • The home is easy to show (yes, even on Sunday)*
  • The sellers know to be gone for the showing*
  • The home is clean, tidy and smells good*
  • It is, of course, priced well
  • If there’s a brochure box, it’s full
  • The MLS description is enticing and intriguing, not to mention accurate
  • The MLS listing includes great photos
  • There are no barking dogs locked up in the laundry room*
  • There is no lingering odor of Football Game Chili in the air*
  • The lockbox and key work smoothly*

*If you’re saying that these are seller responsibilities and beyond your control, you’re wrong! It’s our job to make sure our sellers know THEIR jobs as partners in the home-selling process.

See, here’s the thing. Our job, as real estate agents, is not to prospect prospect prospect until our fingers go numb. The reason we have a license for what we do is because we provide an important service to those people who honor us with their business. We owe it to our sellers to give their listings our full attention and commitment … instead of fitting in our home-selling activities around our prospecting efforts.

I’ll betcha that out of the ten listings you preview, very very few will meet my standard of competent marketing. I’ll betcha most will fail miserably. I’ll bet it will be clear to you which homes are marketed by someone who gives a damn about selling their listings… and which ones are marketed by someone who has better things to do.

Imagine if we all cared about selling our listings. I mean, really really cared. Imagine if we all had the guts to tell our sellers what’s what and why. And how. If we all spent just one hour a day making sure our listings are being properly marketed and presented to the market.

We could turn this mess around.