How failed home sales damage the real estate industry's reputation

  • American Express reported that 78 percent of consumers have bailed on a transaction or not made an intended purchase because of a poor service experience.
  • In real estate, our biggest bad service experience derives from the failure to sell a home once listed.
  • No matter the reason for a home expiring off the market, when it fails to sell, the homeowner associates that with a poor service experience.

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Meet the Malik family from the greater Orlando, Florida, area. They are a young millennial couple who recently sold a home. Selling their home meant financial freedom to pursue a dream and a new career path.

But there was a bump in the road. Before the contract with their first agent expired, the Maliks knew that they didn’t want to renew because it wasn’t working out.

American Express reported that 78 percent of consumers have bailed on a transaction or not made an intended purchase because of a poor service experience.

In real estate, our biggest poor service experience derives from the failure to sell a home once under contract. We know that in every market, some homes will inevitably fail to sell with the listing agent.

No matter the reason, when a home fails to sell, the homeowner associates that with a poor service experience.

Why is a failed home sale so damaging? From the homeowner’s perspective, there is a direct correlation between real estate professionals and their value, tied directly to the results the clients got while working with that agent.

In other words, if the homeowners’ expectations were met — primarily, if their home sold — their perceived experience was seen as more positive overall, and the opposite was also true.

So we decided to do something that no one else has done before and interview actual homeowners who had a negative perception of the real estate industry when their home listing expired — and who then had an incredibly positive, belief-changing experience when their home sold with a new agent.

These stories are anecdotal, but coupled with our experience working with thousands of agents who help thousands of homeowners move each year, we believe they are reflective of the significant difference agents make when they prospect and list a home that previously failed to sell.

In hindsight, the Maliks attributed the breakdown of the client-agent relationship to poor communication. They expected that if they did what the agent told them to do, their home would sell.

When I interviewed the Maliks, a lot of emotions surfaced when recalling the experience of first listing their home. They did everything their first agent asked because they were serious about selling, and they recognized they needed a professional to help them.

Following requests from the first agent, they:

  • Removed personalized home accessories, limiting furniture in rooms so they appeared bigger.
  • Re-tiled the great room; this was expensive and incredibly time-consuming. When Lee Malik shared this, it was emotional because for several weeks he had zero time after work and on weekends for personal time with his daughter and wife because they had to get this done before the home was listed.
  • Set the price according to the recommendation of the first agent.
  • Kept the home spotless constantly for doorstep-announced home showing requests — they didn’t turn down a single request for a home showing.

When the home didn’t sell, they were devastated. They had a crisis of faith concerning whether they should or could continue trying to sell — and deciding not to would’ve meant shelving a dream.

Kelly French was the agent in Davenport, Florida, who ended up selling the Malik’s home. She did several different things to get the home sold. She:

  • Listened. First, before she ever got the listing, she listened to the Maliks about their frustration and why they needed a break from having their home on the market. This is apparent in the video.
  • Stayed in touch. French followed up respectfully and relevantly. She didn’t take the listing on the first phone call. She listened and then appropriately stayed in contact.
  • Advised. When the Maliks decided to list with French, they did things differently the second time around.

First, they listed it for $5,000 less than before. But they did get multiple offers over their asking price, and they ended up taking one of those offers.

Second, French advised them to bring back in more personal elements. The Maliks’ home was too impersonal and bland.

Third, French had professional photos taken and marketed with her broker and online.

There are many reasons a home might not sell. Regardless of the reason, the homeowner blames the agent and the industry. We know that at the center of all listed home sales is the agent.

When homeowners fail to sell their property with an agent, both the reputation of the agent and the industry is at risk. So our hats go off to the amazing professionals who reach out — amidst difficult and negative circumstances — and create a new positive and customer-centric experience for frustrated homeowners.

Please let me know what you think of the video in the comments section below. We have more coming to share exclusively with the Inman audience. If you have a great story about a homeowner having success after a failure, send me a message.

Michelle Holt is the director of marketing and strategic relations at REDX.

Email Michelle Holt.