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Show Sellers You Care With Honesty

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A Remarkable Record

A client recently shared a story with me about her real estate agent while I was picking up things from her sold home.  She was so excited and pleased with her agent that her house had sold the first day at over full price with a backup offer coming in two days later.  We talked about how, in my experience, this agent has a remarkable record for getting much the same results for virtually all of the clients he works with.

She told me how much she loved working with him and respected him then added, “Please don’t tell him this, but when one of my friends heard I was working with him she could not believe it!”  I asked her why and she explained that her friend had interviewed him for her own home and was angry and shocked that he told her she needed to clean up her house and get it ready for market.  She was appalled that anyone would have the nerve to criticize her home.

An Affinity For Collections

My client continued to explain that her friend went on to interview three different agents, one of whom absolutely loved her house which was filled with several collectibles and was a showcase of her very extended family.  In fact, the third agent loved it so much she spent three hours at her home admiring her collections and told her she would not change a thing and to put it on the market that very day.  Well, of course her friend was quite reassured to know that her personal style and somewhat crowded home was perfect for marketing a home for sale, so she listed with the last agent.  The extra bonus was this agent even felt her home was worth more than any other agent had thought.

As you might have already guessed, although the friend’s house was listed first, her friend’s house has not sold.  Now don’t misunderstand, my client was not thrilled when the first agent came in and told her there was work to be done before he would list her house, but she appreciated his honesty and once he pointed out the types of things that buyers could see as negatives, she understood how her home could be made more marketable.  She also recognized that because of his knowledge of the area her home was located in, when he explained the difference between what people were asking for their homes compared to what they were actually selling for, she could see what a realistic listing price should be.  Judging by the first day on market sale, his recommendations were correct.

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It’s a Business Matter

At the end of the day, the seller who may have had a couple feelings hurt up front is the one who ends up loving their agent.  Suggesting that a home be properly prepared for sale is not a personal attack.  It is a business matter; the business of getting a home sold quickly and for the price desired.  Pricing the home to attract the right buyers from the start will draw the most attention making the hard work and investment in staging profitable.  I have a feeling this client’s friend just might be having a change of heart pretty soon and will be rethinking her decision on which agent was really looking to represent her best interests.

Written By

Nickie is the founder of and She is a certified IBE Healthy Home Practitioner, Certified Usui Reiki Practitioner and Feng Shui Consultant. She has lived on both coasts (as well as in the gorgeous Rocky Mountains of Colorado) of the US and currently calls Los Angeles home. You can find her in plenty of spots in the online world and should you happen to catch her at home, she will probably make you something yummy!



  1. Julie Emery

    August 21, 2008 at 12:44 pm

    I know I’m losing listings these days because they don’t like what I’m telling them about pricing. I’m OK with that. I heard a long time ago that you should ask sellers up front for permission to be honest with them about their home. So, I always ask. That doesn’t mean they don’t still sometimes get offended. But after I’ve explained why I need to do that, I think there’s a somewhat better chance that they’ll be able to hear what I have to say.

  2. Chris Shouse

    August 21, 2008 at 12:46 pm

    What a great story and sometimes you lose a listing when you are honest but at least you know your reputation is in tact and at some point people will look back and say I should have listened.

  3. Todd Waller

    August 21, 2008 at 12:58 pm


    Good news for you is that as your market place gets even more bombarded with “bad” real estate news, it becomes easier to talk about price. Here in the Ann Arbor area, the question isn’t, “How much can we get for the house?” it is, “Ok, how bad is it going to be?”

    And permission based presentations are great! Keep it up.


    After all, real estate agents are hired to assist a consumer in purchasing or, in this case, selling a property. In a market where prices are descending, price and condition are the two biggies. If you’ve got one but not the other, a sale may happen eventually. Get the two right up front and the property will sell!

  4. Julie Emery

    August 21, 2008 at 1:02 pm


    My experience has been that while they may look back and say that to themselves, they almost never call me and say it! Pride seems to get in the way. I’ve been trying to figure out how to diffuse that up front so that they feel able to call me when they get to that point. But I’m not sure that’s always achieveable. If someone else has found a good way to set that up, I’d love to hear about it!

