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Thursday, January 21, 2016

Our agent isn’t working hard enough to sell our house…


I recently overheard that comment from someone that I have known for some time. I didn’t butt in and say anything, but it was interesting to hear. It was also a bit painful, since these same friends had prevailed upon me a year earlier to give them some advice about what to do to get their house ready to sell and asked what I thought it might sell for when they did put it on the market.

Apparently I was too honest for them, and my own good, with the advice that I rendered at the time. They didn't do the things that I recommended and found another agent who would tell them what they wanted to hear,especially about price; and they listed with him, a little over 6 months ago at a price well above what I had given them. Apparently the listed price was also well above what the market sees as the value of the property, since it is still sitting on the market. But, that’s likely because their agent “isn’t trying hard enough to sell their house.” Or, so it seems to them.



Some of the most valuable work that a good agent does occurs before the house is put on the market. It involves assessing the condition of the property and giving the would-be sellers advice on things that might be done to help the property sell faster or for more. It also involves doing the research to understand the market and how the property is going to fit into it and at what price it should be positioned within that market. If the agent is good at what they do, and the clients will listen to and heed the advice that they get, the house will sell relatively quickly in any market. In our local market that will probably happen within the first 30-45 days.

The local real estate market is very tight, with low inventory; so buyers are quickly attracted to any new listings. They are also quickly turned-off by sellers who ignore their agent’s
advice and overprice their homes. Some agents are very good at sensing what it will take to get a listing, even if it means initially overpricing it; and they are not above going along with the sellers and setting the initial listing price too high. They do that for two reasons – 1) they get the advertising benefits of having their signs up in public, and 2) they go into the listing with a plan to reduce the price as quickly as possible to what they know is the true market price. That is a morally questionable way to do business, but perfectly legal. It feeds on the desire of the seller to hear what he/she wants to hear, rather than deal with the truth.

Sometimes that strategy backfires on the agents; especially when the seller remembers that the agent initially agreed with their overly high listing price. Sometimes the agent isn’t trying all that hard to market or sell the overpriced house, because he/she knows that it would be wasting money on a product that will be rejected by most prudent buyers. If they get showings the feedback will likely be fairly consistent about the price being too high, so they can start pushing on the seller to lower it to where it should have been all along. If the seller resists for too long the house can become stigmatized, as would be buyers look at the old listing and wonder what’s wrong with the house to make it sit on the market for so long.

As for the concept of the agent selling the house; that is a bit off base, too. The agent’s job
is to market the house effectively so that people make showing appointments or visit open houses. There is a saying in real estate that the house will sell itself and that is largely true. There are things that the agent can do to make the visit experience to the house better or make the house show better; however, the concept of selling the house, as if it were a consumer product doesn’t really hold true. A good agent night use some of the same consumer product sales techniques in marketing the property, such as dealing with objections or highlighting the positive features and downplaying any negatives; but, Realtors are not consumer product salesmen and the good ones don’t act like one either.

So, how can you tell if your agent is “working hard” to sell your home? You can go on-line and see what kind of job he/she has done to get widespread publicity for the property. Go onto 3-4 real estate web sites and see if your property is advertised on them. Read the ads to see how the house is being positioned and marketed. See if the agent has posted a virtual tour or video tour for the property and check it out, too. Ask about open houses and the agent’s plans for them. See if your agent has a marketing plan for the house and ask him/her to go over it with you.

Don’t worry too much about not seeing your house in the local papers, most modern buyers wouldn’t see it there either and most real estate companies and agents have greatly reduced their use of print ads. Instead, download 1 or 2 of the real estate smartphone apps and see if you can find your property on them and what the presentation of your property looks like when compared to others. All of those things represent the “hard work” that your agent should be doing in today’s real estate marketplace.


Finally, if it’s been 5-6 months and you’ve had few showings and no offers, it may be time to swallow your pride and listen to the honest advice of your agent or another agent about what your property is worth in the current market. If that price is not something that you can live with, then take it off the market and wait a year or so until the market catches up with your grand vision of what you property is worth. You are wasting everyone’s time and efforts – those of your agent and the buyers who visit the property. Maybe it wasn’t that the agent wasn’t working hard enough to sell your property; maybe it was that you really didn’t want to sell it bad enough to take what it is worth.

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