Nicole Solari is a top-producing broker-owner in Northern California whose regular bimonthly column, which covers real estate marketing, selling strategies and working with clients, publishes on Tuesdays.
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Many of us have personal experience being buyers and sellers. Those of us who’ve been in our clients’ shoes come away with a new level of empathy for them. That’s not a reason to buy or sell, I’d quickly add. But, we take our empathy where we can get it.
As we know from both personal and professional experience, the decision to sell often coincides with significant life changes. Even when those changes are desirable, selling is hard. When sales are forced by unpleasant circumstances and unwelcome events (like unemployment or divorce), stress and distress levels escalate.
In addition, a lot of the sale itself is in the control of agents — those advising and representing sellers and others representing prospective buyers. No seller cedes that level of control, even to the most trusted agent, without worrying constantly. And venting. Lots and lots of venting!
So, in the best of times, sellers’ agents are always looking for ways to reduce their clients’ stress — and discomfort — levels. Almost no one handles surprises or waiting well. So, right out of the gate, we encourage our agents to do everything they can to:
- Let sellers know what to expect at every step of the listing and selling process. (Every explanation bears repeating, as often as necessary.)
- Tighten up the elapsed time between listing a property and getting it into contract.
The latter generally requires getting a property in optimum condition and properly staged before it goes on the market. The caveat here is that changing clients’ “homes” into properties that show well but ultimately feel like someone else’s home can be brutal for some clients.
So, we also suggest they do everything possible to reduce the stressors in that process. Providing meaningful comps to pinpoint wanted and unwanted features and optimum list prices, offering top-notch resources for any work performed at the property and encouraging clients to take relaxing breaks, both long and short, while work is underway all help.
In addition, we ask sellers to be upfront about known defects. Agents don’t like ugly surprises any better than sellers do.
That said, not every seller knows if something serious is wrong with their home. However, one thing we know from experience — anything that is wrong will eventually be revealed. Having those “revelations” occur early in the selling process reduces seller — and agent — stress in several ways.
Foremost is the fact that having advance knowledge of potential issues gives sellers an enhanced sense of control.
We know from experience that repair estimates in inspection reports tend to assume a worst case scenario. We don’t blame inspectors for this at all. The last thing they want to do is underestimate costs and expose buyers to unforeseen — and unhappy — expenses.
If sellers get inspections beforehand, they might face ugly surprises and unexpected expenses themselves. But they will have time to process the unwelcome news and, when recovered, to choose which repairs to make, solicit multiple bids, select the winning bidders and schedule repairs to suit themselves.
Putting sellers back in control of any part of the process is the No. 1 way to relieve their stress. While you might not want to position the benefit of getting inspections early this way to your clients, this certainty should motivate you to go all out to sell your sellers on the other major benefits of getting inspections done in advance, such as the following:
1. When reports are done before listing, sellers largely eliminate delays they otherwise have to endure
Waiting in agony while buyers conduct inspections and react to the various reports is not conducive to sellers’ mental health. So, by urging our sellers to get home, pest and/or roof reports before their property goes on the market, we give those sellers a choice.
They can choose to control that part of the sale and address repairs in advance, or they can take their chances with buyer inspections.
In addition, if they get inspections in advance, sellers can provide the inspection reports — along with documentation of repairs — to buyers and shorten or outright eliminate the buyer’s inspection contingency period — and the awful waiting that goes along with it.
2. Getting reports in advance allows sellers to schedule necessary repairs outside the confines of tight contractual deadlines
There is evidently some universal force that dictates any work done on deadline always — and, most especially, when that deadline coincides with COE (close of escrow) — encounters unimaginable obstacles.
The contractor gets sick. The contractor’s kid gets sick. A storm blows through the day exterior work is scheduled. The crawl space becomes a swamp at the exact moment plumbers are set to work their magic. Essential parts are inexplicably diverted to Omaha … and on and on.
Work undertaken to meet contractual deadlines also seems to cost more, probably because of the epic woes guaranteed to plague it.
3. So, getting reports done before any work starts is more efficient and economical as well as far less stressful
Because some cosmetic work is ordinarily done before a property is actively listed, knowing whether structural repairs will be required saves money and wasted effort.
Having inspection reports in hand guarantees that no wall that’s going to have to be opened up to take care of a leaking pipe gets painted prematurely. Taking the opportunity to obtain more than one bid for needed repairs ensures sellers pay a fair price for any fixes they undertake.
This final point addresses typical seller cost-objections. None of them ever seems to include the unplanned and unwelcome costs of meeting buyers’ requests for repair demands in their pre-sale calculations. But we know better!
Consequently, agents who do an excellent job of setting seller expectations and alleviating known stressors — like buyer inspection contingency periods — experience far fewer seller meltdowns and venting sessions, and have generally happier, more satisfied clients.
And who doesn’t want that?
Nicole Solari is owner and managing broker of The Solari Group in Solano and Napa Counties in Northern California. Nicole runs one of the highest producing brokerages in all of Northern California.