Honest Harry Gets the Job Done

With little to showcase, sales associate Harry Ackley decided to tell the brutal truth about his unmarketable listing in Plymouth, Mich., and his peers liked the approach.

March 1, 2008

Location: Plymouth, Mich.
Square footage: 704 square feet
Lot size: 7,695 square feet
Bedrooms: 2
Bathrooms: 1
Year built: 1941
Extras: “Not much to speak of.”

THE CHALLENGE:When Harry Ackley, a sales associate with Coldwell Banker Schweitzer-Bake Real Estate in Plymouth, Mich., secured a listing from a former client in March 2004, he was worried how he was even going to get people to view the property. “The house was a complete disaster,” Ackley recalls. “Just saying, ‘fixer-upper’ or ‘handyman special’ was not going to get it done. I needed to do something drastic to sell this one.”

How did you overcome the challenge?

ACKLEY: There was no point trying to cover up anything, so I didn’t try. In the listing’s public remarks section, I wrote: “The bottom of the barrel! I have avoided listing this one as long as possible, since it will take a miracle to sell. Sure, it has two bedrooms, one bathroom, and an oversized lot in a desirable Plymouth neighborhood. But beyond this, there’s nothing else that’s positive.”

I asked and received permission from the seller before I wrote the remarks, mind you, but I just went with the brutal truth. It sounds crazy, I know, but I received so many calls from real estate professionals, far and wide, who said they wished they could be as honest in their remarks as I was.

Many of them took the listing to their weekly marketing meetings and brought it to their colleagues’ attention. Someone in my office even framed the remarks. It’s hanging on my office wall.

What was the selling price?

ACKLEY: The property listed for $119,900 in March 2004 and sold for $112,500 in April 2004. It was only on the market for 17 days. We closed May 4, 2004.

How did you get the listing?

ACKLEY: The sellers were past clients. I told them that we needed to do something special to get people in to see this property — their primary residence — and they totally agreed. The sellers thought it was an excellent idea. They also had a pretty good sense of humor about the whole thing.

How much did you spend marketing the home?

ACKLEY: Since I only listed the property in the MLS, I would say that I spent less than $100.

How many times did you show the property?

ACKLEY: I showed the home about 15 times.

How did you find a buyer?

ACKLEY: The buyer, a handyman looking for a fixer he could live in, came to me through the MLS.

What do you attribute to closing the deal so quickly?

ACKLEY: Being brutally honest and pricing the home properly were key to the fast sale.

What was your closed sales volume last year?

ACKLEY: I am part of the Chris Knight Team, and we closed about $60 million last year.

How did you get started in real estate?

ACKLEY: I started selling real estate full time in 1991. Before that, I was owner and president of a construction company in Michigan.

Do you have a specialty or niche?

ACKLEY: I do both residential and commercial real estate and deal with a lot of developers.

What lessons did you learn from this transaction?

ACKLEY: I learned to be creative and honest in my marketing. I read some of the remarks sales professionals put in the MLS, but when you go to the property, the house is nothing like the picture painted in the remarks. It just doesn’t make sense. So I think it is better to just be honest from the start.