As the spring market draws to a close in many areas, some languishing listings remain on the market. Many real estate agents and brokers are preparing to go on vacation or spend the slower months getting caught up on marketing initiatives put on hold during the busy season.
Those same agents are no doubt getting an earful from frustrated sellers, wondering why showings have slowed to a crawl and why their listing has not yet sold.
“A home that sits on the market for months and months becomes an emotional rollercoaster for the seller,” said Jill Epstein, an agent with Los Angeles-based luxury brokerage Nourmand & Associates.
This can result in a variety of emotion-based decisions from sellers, including taking the home off the market, renting it out or switching agents, looking for new insights or new strategies.
“Here in Los Angeles where I live and work, we are in what I believe is a transitioning market,” said Epstein. “Prices are starting to level out.”
That got Epstein thinking about what was causing the slowdown in her market. In her view, “Buyers and sellers are not on the same page. Buyers don’t seem to be in a hurry right now — I think they feel the market is changing, and there’s not that sense of urgency that there has been the past few years.”
Where the past few years has seen a lot of buyer fatigue — where buyers gave up on their home search after one-too-many multiple offer situations — Epstein is now seeing seller fatigue.
“Sellers are dealing with a lot of emotional upheaval by the time they are ready to move,” she said. “They are psyched up and ready to move, and they put the house on the market, and the buyers are not coming in as quickly as they have over the past few years.”
A major pain point Epstein noted (along with just about any seller who’s lived it) is keeping up a picture-perfect home.
“It’s a pain to make sure your house looks perfect — and buyers are looking for perfection — so it’s fatiguing for a seller because you could be looking at four to six months for your home to sell.”
Sellers begin to question everything. What’s wrong with our home? Why isn’t anyone coming? Why are they looking but not making offers? This multiplies when they have friends selling who are garnering multiple offers.
For some real estate professionals, this is the first real buyer’s market of their career. Many others have forgotten the slow times of 2008 to 2010 and haven’t learned to properly prepare their sellers for this new normal.
We reached out to a number of agents to find out their best strategies for avoiding seller fatigue and helping to keep seller emotions in check throughout the process.
1. Accurately read the market
Keeping sellers up to date is at the crux of avoiding seller fatigue.
“While we don’t have a crystal ball, we do have great tools at our disposal that give us great visibility on what the market is doing,” said Sep Niakan, broker-owner of HB Roswell Realty in Miami.
“Not treating a sale as a static proposition where price adjustment is the only option, we can empower our sellers to make smart decisions and avoid seller’s fatigue.”
Using the proper tools, you can see when relevant competition enters the market, reduces price, goes under contract or sells. These are all clues as to what a buyer might buy ahead of your sellers’ property.
Once you analyze that info, which you should do often, says Niakan, it becomes clear whether your listing is priced and positioned well on the market.
“When other properties sell, it might be about price, but it might very well be about condition. If we have done our job, we have already given the sellers a list of everything that should or could be done to the property to increase the seller’s net sale price. If any of those haven’t been done and the property has been sitting, maybe, just maybe it’s time to have that conversation again,” he said.
2. Start from square one
If you have a listing on the market and it just doesn’t seem to be generating any interest, here are a few suggestions from John Bolen with Downing-Frye Realty, Inc. in Florida:
- Capture excellent imagry: Did you take the pictures with your iPhone, or did you hire a professional photographer? Buyers usually get their first impression of a home through the images they see online. Did you include a virtual tour or video? People love watching video. Drone footage might be a great option in addition to your typical listing video.
- Double-check condition: Make sure the home is clean and shows well. It’s important that the home is clean, decluttered and presentable for showings. Sometimes a fresh coat of paint can go a long way and present a new appeal. Spend some time with a stager or professional decorator to pick up some tips.
- Know your market inside and out: The best way to offset the days on market (DOM) concern is by making the home available to buyers in the range of where properties are being sold. If homes are selling fast in your area and you’re not getting any bites, you may want to have a conversation with your client and re-evaluate the pricing strategy. Preview other homes on the market in your community, and compare them to your listing. You might be competing with other listings that are offering better value, and a price change might be in the sellers’ best interest. But you’ll have to have the data to back that up.
3. Communicate effectively
“Future pacing sellers during the listing presentation prepares them for the effects of a potential stale listing and educates them on the process. Keep them motivated with weekly updates, and assist them in thinking like a buyer,” said broker-owner Angela Territo.
“If the listing has been on the market too long, get the sellers involved with a freshening of the property or staging while educating them on how pricing works in the current market.”
Jennifer Murtland of eXp’s Team Synergi agrees. She recommends having a voice-to-voice conversation with sellers at least once per week at minimum — good news, bad news, no news — to let them know what you have done to attract buyers.
“It can be the smallest thing. They just want to know that you are working for them and haven’t forgotten,” she said.
4. Adjust the commission
“We have to be creative in motivating our sellers. Not many agents will consider a shift in commission to draw more traffic to the client’s home,” said Compass agent Erika Leiba. “However, to be successful in real estate, you must always and consistently put your client’s best interest first.”
So why not come up with an incentive for buyer’s agents that’ll increase the number of showings on the sellers’ home?
While this might not be a strategy for all, her reasoning is as follows:
What’s the incentive for a buyer’s agent to show a home with 2 percent commission when he can show one that pays out 3 percent?
Houses that are offer 4 percent compensation on the buyer’s agent side get many times more showings than the 3 percent ones. They sell quicker as well. Don’t lower the price — up the commission.
Now watch how fast the house will sell. More commission is a very good motivator, and teamwork between the agent and the seller is a no-brainer that shows your clients that you care about your sellers more than the money. That’s a win-win for motivation, Leiba said.
Setting appropriate expectations upfront, being transparent along the way and thinking about a variety of strategies should be part of every home sale.
Help your sellers re-engage by coming to them with information and solutions. You just might find that a little communication is all that’s needed to help them move forward.
Christy Murdock Edgar is a Realtor, freelance writer, coach and consultant with Writing Real Estate. She is also a Florida Realtors faculty member. Follow Writing Real Estate on Facebook, Twitter, Instagr