Effective Scripts for Tough Love

Learn these tested words to talk to sellers about price reductions, needed fix-ups, and other things they don’t want to hear.

June 1, 2004

You know, in your heart, there is a simple reason why your listing isn’t selling:

  1. The carpet is ugly.
  2. The exterior needs paint.
  3. The lawn is patchy and weedy.
  4. It’s overpriced by $8,000.
  5. It’s all of the above.

Perhaps you told the sellers to fix these things at the beginning of the listing process, but to no avail. And I’m sure at the listing presentation, you provided a comparative market analysis to help them select a realistic price. Now it’s been a few weeks, there have been no offers, and it’s time to approach the sellers about making changes to the price or condition of their home.

If you dread having to tell the sellers that the price is too high or the house is a wreck, read on. With these easy scripts in hand, you won’t find yourself stumbling through your explanation and alienating your clients. The first three scripts will help you convince sellers to reduce their asking price. You’ll notice that all three place the blame for needing a price reduction squarely on the market. It’s not your fault the house isn’t sold, and it isn’t the sellers’ fault. It’s simply the law of supply and demand. The market has indicated there are nicer homes on the market for the money, so it’s time to make a change. Don’t call it a price drop, but rather a price “adjustment.”

Seller Is Priced Over CMA

“We started marketing at what we’ll call the ‘seller’s price,’ the price you hoped to get for your home. We have tried it for three weeks and received no offers. In this case, the market does not agree with this preliminary, or test, price. So now, we need to offer your home at the price the market indicates, which, according to the CMA we prepared earlier for you, is $204,000.”

Home Seems Price Right But Gets No Offers

“The market is telling us we missed the correct price. Usually, when a house doesn’t sell, it’s either priced too high or it’s in poor shape. Your house is in excellent condition so it must be the price that is keeping it from selling. In my experience, a home in good condition that is priced right should have offers made on it within the first two weeks. I’d suggest that we lower the price of your house by XXX and see if we begin to get offers.”

Your Suggested Price Proved Too High

“I am so sorry to have to make this call. It is one of the most difficult parts of my business. But if I didn’t make the call, I wouldn’t be performing my duties, and I wouldn’t be serving you properly. I made the initial listing price recommendation based on how much you said you wanted to get out of your home, but the market is telling us that it’s not the correct price. When can we get together to discuss what adjustments we need to make to the price?”

Conversations about improving the condition of a home can be equally hard to broach. Who wants to tell the sellers their home stinks? Here’s what you can say:

Home Has Odors

“We’ve got a problem to discuss. I know you’re concerned because you haven’t received any offers on your home. I’m afraid the reason is that your house has odors. Smell has a very big impact on people psychologically. Even minor odors can put people off. It could be cooking odors, smoking odors, or pet odors, but if prospects don’t like the way a house smells, they’re not going to buy it. Let’s talk about what we could do to make your home smell wonderful.”

Fix-Ups Needed

“It’s a tough market out there, and buyers can afford to be particular. Since we’re not getting offers, I think it’s the condition of the house that’s a problem. For example, we really need to replace this carpeting. It looks shabby and distracts buyers from the true value of your home. Instead, buyers perceive that the home is worth less than we know it is. I want to help you preserve value and get the money you want for this house so we’re also going to have to do some repainting and a few other jobs. Let’s walk through your home together and make a list of any other items we need to take care of. Will you jot them down?” (When you review the list with them later, say, “Don’t you agree that doing these items will enhance your property’s perceived value?”)

To Compete Against New Construction

“In today’s market, people want turnkey homes. Both husband and wife are working, and they are going to spend as much money as they can afford purchasing their home. They won’t have the extra money to redo it. That’s why it’s sometimes harder for an existing home to compete against new construction. Our market analysis says your pricing is correct, provided your home is in very good condition. But to get it in top condition, you need to make some improvements. If your home is less than top-notch in appearance, you can expect the buyers to demand a discount. My goal is to get top dollar by conditioning your home for sale. So let’s talk about how we can get your home in best condition possible.”

As with any script, the more you practice, the better you become at presenting these tough opinions to sellers. Try the scripts out on your spouse, your kids, or in front of the mirror before you try them on your clients. Become comfortable with these scripts, and you’ll never be at a loss for words when you need to ask sellers for needed changes on your next listing.

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