Everyone’s an expert on how to sell a house, whether they’ve sold one or not

Broker Notebook

I try not to get irritated, but everyone I work with thinks they know how to sell a house.

Sometimes they have a relative or co-worker who is an “expert” in buying or selling real estate. Or they choose to give more weight to advice that they read on a website over the advice I give them.

Self-proclaimed experts image via Shutterstock.
Self-proclaimed experts image via Shutterstock.

Even when they already have an agent, sellers sometimes go to websites where they can get free advice from other real estate agents in an attempt to get a second opinion. There are agents from all over the country who are willing to give advice because they think it makes them look smart. They will not hesitate to give a Minnesota home seller advice all the way from California.

I, too, have a website, which some people depend on for real estate advice even if they are already working with another agent. But when people who are already working with an agent email me asking for advice, I suggest they ask their agent because I don’t give out free second opinions to people who have already engaged an agent.

Some of the most bizarre home-selling ideas I have ever heard come from the relatives or friends of my clients. Sometimes I just take the advice of the son-in-law or co-worker or parent because it makes the seller happy.

Everyone has a friend who bought a home at an open house, yet only a very small percentage of homes sell to people who come through open houses. We never really know if they would have seen and purchased the same home even if there was no open house.

Yet there are sellers who are sure they need frequent open houses. The only reason I ever do an open house is because the seller believes in them.

I have never met a buyer who will pay a certain amount for a home because the seller needs the money, or an appraiser who will take the seller's desire for money into consideration."

Happy sellers are usually easier to deal with, and maybe if the really believe in something, it will create magic that will sell the home.

Besides, sellers really do need to have a say in the process. There is free advice on TV shows all about how to buy a home or how to sell a home. I actually had a good experience last year with a couple who got their ideas on how to sell a home from a popular TV show.

But usually, those shows feature beautiful homes and highly qualified homebuyers. They never show the young buyers who get into a big fight with each other while viewing a home. Or the sale that falls apart during the inspection because the seller decides that because she lived with various fire and electrical hazards for a decade, she is doesn’t need to fix them to sell the house.

I have never seen a TV show where the buyers make an offer, and after two weeks of back and forth and 11 counteroffers the deal falls apart because the sellers have an unrealistic view of the condition and the value of their property, and the first-time homebuyer chose a friend as their agent even though he had no experience other than what he saw on reality TV.

None of the websites that give advice ever have pictures of the really ugly houses that make up a fair percentage of the housing market. I sell homes that would never look good in a magazine spread. I need to help potential buyers imagine what the home could look like.

When a home isn’t selling, there are things that the seller could do instead of contacting me and giving me a bad time, or could have done but won’t. Often those items are not even up for discussion. It is much easier to blame the real estate agent or to find another.

Sellers say: No we cannot paint the family room because a decorator chose the orange and it matches our stuff. Or that they have always liked the powder-blue carpeting and are sure that the next owner will like it too even though it is well-worn.

Other times sellers seem like they will cooperate, but are in such a hurry to get the home on the market that they make only about half of the changes needed for a quick sale. The home goes on the market with dark, cluttered rooms crammed full of furniture.

The biggest challenges arise when the seller has to have a certain amount of money from the proceeds of the sale. For some, it is a kind of entitlement. It is as if their house owes them, even if they have already borrowed all of the equity from it.

I have never met a buyer who will pay a certain amount for a home because the seller needs the money, or an appraiser who will take the seller’s desire for money into consideration.

Personally, I believe that any problem that arises while selling a home is solvable and any home is salable. Most problems with the homes themselves are fixable and most of the time I think real estate would not actually change hands without the help of an experienced but somewhat detached real estate agent.

Most days it doesn’t bother me that just about everyone knows how to sell a house. Why some of these people do not sell more homes, or how they get to be so good at it without ever selling a home, remains a mystery to me.

Teresa Boardman is a broker in St. Paul, Minn., and founder of the St. Paul Real Estate blog.


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