Great post, and some wonderful points by Angela Voss from Designology Home Staging and Publishing in Spokane, WA.
You're heading into the break room to get a second cup of coffee and you hear, "Did you see that listing on Hillcrest Road? What a disaster!" Yep, that's your listing they're talking about. You know it's a mess, but she is an older woman who loves all her things so much, you didn't have the heart to tell her. You also know what's coming. The house will be on the market forever and she will need to drop the price 5k. Sooner or later, aren't you going to have to tell her?
Trust = Truth
A seller hires an agent to sell their property for the best price. That's a pact, based on trust. Marketing 101 tells us that when selling a product for the best price, it has to be in tiptop shape. It's that simple. A home seller needs to be told the truth. Their largest asset is in your hands.
It's all about fear... and blindness
So why is it so difficult for thousands of agents to have "the big talk" with their sellers? In a word, fear. Yes, I said it. Fear of offending the home seller. Fear of losing the listing. Fear of not getting the listing. And... fear of someone else getting the listing! Then again, maybe it's blindness...
So the house is a mess. Did you notice? Some agents are blind to clutter or other things that distract buyers. If an agent doesn't see an obstacle to the sale, that's a problem. Blindness is hard to cure. Like a surgeon who can't recognize a tumor, it's an utter breakdown in the reason an agent is there in the first place. That's sad.
What's even sadder are agents that do see it, but think the answer is to get the seller to drop their price to move the listing. I don't know if that's fear again, or something else. I do know that it is a disservice to the client of any marketer, real estate or otherwise. There's only one exception: If a home seller knows the house is a mess and chooses to do nothing. Then it's their problem. But...
Many home sellers don't recognize their own clutter. That's different. It's theirs, so they get used to it. They are blind, but they have an excuse. Like the emperor who had no clothes, however, they do deserve to be told. As a marketer, they put their trust in you to tell them how to get the best price for their home, not just sell it for less to avoid the truth.
How to say what needs to be said
It's so much easier to do what needs to be done before it hits MLS. You don't want to be told in feedback from other agents that you have a problem. You don't want to hear it in your seller's voice more and more with each phone call. You'll end up trying to get them back in the door and remarketing the home. You've now sold yourself twice instead of selling the listing once.
But what about a listing you already have? It is never too late to turn around a listing.
Here's a secret tip before you read all of the examples. When delivering bad news:
- Express your critique in a compliment. A spoonful of sugar really does help the medicine go down.
- Connect your compliment to your advice using "and" not "but."
You: "Mrs. Jones, looks like you do a lot of scrapbooking?"
Home seller: "Only in the winter months. I'm gardening right now."
You: "Great, let's keep a few things out to show off your fantastic hobby room, and (not but) would you mind packing up the rest?"
You: "Mr. Anderson, you seem like a busy man, do you work from home every day?"
Home seller: "Yes, I know my office is a mess, but I just don't know where to begin, things just keep coming in."
You: "I have just the right person to help you if you feel you need some assistance. She is fabulous at getting things organized."
You: "Wow! It must have taken you years to collect over a thousand beer bottles, Mr. Smith."
Home seller: "Yeah, each has a story. Like this one! I was..."
You (5 minutes later): "I know they all have memories for you, and (not but) I know a buyer is going to be viewing your collection instead of viewing the house. I think it would be best to have those packed up."
The So-Called Decorator:
You: "Kathy, I noticed your towel holder on the kitchen counter."
Home seller: "I know, isn't that neat! (Beaming) I took a kitchen towel and rolled it into a cone and stuck it in the wine holder."
You: (Smiling) "I've never seen it done that way, and (not but) you know I think people are going to be so curious on how you do it, I don't think they will see how great and open the kitchen is. They may only be paying attention to your towel holder."
The Clutter Bug:
You: "Jason, Beth, I realize you both have a lot on your plate with your daughter's illness. I know you have to sell the house to pay off some medical bills. We need to get the house looking the best it has ever been, and make sure a buyer can really notice how much space you have. I have some great techniques to help you get organized so I can do everything I can to get you the most for your house."
Always be positive and understanding when delivering bad news. That is how a client will begin to trust you. Walk in their shoes for a moment and their defenses will come down. A little tough love and truth will go a long way.
Honesty without fear
So is complimenting a beer bottle collection honest? Yes. One man's trash is another man's treasure. As the saying goes, "There's no accounting for taste." You are being honest when you tell them that the collection will distract buyers.
The source of the fear is that you don't want to offend. The compliment allows you to be honest - to say what needs to be said - without making it a commentary on their personal taste or lifestyle. The secret to honesty is to eliminate the fear of being honest.
When honesty isn't enough
So you took a deep breath, complimented them, then connected your advice with "and." Still, they didn't budge. You were heard, but (not and) ignored! Or maybe you felt that the situation wasn't right, or that the moment to be honest never presented itself. After all, there is such a thing as diplomacy.
If the moment never comes, or you feel that you need or want to keep your relationship neutral with your seller, what then? In those situations, one option is to call in a third party, such as a good stager.
Don't be unfairly accused
Many top agents have told me that when I gave the needed advice to their seller, they could preserve their relationship as the marketer, without having to cross the line into these sensitive areas: The condition of the home and lifestyle of the seller. Suggestions made are no longer on your shoulders.
If or when the time comes for a price reduction and the seller did not follow through with the advice, you will have evidence - and an expert witness. You can make your case without catching the blame.
Helping you get your listing SOLD!
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