Okay, Miss Smarty-Pants, HOW do you get your sellers on board to get their home ready for market?

Education & Training with Sell with Soul

...and fun was had by all in this week's debate over pricing versus condition versus pricing AND condition. Did you miss it? It's good stuff - check it out at: Any Idiot Can Give Their House Away...

living roomIn the 150+ comments, the question was raised - "So, how do you convince a seller to put some effort into getting his or her house ready for market?" I'd made the claim that at least 90% of my sellers hire my stager and my handyman and almost all spend at least $1000 (of their own money!) prior to going on the market.

Am I just lucky to have intelligent and motivated sellers? Maybe. But I'll give myself more credit than that, although I have to say that every single seller prospect I've spoken with in the last 18 months has brought up the topic of "What do I need to do to the house to get top dollar?" They bring it up first! I spoke with a potential seller just yesterday who doesn't want to sell til next spring, but wants to get started now on home improvement projects! Maybe I am lucky - is this NOT typical of sellers in other markets?

That said, here are a few ways to help a seller see the light, and then do something about it.

First, go in with the assumption that the seller wants to know what it's going to take to get top dollar. Don't pussy-foot around the topic, although it's best if you're polite about it, of course! Like I said, ALL my sellers ask me first, so maybe there's some vibe I send out that inspires them to do so, I don't know. But I will say that if a seller didn't seem interested in preparing his home for market, I probably wouldn't be interested in listing his home. I don't say that to be snotty or arrogant - it's just a fact. I don't want a listing I'm not proud of.

handyBy far the best way to get your sellers to clean up, fix-up and decorate-up is to help them do it. No, you don't have to do it yourself, although I've certainly rolled up my sleeves once or twice or a dozen times. By "help" I mean that you have the human resources on call to Get the Jobs Done. Contractors you know and trust... who know, trust and love you. How anyone sells real estate without a good handyman, stager and cleaning person on board is a mystery to me. When you can walk into a seller's home and confidently say "Yes, that needs to be fixed - we'll put it on the Bob-List," or "Yep, let's get Bob over here to give us an estimate on that," or "No big deal, Bob can fix that," you're golden. Not only are you the hero, but you'll also get yourself a sellable listing.

What I see most agents doing (if they do anything at all) is to give the seller a list of things that need to be done, smile sweetly and leave them to it. Well, that's a recipe for failure. Our sellers are busy people and probably don't know a good handyman, painter, stager or cleaning crew. They'll open up the yellow pages, make a few calls and throw up their hands in despair. I'd do the same thing; in fact, I have when I was selling an out-of-state property and didn't know who to call myself. My Realtor didn't help; I didn't get the work done... and guess what? The house didn't sell. Bummer for us both.

Here's how I handle it.

Seller: "Tell me what I need to do to get ready for market."

Smarty Pants JA: "I see a lot of maintenance and repair issues that really should be dealt with before we go on the market. Let's get Bob over here to give us an estimate. Are you around this Saturday?"

I use the same approach when discussing Staging. Frankly, I suck at decorating and furniture arrangement, but I know bad décor and awkward rooms when I see them. So, I just say "I'm a terrible decorator, but my stager, Geri, is the most wonderful woman you'll ever meet. Give her a call and set up a time to meet. I think she charges $250 for a 3-hour consultation. I promise you - it'll be the best $250 you ever spent." (Here's a news clip of me & Geri in action on one of my listings)

And I believe that. With all my heart. And that's another part of the story - YOU must believe that the first impression and condition and décor matter... and you must trust your resources. If you don't, you'll never be able to sell the concept. I can "sell" staging all day long because I have a great stager and I know it works. I can whole-heartedly bring Bob into my clients' lives because I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that he'll make me proud.

If you don't have a Bob or a Geri, make it among your top priorities to find them. Finding contractor resources is a topic for a different day, but for this day, just know how important it is to your business. I credit Bob and Geri for at least half of my paychecks thru the years. Seriously.

Hope this helps.



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Bob Haywood
McGraw Realtors - Owasso, OK

Hey Jennifer,

I've got a friend calling me about his house at the lake in a community up the road.  Been on the market for over a year.  The town isn't really growing.  Lake market is depressed and the house is dated.  He thinks his real estate guy just isn't getting the job done.  My guess is that it is going to take price to move it. 

What's your opinion in a situation like that?


Jul 03, 2009 01:17 AM #1
Jennifer Allan-Hagedorn
Sell with Soul - Pensacola Beach, FL
Author of Sell with Soul

Bob - The question is... IS THERE A BUYER for this property at any reasonable price? Is anyone looking for this property, at any price? If price IS the issue - that is - it would have sold had it been priced lower, then I'd certainly consider that. But I suspect the pool of buyers is really small, if not non-existent. Is this the case?

