Every agent knows that being an armchair therapist is part of the job. You have to hold the space for people to make major decisions about their money, their homes, their families and their lives in the context of the transaction they work with you on. In the process, we often are called upon to help them think through things.
In the course of this necessary process, agents often witness a seller going from one extreme position to another on the opposite end of the spectrum in the course of a few months. If we refused to work with every seller who didn’t agree with 100 percent of our advice, we’d be in rough shape. But there are misbegotten beliefs (which can change) and there are personality issues, which are lasting issues in the way that some people think about the world, make decisions and interact with others.
Here are a handful of seller personality problems that you should run, not walk, from before you sign the listing agreement and sign up for a year, or more, of drama, trauma and expenses instead of profits.
1. Endowment bias + overconfidence + rigidity.
Virtually every seller — every human, even — can fall victim to what behavioral economists call “endowment bias”: the belief that something you own is worth more than the value you would place on it if it belonged to someone else.
The same goes for overconfidence: Due to the emotional attachments and the money, time, sweat and energy many sellers have invested in their homes, it’s not at all bizarre for them to start out being overly confident in how their home will stack up against the competition, how much they will get for it, or how rapidly it will fly off the market.
That said, many sellers can be managed down off the ledge of overpricing-inducing biases and overconfidence. You can talk them through a well-designed comparative market analysis. You can take them to the staged homes that are listed in their area, in their home’s price range, and help them understand the need to stage. You can provide them with buyer and broker feedback, including the fact that their home has been on the market with no viewings twice as long as the average home in their area stays on the market. And, before they break your marketing bank and their own hearts, the average seller, having listened and learned and been educated by you and by the market, will course-correct, double down on property preparation, hire the stager, or bring down the list price.
But sellers who suffer from the endowment bias are overconfident and are completely rigid and inflexible in their home sale-related beliefs and behavior — even in the face of overwhelming facts to the contrary. These are sellers you might want to avoid.
Some people approach everything in the world with endowment bias. They simply, as a rule, cannot see the other side of any argument or understand why everyone in the world doesn’t hold their same positions and views.
Other times, when it seems a seller is hard to please, it can be a sign of a much deeper issue at work. The second seller psychosis to be on the lookout for is what I’ll call the “Cling-on Syndrome.”
No, these sellers aren’t “Star Trek” lovers. These would-be clients are not ready or willing to move on to the next phase of their lives. These sellers may simply be going through the motions of listing at the urging of family members, their real therapist or their financial advisers, but are subconsciously sabotaging their own sale with their rigid, counterproductive behavior. If you observe your potential seller is having a severe internal conflict about moving on, it might be your sign to head for the hills.
The reality of every listing agent is that it’s almost impossible to be successful when your client self-sabotages. When sellers sabotage themselves, they sabotage you, too. And if this is the way they approach everything in life, the chances that you are going to “educate” them into changing their ways are between slim and none.
A sure-fire sign of the self-sabotagers are selling clients who’ve already listed with half the agents in your market. When you run into these sellers, make sure you find out early why they think their last agent wasn’t the right fit. Pay attention to the answers and review the past marketing.
If you can’t find any holes in your predecessor’s process, there’s a good chance that the owners are the reason the listing hasn’t sold. RUN!
If you are working with a seller who seems utterly uninterested in receiving the feedback of the market or factoring in reality to their own personal fantasies about how their home sale will go, you can avoid years of wasted marketing money and frustrated efforts by moving on.
To help head off these types of sellers early in the counseling process, consider negotiating a price reduction timeline at the time they sign the listing agreement. That way, you both are in sync on the pricing plan upfront.