I’ve been selling residential real estate in Los Altos and the surrounding communities since 1994. Most of the time when I’m representing a buyer, I don’t talk directly to the owner. I talk with the listing agent, who in turn talks with his/her seller client. However, every once in a while you run into a home being sold by owner or by agent-owner. This is can be a less than ideal situation for all parties involved.
It is totally understandable that seller-agents want to sell their own home. I’ve done it myself – once. Why would I pay someone else to sell my home? After all, that’s what I do for a living. I know the real estate market. I know the comparable properties. I know the neighborhoods and what buyers like. Lastly, I know my home like no other agent could. And that is where the problems begin.
Dealing with for-sale-by-owners is difficult enough, but dealing with one who also is a real estate agent can be extremely difficult for the following five reasons:
1. Agent-owners lack the objectivity to view their home as a buyer would. That rust colored shag carpet does not make the home retro and worth more. Rather, it makes it look old and tired and worth less. Successful home sellers understand the need to look at the home through the eyes of a buyer.
2. Agent-owners think the price they paid for their home is related to its current value. Too often agent-owners behave like traditional home sellers. Even though they know there is no cause and effect relationship, agent-owners believe (or hope) that their home is worth more than the amount they paid for it. Hello, just because you paid $$$ for the home, doesn’t make it worth $$$ plus $. This is especially true in today’s real estate climate. Current market conditions determine a home’s current market value. In a buyer’s eyes, your ownership does not add or detract value from the home.
3. Agent-owners can be irrational. This usually becomes apparent during negotiations. Comparable homes sales are just that, comparable. Agent-owners use comparable home sales when establishing market value for their client’s homes. Yet this same process gets skewed when they are dealing with their own home. I love it when you go over comparable sales with agent-owners, they invariably believe that their home is worth more because it has “potential.” Hello, ground control to agent Tom, potential means nothing! Look at the numbers.
4. Agent-owners sometimes throw ethics out the window when they are dealing with others on the sale of their own home. Is this intentional? No, but it happens. Do they fill out the disclosure documents thoroughly or is some information lacking? Agent-owners understand the process of selling a home, yet often disregard these processes. For example, an agent-owner may tell agents that offers will be looked at “as they come in.” Then when only one offer is presented, they change the rules and tell the real estate community that they are holding off looking at offers until a certain date in the future. Meanwhile they “shop” the original offer to interested buyers and their agents. Changing the rules midstream usually bites the agent-owner in the backside by scaring off solid buyers and their agents. Unlike when a traditional home seller enlists a Realtor to sell their home, there is no second pair of eyes to oversee the process when an agent-owner sells his/her home.
5. Agent-owners can scare off potential homeowners with their “over-exuberance.” Ever go to an open house hosted by the owner? That owner follows you around, pointing out everything they like about the property. Kind of irritating. Agent-owners do this to the “Nth” degree. They’ll meet you at the door, want you to “sign-in” and then walk two feet behind you pointing out the lovely fireplace mantle and how much it means to them. C-r-e-e-p-y! Back off and let the buyers take a look at the house at their own pace.
It really comes down to the fact that anyone selling their own house can be far too emotionally invested in the home to make good real estate decisions. There is no objective filter, no second pair of eyes. That is one of the benefits of hiring a Realtor to sell your house. A Realtor will look at things objectively and give you the perspective needed to achieve your real estate goals.