Recently, a new program called Buy Me! on HGTV caught my attention. Each episode profiles a person who is selling his property under adverse circumstances. Usually the home has several presentation and/or maintenance problems, and the seller is in a time crunch.
So far, it’s been classic examples of what not to do to sell your home. The issues highlighted in the show happen frequently to me in real life. So far the most common theme is working with the real estate agent.
In one episode, the seller was in the middle of a divorce and wanted the agent to work magic. She took the time to find an experienced agent via referrals, but started second-guessing from the start. She insisted on a higher asking price than the agent suggested because she needed the money. She also ignored the agent’s suggestions to make the house more attractive to buyers, and refused to make structural repairs to the foundation.
The house sat for months as this poor lady worked frantically at two jobs to pay the mortgage. The agent worked the listing but was foiled by the same problems: the asking price was too high and the house needed work. His suggestions fell on deaf ears, and he was put off by the seller's attitude. By the end of the episode, the agent had resigned the listing in frustration, with the seller unrepentantly vowing to “find a better agent”.
There is plenty of fault to go around here. The agent did not obtain the seller’s trust. While he talked quite a bit about his experience, he didn’t take the time to educate the seller by showing her comparable prices. He suggested to her how to stage the house, but didn't provide any solutions for her. Since she was overworked and broke, she needed him to take care of her better. As a result the seller thought she was doing his work for him. In addition, he did not explain to her his marketing program. He apparently did not advertise her house for sale every week, so she felt that it was not getting proper exposure.
The seller’s mistake lay in ignoring the resources of an experienced agent. She knew the house better than her agent; therefore she thought she knew how to sell it. This is a common belief. It’s important to remember that knowledge and experience of previous sales situations is the most important tool a real estate agent brings to the table. It may be intangible, but it’s invaluable, particularly in a buyers’ market.
This year I found myself in a similar situation with a townhouse in Bay Ridge. The sellers were going through a divorce and three agents had attempted to sell the property. Each had overpriced to get the listing. Unfortunately, the house had many small issues that the sellers – in danger of foreclosure – were unable to address.
Finally, the divorce attorneys took over (removing emotions from the process). They turned to me to take on the listing. My first step was to price it correctly. I also moved leftover furniture to storage to focus attention on the house. We found a buyer quickly and successfully closed on the property.
The moral of the story: don’t hire a “yes-man”. Take time to find an agent that you trust. You are paying for his expertise. If you have chosen a good fit, you will be amply rewarded by a quick sale at a good price!