You might recall from last week that a new friend of mine, Danielle LaPorte, wrote a guide to finding your "style statement" — a two-word phrase that "define(s) the true you."
While LaPorte’s style statements describe the subject individual’s aesthetic and world view, I couldn’t help trying my hand at creating a few homebuyer profiles based on this principle. While a true style statement might be a phrase like "elemental power," I came up with style statements of typical homebuying behavior like "Decent Do-It-Yourselfer" and "Righteous Nitpicker."
With sellers, more than buyers, their selling style is not necessarily their usual, personal style of interacting with the world. We’re specifically talking here about their style of thinking about this particular experience and transaction of selling their home.
There is a little mental switch that flicks when one becomes a home seller. All but the very most Zen individuals shift into high alert, and some of the normal internal reality-checking mechanisms seem to deactivate.
When it comes to pricing, preparing and providing access to their homes in the context of trying to get them sold, some sellers behave consistently in a style different from how they normally approach the world.
As with buyers, I’d like to give sellers the benefit of the doubt. I believe that the best seller behavior is motivated out of an earnest belief in the possibility of a win-win. But even the very worst, bizarre or even begrudging-but-smart seller behavior is motivated very rarely by malicious intentions.
Much more often, it’s the fear and anxiety involved in wanting or needing to squeeze every cent out of the seller’s most financially valuable possession — and the implications for the seller’s future plans and lifestyles of getting (or not getting) top dollar for their home — that drive the illogical decisions we sometimes see sellers make.
So, let’s say there are two different versions of the first style statement word that, together, accurately cover 99 percent of sellers:
- Version A: Abundant — these are the sellers who operate on the opposite of the scarcity principle, and look to make a win-win deal.
- Version B: Anxious — these sellers’ primary motivator is the concern that they won’t get enough, or that they’ll come out the underdog of the transaction.
With style statements, the second word expresses the nuance or edge that makes one pattern or profile of behavior different from the others. In my experience, with home sellers this distinctive edge manifests as a spectrum of selling styles. For some sellers, it’s a sequence of phases they go through, while others jump straight to one spot and stay there, good or bad.
To my mind, the best parallel for expressing the stops along this spectrum are the coping mechanisms psychologists have observed humans to use in managing stressors (like, say, selling your most financially valuable possession).
Whether their first style statement word would be "abundant" or "anxious," some of the distinctive patterns I’ve noticed in seller behavior — the second words of the seller style statements — include: …CONTINUED
1. Denial — Denial, to quote from the cliché, may not be a river in Egypt, but it is very likely the mindset of a seller on your very street! At this stage, sellers deny any or all of a bunch of important factors to smart decision-making. They might be denying what’s going on in the world and the economy that is creating a buyer’s market, they might be in denial of how comparable the comparables actually are — and what that means about the likely value of their home.
(Note to sellers: The fact that you have custom paint colors and your neighbor’s house had white walls does not mean that your home is worth $75,000 more than theirs.) They might even deny how applicable the basic principles weighing against overpricing are to their particular situation.
2. Repression — Sellers who use repression just simply forget the inherent glitches, condition problems, or location challenges with their homes that helped them get a smoking deal on it when they bought it. These are the sellers who got the home for a song, but want to charge top dollar for it.
They say things like, "Sure, it has a power pole in the front yard and an adult movie theater next door, but are buyers really that picky? I wasn’t."
3. Wishful thinking — At its extreme, with sellers, this can border on magical thinking. "Like, well, I owe $400,000 on my house and $20,000 on credit cards and I need $100,000 to put down on my next house and I’d love to have an extra $50,000 for mad money. That means my house needs to sell for $570,000 plus closing costs."
There’s lots of wishful thinking when it comes to what actually constitutes fair market value. Wishful-thinking sellers include those who think that fair market value is the same as the online estimate they got from typing their address into a Web site, the highest value any of the listing agents they interviewed provided, or what they owe on the property.
Reality check: Fair market value is only what a qualified buyer agrees to pay for the place. Period.
4. Relaxation — Abundant sellers tend to jump straight to this point on the coping mechanism spectrum. And "relaxed" does not necessarily indicate "lackadaisical" — relaxed sellers still select their listing agent smartly, invest effort and money into preparing their home as advised by their broker or agent, and take the time to understand market dynamics and comparable sales data and price their homes accordingly.
They provide ample access to buyers and their representatives, allow their homes to be held open, and follow their agents’ advice. But then they relax — they trust that the open market will bring the fair value for their home, and they trust their own wisdom in finding a knowledgeable agent and heeding their advice. (Hint: You can’t relax and trust in the wisdom of your agent’s advice if you don’t follow it!) For these cool cucumbers, they’ve done all there is to do, so they relax and let the process take its course.
5. Reappraisal — I find that many sellers (wisely) reappraise their priorities once a concrete offer is on the table. Those who exhibited much wailing and gnashing of teeth when their agent asked them to list the place $5,000 lower than they wanted usually do a gut check and decide that moving on, closure and pursuing their family’s plans for the future are much more important than a few bucks when there’s a concrete offer.
The common misconception that the use of a coping mechanism is a negative thing must definitely be corrected when it comes to these seller style statements. Each seller must take his or her own path to a level of comfort in what is, especially these days, an often uncomfortable situation.
Those of us buyers and brokers seeking to understand especially illogical seller behavior should avoid judgment and, actually, try to step into these sellers’ shoes and approach them with compassion and understanding. After all, almost every buyer will be a seller someday.
Tara-Nicholle Nelson is author of "The Savvy Woman’s Homebuying Handbook" and "Trillion Dollar Women: Use Your Power to Make Buying and Remodeling Decisions." Ask her a real estate question online or visit her Web site, www.rethinkrealestate.com.
What’s your opinion? Leave your comments below or send a letter to the editor. To contact the writer, click the byline at the top of the story.