The Real Deal / A home seller's biggest mistake
Homeowners who are about to put their property up for sale will often interview several agents before selecting one to represent them. This is a good practice that can help you get educated about the selling process, understand the differences between services offered by various real estate companies and get a feel for the agents' personal styles and the approaches they would use to get your house sold.
During this process, you may receive a wide range of opinions about the likely sale price your property will bring and what, if anything, needs to be done to prepare your house for sale. In some cases, the advice you get from various agents may be startlingly different. Usually, however, one agent's take on the subject will ring more true than that of the others.
The worst mistake that sellers make is not hiring that agent.
You might ask, why would this happen? After all, most people would not deliberately hire the second-best doctor, attorney or financial advisor -- or plumber, roofing contractor or landscaping service for that matter -- if they felt someone else would do a better job for the same price.
Alas, this logic often does not apply when it comes to real estate agents. Many argue that real estate is not rocket science. If you frequent open houses, read the property transfers and the local and national real estate press, this argument goes, you can quickly become an armchair expert. In fact, there are quite a few people out there who would never question their doctor's or plumber's but believe they know more than anyone with a real estate license.
For these sellers, the agent selected is the one who tells them what they want to hear instead of the one who tells them the truth.
Usually this has to do with the agent's estimate of how much your property is worth. An unrealistically high price may be given on purpose in an attempt to "buy" your listing Or, it may simply be ill-conceived by an agent for whom pricing is not a strong suit.
Or it may have to do with the preparations necessary to prepare your house for sale. The agent who tells you the truth may recommend pulling up carpets, putting furniture in storage, repainting your navy blue kitchen, power washing the exterior of your house and upgrading your foundation plantings before listing.
Let's say this is extremely sound advice. However, because you don't want to do all this work, you may instead hire the agent who tells you your house looks great exactly as is.
In either case, hiring the agent who tells you what you want to hear often will backfire on you in the end because today's savvy buyers will not overpay -- especially in down markets like the ones we are currently living through in Westport and Weston.
Most sellers who make this mistake eventually become dissatisfied with the agents who told them what they wanted to hear. And many who stick it out with those agents, gradually lowering the price to where it should have been from the start -- and/or making needed cosmetic changes midstream during the listing period -- will regret it in the end. Especially when they realize they have unwittingly rewarded the agent who knowingly or unknowingly gave them bad advice.
The bottom line is that everyone wants to think their house is special, different, the exception to the rule. Agents who tell sellers the truth, and who thought they had a great meeting with a potential seller, often learn that the listing has been given to someone else -- to a competitor who "has confidence in" or "believes in" the house more than the truthful agent appeared to do. This is particularly frustrating in light of how the story usually plays out.
Despite this, agents who tell you the truth never regret doing so. These professionals can predict with exceptional accuracy the price at which your house will sell -- as well as the cosmetic changes necessary to get your house chosen instead of others on the market. Sellers who follow the advice of these Realtors are usually rewarded with a stress-free sale at the highest possible price in the shortest possible time -- even in a buyer's market.
Evi Coghlan's "The Real Deal" appears every other Friday. She is a licensed real estate agent with the Riverside Avenue office of Coldwell Banker and a former marketing consultant to Fortune 100 companies. She may be reached at 203-247-6691, by emailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visiting www.evicoghlan.com.