When was the last time you heard a Realtor say that? Probably never, because Realtors generally don’t like to give bad news. They like to tell you everything is great. They like to tell you that it’s the perfect house and the perfect price and the perfect location. They like to tell you that an offer is coming in. They like to tell you that the feedback on that showing was great. So why haven’t you had a showing in a month? Why haven’t you had any offers? Why is your house still on the market?
Although there are many factors and many different market conditions that can affect the marketing plan for your home, there is probably some bad news that’s being filtered, and as a Seller in the real estate market you are entitled to the bad news alongside the good. So be weary of strangers bearing gifts (and Realtors who only have good news).
- “I can’t sell it for that” – this is my favorite tidbit of bad news. I don’t like listing properties that are over-priced, so generally I don’t. And even though I rarely say no to a listing, I am usually blunt and honest about its market value, which can turn off a prospective Seller. But before you think that this is a terrible thing, consider that it only gets worse when your Realtor tells you what you want to hear instead of what is actually on their mind. If your Realtor pitches you a high price and you accept their advice, now they have to try and sell it for that. If you are $75,000 over market for the property, it is unlikely to sell and time will tick away on you fast. And by the time you have made several price reductions, the property has been on the market so long that most active buyers have already passed it by. And while it’s finally priced right, new buyers wonder why it’s been on the market for 265 days when the median is 150. Pick the right price and you will sell it. Pick the wrong price and let’s hope your Realtor has some bad news for you. Otherwise you are in for a long summer.
- “It may have been cutting edge in 1974, but today it’s just dated” – People ask me all the time if they should make repairs and updates before they list (spoiler alert, the answer is yes). Realtors are conflicted on this, and often give in to that ever-present vibe from their prospective client, who is “not all that interested” in spending a bunch of money on a property they are selling. In fact, some Sellers will look for a Realtor that tells them exactly what they want to hear, and the Realtor will tell them to offer money back at closing (but only if the feedback dictates such). This is really just a way of telling a Seller what they want to hear and reserving the right to change your mind if it turns out to be bad advice. Back when things were flying that actually was good advice. Inventory was low and options were limited, so buyers were willing to throw another $25k of borrowed money at the problem before they even stepped foot in the place. Not so any more. I sell properties in the Mad River Valley of Central Vermont. This is ski country and 80% of the properties in this real estate market were built between 1969 and 1985 as the New England ski industry exploded at Sugarbush and Mad River Glen. I am perplexed at the difficulty Realtors have speaking their mind on this point. As a Seller you can pay for it now or you can pay for it later, but one way or another you will pay for it. The concept of “retro” as a fashion statement in real estate is dead, if it was ever really alive at all. Pull up the shag and go with light-colored berber; sand and recoat the wood floors; white-wash the paneling, and paint the kitchen cabinets. Finally, consider replacing that linoleum in the bathrooms with some nicer laminate – or even bamboo – and take down the cracked mirror and ancient curtains . Make the place look like you cared to keep it up. The relatively moderate investment now will decrease your marketing time and more importantly your exposure at the time of the building inspection.
- “you need to clean this place out” – Cluttered houses are impossible to sell. They feel small, cramped and dysfunctional. More importantly, they make a terrible first impression. This is particularly true of homes where the sellers are primary residents who have collected a lifetime of stuff. They usually have too much furniture and not enough room to walk around, and are frequently full of knickknacks, tchotchkes and boxes of their grown childrens old toys, preserved as keep-sakes from another generation. Realtors don’t like to make statements about a prospective client’s lifestyle and shy away from anything that might make them uncomfortable. Furthermore, Sellers are frequently ready to list when they call the Realtor, who doesn’t want to lose the listing by telling them they are not ready to list. But it’s not a statement about a prospective Sellers lifestyle – it’s terrific advice about how to stage and make a property memorable for a prospective buyer, and that’s the Realtors first job. Without that “bad news” ultimately you end up with a house on the market that needs to be cleaned out, and which presents poorly to prospective buyers who are not likely to return for a second look. So perge the mess and clean out the basement. Box up the nicknacks and store them somewhere else.Offer them to your relatives and open an Ebay account. It’s time to move on from the mess.
Everyone loves to hear how great their house is. Everyone loves to hear that they are going to strike it rich. But take caution if you are putting your house on the market and all you hear is good news. Read between the lines and be sure to ask one final question; “so what’s the bad news”?