Last week’s team meeting produced an interesting tale of ‘overpricing woe’. The parents of one of my associates listed their house in mid-2006 at $590,000. The inaccurate list price was determined by their real estate agent, and the property sat on market for nearly 2 years, suffering a price drop of almost $200K. By the time my co-worker’s family unloaded the property, they had to settle for only $400,000; this unpleasant situation could’ve been avoided if only it had initially hit the market in the correct price range.
Overpriced listings are, unfortunately, a common practice in real estate. Some agents overprice their listings thinking they have provided themselves with “wiggle room” when it comes time to negotiate. Other agents price too high because they are either in agreement with the seller’s over-inflated valuation, or they are “buying the listing”: an unethical practice I will expound on later in this post.
Overpricing a listing for the sake of “wiggle room” may seem like a good idea, but in the end it will only serve to hamper your selling efforts. High priced homes do not yield as many inquiries as listings that are priced competitively; the lack of offers usually leads to several price reductions and a lengthier term on market, two factors that serve to erode the integrity of your listing. Savvy buyers will shy away from ‘lemons’ that have sat for months on end, only moving in for the kill when the agent has reduced the price by half of its original value.
Sometimes homes are priced too high for no other reason than the agent-seller team is in agreement. The trick in this situation is being able to look at a property objectively, as a buyer would see it. The seller’s viewpoint is obviously biased, but rightfully so since he/she has large sums of money invested in the property. Oftentimes valuations of a home are inflated due to upgrades the seller has performed. Sadly, buyers tend to not see the value in these upgrades, opting instead to modify the home themselves and therefore considering any upgrades the current owner has performed nothing more than the offering that’s on the table. Overpricing your listing based on current homeowner upgrades has the potential to lead to the unpleasant situation where the homeowner realizes that they spent more money on upgrades than they will ever see at the time of closing.
Unethical agents will sometimes attempt what is called “buying the listing”. This happens when the agent enters into a listing presentation with a purposefully over-inflated CMA. Of course, since homeowners oftentimes (through no fault of their own) have inflated valuations of their property, the ‘shady’ CMA aligns with the seller’s wishes and the agent has effectively bought himself a client by knowingly catering to their unawareness. Sometimes agents enter into these situations with the intention of talking down the seller at a later date; this, also, is not a good idea since your initially over-inflated price will undermine any chance the agent has of cashing in on the “New Listing Hype”.
You will get no argument from me that this is a touchy situation. No agent has ever won a listing by strong-arming their clients and ordering them around like green recruits. But, the question becomes: at what point are you catering too much to the seller that you are, in fact, sabotaging the transaction? It is the responsibility of the agent to draw on their industry expertise to protect their clients from low-ball offers, high-priced listings, and any physical harm incurred at the negotiation table. They are not only investing in your expertise, but ultimately placing their future in your hands. It is the duty of the agent to live up to those expectations.