  5. Mark Eckenrode

    August 21, 2008 at 1:23 pm

    @todd: liking the “permission based presentations”

    it’s the whole “don’t call my baby ugly” bit… but by asking permission first, you soften the weight of the critical assessment that follows

    oftentimes, you can soften the blow by giving a fancy name/title to your feedback. for example, i do a “Marketing Audit”… the term “audit” communicates that this is serious, professional feedback i’m providing and that some of the feedback may not be pretty but, in the end, it’s all for their benefit.

    asking permission and using titles/names help frame perceptions from the get-go. that’s the whole key…

  6. Todd Waller

    August 21, 2008 at 1:29 pm

    @mark: thanks! In combination with the permission based presentation, I have found that the added touches of professionalism go a long way too; like an agenda for the presentation.

    “Mr and Mrs. Seller your time is valuable and I would not want to waste it. To assist us in coming to a meeting of the minds, I have drawn up an agenda that will help us stay on track, answer your questions and come to a decision.” Then briefly address each point on agenda (no more than 6 points).

    Couple that with your “Marketing Audit” (will have to use that term now) and the presentation feels even more professional.

    FTW – Mark Eckenrode 😉

  7. Paula Henry

    August 21, 2008 at 4:51 pm

    Nickie – Couldn’t have said it better! I would much rather lose the listing than try to market a home which is not ready for the market. All the listings I have sold this tear were clean, staged and priced right from the beginning. (or short sales) 🙂 You have to set the stage for buyers from the start. and…….sellers need to know how buyers are reacting according to CURRENT market conditions.

  8. Fred Carver

    August 21, 2008 at 7:19 pm

    Hi Nickie…Great post..You hit the Naill right on the Head..with a shift in our market place, I too have lost recent listings due to pricing or Seller preception on what Buyers want. I find Motivation is a key factor when discussing pricing and getting a home ready to list and sell. Even in our Slowing market my motivated sellers say “Fred…are you sure we’re low enough and I’ve done enough to be ready”, that sellers home Sold in two days with three offers, selling $13,000 over asking in a Buyers Market.Another in 4 Days. I just checked and the homes I did not get the listings on over the last month, are still for sale.

    Once again Great Post, thanks for sharing your story. I’d love to mail this to every possible home seller or give it to them in my pre listing package and have this story on my Blog and web sites..keep them coming!

  9. Elaine Reese

    August 21, 2008 at 7:46 pm

    Like Paula, I won’t take a listing that doesn’t agree to make it presentable. I “try” to soften the blow (if needed) by using a retail store as an example. There are lots of products on the shelves and we’re going to place their HOUSE (not home) on one of those shelves, yada, yada. I also might use their car as an example in that they usually clean out the french fries and dirty socks before they take it to the dealer to try to negotiate top dollar. I’ve found those two examples allow them to begin to think in terms of their “house” as a product. That helps remove some of the emotional aspect.

  10. Nickie Rothwell

    August 21, 2008 at 9:36 pm

    Everybody has such great ideas!

    It can be tough talking to sellers about what needs to be done, but more and more, it is becoming the norm. I think that coming to the listing presentation with before and after pictures of your sold listings is another thing that makes it easier. Your new client can see for themselves that it isn’t just them that need to make some changes for market, it is every home.

    Showing them a previous “winner” can help them understand and even get excited, especially if it has a great “Sold” story to back it up.

    Thanks so much for sharing all your great ideas too!

  11. Chris Powell

    August 25, 2008 at 11:33 am

    I find that if I replace some of the words I use when suggesting things to a client, it becomes much easier for them to hear what I am saying. For example, I use “we” instead of “you”.And I use “the home” instead of “your home” As in “we need to make some changes to the home”. I think that this immediately help the client start to “disconnect” from the home and think of it simply as an object to prepare to sell. I also use the term”the market” instead of “I”. As in “the market is telling us that the price should be”. I find that this approach takes any personal feelings off the table because it’s very hard for them to get mad at “the market”.

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