After 20 years in real estate, I still feel blessed to still be learning. I’m an advocate of not just seeking growth from obvious educational opportunities but also learning from each and every conversation I have with clients.
When it comes to seller conversations, I find that some of the most outrageous seller expectations and requests have taught me the most.
These also tend to be the ones that have stayed with me over the years. With that in mind, here are five of the oddest situations I’ve ever had to navigate with sellers.
Not at the kids’ expense
You’ve probably met the family that puts the kids’ happiness first — even at the risk of the salability of their property.
I’ll never forgot the sellers who didn’t warm to my advice that decluttering would be an easy way to make their property more appealing to potential buyers.
Their small property had a tiny outdoor living space that was packed with kids stuff.
The mother said, “We’re happy to declutter, but not at the expense of Sally and Bobby (names changed to protect the innocent). The trampoline and their toys will have to stay, otherwise, how will the children keep themselves occupied for the next four weeks?”
This conversation must have been quite a few years ago because we all know that handing the children an electronic device would’ve solved the same problem today!
Back then, pre-iPhone, I quickly turned around their thinking by outlining the nature of the buyer who would be most most interested in their property, young couples and downsizers, both of whom would likely be put off by all things children.
Decluttering really was essential to appeal to their target audience.
Tell ’em to get used to it
There are many less-than-desirable property features that we agents know how to market in their best light. Like the extremely small bedroom — without room to swing a cat — that would make the “perfect cozy study.” Or the south-facing unit with a balcony that’s “protected from the harsh sun.”
But a busy road right on the doorstep of a property? That’s a tough one.
So you can imagine my reaction when my client said to me, “Tell buyers to get used to the noise of the busy road outside. We did.”
Let’s just say I had to bite my lip — hard.
When it comes to a busy road, while it is what it is, the seller should be clear that unless the price is right, it may well deter buyers.
With this in mind, my response was honest and factual. I gave the sellers examples of properties I’d recently sold near busy roads and outlined how much higher the sale price may have been had the busy road not been part of the package.
Data works wonders.
Too busy to clean
I mentioned decluttering as a challenge for some sellers. But 99 percent know that a property should be spick and span before every open house.
Neatly made beds, ideally with fresh sheets; a clear island bench with an empty sink; a bathroom free of dirty towels — you know the drill.
That’s why one instance stayed with me — the sellers who, on more than one occasion, said “Sorry I didn’t have time to make the bed or wash the dishes, it’s just the way it is.”
I was horrified, and the timing couldn’t have been worse, being five minutes before an open house.
Now, I appreciate that my clients have busy lives, and it’s my job to make the sale process stress and hassle free. But I do expect that, in return, they’ll also try to make the home as attractive as possible to buyers — and if they’re “too busy to clean,” then a professional cleaner should be engaged.
On the occasion I mentioned, with the open house minutes away, I had to think on my feet. I asked the seller to quickly make up the bed, my assistant moved the dishes into the dishwasher, and I popped the dirty towels into the laundry basket.
Nowadays, I weave the “too busy to clean” conversation into advice about hiring a cleaner as soon as a property hits the market.
I know exactly what my property is worth
I’m sure you’ve met a seller (or three) in your time who’s fixated on a given price. The sellers firmly believe that their property is worth every single dollar of that price. Sometimes they’re right; often they’re not.
A seller I remember well was at the extreme end of the I-know-exactly-what-my-property-is-worth spectrum.
In their words, “If buyers don’t want to pay me what I want, then that’s fine; we don’t have to sell.”
How did I respond? I tried my best to do what I always do — I put myself in the shoes of the client.
My advice on objection handling such scenarios would be to come to the conversation prepared — arm yourself with as many comparable sales in the area from the past six months as possible.
Use actual sales data to demonstrate that unless their property has an extra wow-factor, then the price guide should come direct from that data.
Can I stay?
A seller once said to me, “I’m just going to sit outside and watch while the open house is on. Is that OK?”
Now unless a property is on a private island or at the top of a mountain, then it’s really not OK for a seller to linger onsite.
Of course, I didn’t say that. Rather, as I often do in these precarious situations, I carefully chose my words, which led to the right outcome.
Those carefully chosen words, which have worked again since, were along the lines of “I wouldn’t be doing my job in getting you the best price if you stay onsite — simply because buyers prefer to do what they need to without being under the watchful eye of the seller. Let’s not give buyers any reason to doubt your property before they even walk through the door.”
As you can see, a little foresight, some carefully chosen words and data go along way in combating unrealistic expectations.
I’m sure you have your own entertaining seller and buyer stories. Please feel free to share in the comments section below, we’d love to hear them!