Beth Franken is a writer, editor, and associate broker with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices in Oak Park, Illinois.
Help Sellers Get Off the Dime
When clients resist advice, show them more options to move forward.
January 18, 2017
Sometimes, sellers get in their own way. Maybe they refuse to lower the price of their home, even when a lack of showings offers a clear sign the asking price is too high. They might resist staging, arguing they can make their home show-ready on their own, or push back against making a needed repair. When sellers get hung up on such issues, they delay their ultimate goal to reach the closing table. So what can you do to make clients see the big picture and keep their home sale on track? Try these five methods to help sellers get unstuck.
Show them where to get a second opinion. Provide your clients with referrals to professionals who can address their specific concerns. “If they’re worried about decluttering or repainting, there are people who specialize in that,” says Kristi Weinstock, sales associate with Coldwell Banker Burnet in Excelsior, Minn. “I can help by giving them information.” Sending your clients to people who can corroborate your advice will also build trust, and sellers may be less apt to question your suggestions moving forward. Have a list of three painters or three handymen available to give your sellers options.
Present the math. Sellers often struggle with decisions concerning how to price their home and timing for a potential price reduction. This difficulty can usually be addressed in a thorough market analysis. “Most people want the facts behind our suggestions,” Weinstock says. “If we’re all looking at the same facts, that makes it much easier to come to a common conclusion.”
A smart tip for how to present financial information is to “boil it down to an Excel spreadsheet,” says Pat Slechta, sales associate with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Duxbury, Mass. “Then it’s just numbers. You can’t argue with that.” She sorts data on home features, assessed value, list price, sale price, price per square foot, and days on market for all her active, pending, and sold listings. This data helped her recently with a seller whose home bordered a major thoroughfare. She used the spreadsheet to point out listings in the neighborhood and show a price difference between homes that were near busy streets and homes that weren’t. “You’re putting the data into a format that tells a story,” she says. “It’s a good sanity check and a way to confirm the case I’ve built.”
Such information can prepare your clients up front, says Darren Kostival, sales associate with RE/MAX of Reading in Wyomissing, Pa. The best way to help sellers avoid paralysis over pricing is to make your suggestion and then let the sellers decide. “I tell clients, ‘I’m willing to try any price you want. Just know that in three weeks, if we have no activity, we’ll need to drop the price,’ ” Kostival says. When you put that idea out there right off the bat, it can grease the wheels for the whole process.
Allow for time to reconsider. Whatever the seller’s issue is, “sometimes, people just need to sleep on it,” says Alisa Cunningham, sales associate with Teles Properties in Beverly Hills, Calif. When she senses a client is at an impasse, she’ll say, “You know what? Nothing will happen right away. Let’s talk tomorrow.” Remember, Cunningham warns, that while real estate professionals sell houses every day, homeowners might do so once or twice in their lifetime and need time to process their decisions.
However, “you can’t give the seller too much time,” Slechta says, particularly when the seller is contemplating a counteroffer to a buyer. “You can’t take forever. The longer the time frame, the more opportunities there are for the deal to fall apart. I usually say, ‘Take an hour, talk to your spouse, and get back to me.’ ”
Uncover underlying emotions. When sellers resist a buyer’s request, they often use a vague argument like “It’s the principle of the thing.” There’s almost always an underlying factor behind such opposition—and it’s often about money. Slechta encountered a seller who was unwilling “on principle” to fix a tub that wasn’t draining properly, and the buyer threatened to walk if she didn’t. Slechta was able to determine that the seller’s resistance was fueled by the resentment she was already feeling over having agreed to allow the buyer to move in early. The seller felt she had already “given something away” and didn’t want to make any more concessions. The buyer’s concern was that the drain would grow into a more expensive problem. In the end, it turned out to be a $150 repair, and Slechta convinced her seller she could easily absorb the cost and keep the deal on track.
Validate sellers’ fears. Cunningham recalls a client who was selling her home in an area populated with horse farms. The best offer came from a buyer who planned to tear down the barn on the property. Cunningham’s client couldn’t bear the thought and wanted to pull out of the deal. In situations like that, “you can’t say, ‘You can get over that,’ ” Cunningham says. She didn’t try to talk her client out of her feelings, which usually breeds resentment, she says. Instead, she helped the seller refocus on her ultimate goal, which was getting a good price for her home.
Whatever sellers might be hung up on, it’s helpful to try to refocus their attention away from the immediate hurdle they’re stuck on so they can view the transaction as a whole. You can’t achieve that by convincing them their issue isn’t worth worrying about, Cunningham says. You do it by showing them another avenue to their final goal. “I don’t fight them,” she says. “I give them their options. It’s a matter of figuring out how to change the energy and help them work through it.”