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Giving Sellers a To Do List

Giving Sellers a To Do List

Delivering the Bad News

Isn’t it more enjoyable when you get to deliver the good news? “Full price offer for your home with no contingencies!” Those conversations are the best and usually the easiest ones to have.

Many times when you are hired to do the job of marketing and selling a home, you have some bad news that must be delivered. I’m talking about the bad news when you wish you could just state the obvious, “Your home is a pig sty. Clean it up.”

Ain’t no Replacin’ Honesty

Honesty is always the best policy. When hired as a Seller’s Real Estate Agent, you are hired to be a professional lacking nothing when it comes to honesty. It will not be in anyone’s best interest to have a house that sits on the market because an agent wasn’t willing to advise the sellers of what needs to be done before the house hits the market.

Prepare for the Worst

Depending on the client, sometimes it helps to set them up first, “I’m getting ready to deliver some news that will be hard to hear. I realize this is your home, but I’m here to tell you what needs to be done to not only be a house for sale – but get it sold.” Most recently, I joked around and used Twitter, “At seller’s house for my inspection before listing….he says ‘Don’t be rough’ Think I should be?” (Then I text messaged my seller to read it). He responded @KimWood do your worst! I’m sure he can take it. (It was my way of setting him up.)

The List Delivered

When you go over each item, don’t fluff anything – be honest and straightforward based on facts.

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  • The front door needs a face-lift, why don’t you throw on a coat of paint and get new hardware.
  • It is difficult to look at the house with all of the ‘stuff’. You might consider getting a storage unit and filling it. Keep what you need for a temporary vacation home.
  • I love to see your family pictures and the memories you’ve made here. If you want to leave one or two, that is fine, otherwise, they all need to be put away.
  • You may want to hire a professional carpet cleaner, if they can not get all of the high traffic stains out – I’d recommend replacing it.
  • There is a basement odor, I know you keep the litterboxes down there. Strong scents whether good or bad are a major ‘turn off’ for buyers. It needs to be neutralized.
  • I’m sure you probably haven’t noticed it anymore, but all of the doors having holes from being kicked in speaks to a buyer, “needs work”, it’s worth it to replace them.

Keep it Respectful

Whatever issues need to be addressed in order to sell the home under the provisions the seller desires (time, money, condition) it is the real estate agent’s responsibility to communicate the issues honestly whether it is hard or not. Just tell it how it is with respect and professionalism.

image courtesy of flickr

Written By

Kim resides and works selling Real Estate in Chester County, PA. She is a blogger and also writes for her own blog, West of Philly Burbs and Mothers Fighting for Others. Kim is a Social Networking Junkie and you can connect with her in many places including Twitter, Facebook, or Flickr.



  1. Steve Beam

    November 5, 2008 at 6:11 pm

    Honesty is the best policy. I’ve lost only a few clients over the years for being honest about the work their homes needed. Sellers that don’t want to make improvements are usually the ones that want top dollar too.

  2. Vicki Moore

    November 5, 2008 at 6:30 pm

    Oh man. I’ve – as I’m sure others – have had tough conversations about cat boxes, smokers and dirty toilets. It’s a tough job sometimes. I like to get the bad news delivered immediately – before my stomach turns into knots and I have to spend the afternoon in the bathroom – oh well, probably TMI there. LOL.

  3. Lisa Sanderson

    November 5, 2008 at 6:54 pm

    I’m interested to hear how & when people deliver this news. Do you actually type out a checklist and go over with them in person? Email it to them? Hand-write notes on your tablet as you go through the house and then tear off the sheet and say ‘have fun!’ ? Is it part of the cma? I’ve done all of these things at one time or another and wonder what people find to be most effective.

  4. Missy Caulk

    November 5, 2008 at 9:32 pm

    Kim, most people ask, what can we do or when I am walking through with them they will say “we’re getting rid of this” or something.

    If a house needs to be staged to sell then I tell them, and I have no problem with it.

  5. Vicki Moore

    November 5, 2008 at 9:42 pm

    I go through the house talking to them, explaining why and how much better it will look, then prepare a list. I ask if they want to take care of the list or would they rather I make arrangements to have it done. Then I check in with them to see how the list is going to make sure we’re following the time line.

    I try to be diplomatic but if they don’t get the soft approach, I have told people: Look, it stinks in here. Sometimes it’s the only way they’ll hear it.

  6. Jill Wente

    November 6, 2008 at 12:43 pm

    Kim: I get my sellers ready by telling them that right now you are living in your home but as soon as we put your home on the market it becomes a product. And as a product, it needs to look and smell its best so that buyers choose your product over the other products. It usually works and takes some of the “oh, she does not like my stuff or she thinks my house is a wreck”

    When we get feedback from other agents saying that their house looks like a model home they love it.

  7. Steve Simon

    November 7, 2008 at 6:01 am

    This is the toughest area of the entire process. Having been a seller a number of times and a licensee for over 20 years I know the dialogue well. I think the lists needs to include only the items of highest priority. To include “Staging” in with a list of musts for sellers is in my opinion not appropriate. Staging should be saved for the most cooperative sellers that have already complied with the high priority items. Just my thoughts:)

  8. Daytona Beach Real Estate

    November 7, 2008 at 2:27 pm

    It is sometimes difficult to communicate with the seller. But, I have found, that by putting a lot of extra effort into making the house presentable, marketing the house and explaining the process to the owner, they usually jump on board and begin to understand how important every aspect of the house really is.

  9. Kay Baker Wilmington NC Real Estate

    November 7, 2008 at 2:30 pm

    Kim, I could not agree with you more. There is no substitute for being honest in this business.

  10. Derec Shuler

    November 11, 2008 at 11:37 pm

    Our company has a design consultant come through all the listings and give them a report. It saves us the trouble of being the bad guy since it’s from an “objective” third party.

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