Jul 03, 2009 01:29 AM #2
Charlie Ragonesi
AllMountainRealty.com - Big Canoe, GA
Homes - Big Canoe, Jasper, North Georgia Pros

I enjoyed the post . I give them a tier of prices. With and without repairs. Usually the repairs are less than the price I would list for if they were done so they eventually get it. Along with the price i give them the extra time on the market they will spend

Jul 03, 2009 02:25 AM #3
Rick Schwartz
William Raveis Real Estate - Danbury, CT

Hey Jennifer,

What you are saying has, as is typical, tremendous clarity.  Here's what I am struggling with on this subject - and it could simply be that I'm only in my third year of this great job and perhaps more confidence will come over time.

I do know a couple of contractors but my issue is two-fold.

#1. The market being what the market is and myself being somewhat new - I don't have tons of past listings that I can point that will demonstrate how good of a job a certain contractor does.

#2. I had two trainers when I was starting and got two conflicting theories. The first was, as you say- to have a team of vendors available to me who I can call upon as needed.  This makes so much sense to me on a gut level. My "soulfulness"  tells me this is right.

The other trainer cautioned us not to recommend any particular vendor, but to always give 2 or 3 choices.  The issue here being one of moral liability if they don't like the contractor for some reason.

I do work with a great home inspector and recommend him to all my buyers - but on the listing side I give multiple names. Now keep in mind my buyers have far outweighed my listings so I don't really have a track record to determine if I 'm doing it right.

As I think you know about me from past conversations, my goal is to excite and delight the customers beyond their wildest expectations, and clearly bringing in your own great folks goes in that direction but this nagging idea of "what if they don't like the vendor" keeps popping up in my frontal lobe from time to time.

Any advice?









Jul 03, 2009 02:27 AM #4
Jennifer Allan-Hagedorn
Sell with Soul - Pensacola Beach, FL
Author of Sell with Soul

I will state for the record that I always put serving my client ahead of potential liability. So far, it's served me well. Yes, referrals to contractors can go south, but most often they don't, so I'll take my chances. I am truly blessed to have Bob in my life, but he's not the only Bob on the planet - I'll bet there are lots of great handymen out there who would be delighted to be your new best friend.

Finding the right team takes time + trial & error. But it's so worth the effort. Get some good referrals and test-drive 'em in your house. What you're looking for is someone who is personable, calming and yes, reasonably priced.

Don't overthink this stuff.... and don't worry so much about potential negative outcomes.

Keep your comments coming, Rick!

Jul 03, 2009 02:37 AM #5
Jennifer Allan-Hagedorn
Sell with Soul - Pensacola Beach, FL
Author of Sell with Soul

Charlie - I usually tell my sellers that it's likely their house won't sell at all if they don't do the repairs, which is true. And that they'll get far more money for their house than they spent on repairs than if they don't do them. I can't promise what that dollar figure is, because it's hard to put a price on the buyer's emotions, but I can promise it's many times the amount invested.

Jul 03, 2009 02:38 AM #6
Ann Allen Hoover
RE/MAX Advantage South - Hoover, AL
CDPE SRES ASP e-PRO Realtor - Homes for Sale - AL

Jennifer, do you know a Bob and a Geri in the Birmingham area?

Jul 03, 2009 03:21 AM #7
Jennifer Allan-Hagedorn
Sell with Soul - Pensacola Beach, FL
Author of Sell with Soul

Wish I did! But I'm sure they're there...

Jul 03, 2009 04:00 AM #8
Robert Rauf
HomeBridge Financial Services (NJ) - Toms River, NJ

Good afternoon Jennifer!  I think many agents suggest that things be taken care of but are either a little to vague or general about the specific needs, or they do not provide the mechanism to get the work done.  As a RE professional I think agents need to pick out the specifics for each individual home and then hand pick the member of your team to get the stuff done instead of just saying it has to be done.

Jul 03, 2009 04:30 AM #9
Tanya Nouwens
RE/MAX ROYAL (JORDAN) INC. / Tanya Nouwens Inc. www.readysetsold.ca - Montreal West Island, QC
Montreal Real Estate Broker & Stager

Sing it, sister!  I soooo wish you had been in my market the last couple of years. It was so frustrating as a home stager to have so few agents talking to their clients about home staging.

But I took those lemons and made lemonade: I went to school to get my real estate license myself. Now I've got the bull by the horns and can bring home staging to my clients myself, AND reap the rewards with my client when the home sells quickly and for top dollar. And I wouldn't be doing this if I hadn't already seen the great results that staging did for our previous staging clients and THEIR agents.

Happy 4th of July to you! Love your posts...

Jul 03, 2009 04:30 AM #10
Kevin J. May
Florida Supreme Realty - Hobe Sound, FL
Serving the Treasure & Paradise Coasts of Florida

Jennifer, it's the difference between "selling your home" and "putting your home on the market".  My most problematic scenarios are the owner/handyperson or the owner/designer.  The team effort has been an integral part of this business for some time.  Absolutely necessary!

Jul 03, 2009 08:07 AM #11
Bridget Cella
Re/Max Connection - Sewell, NJ
e-Pro, Realtor

I have ahome that is priced according to the market but is not moving.  I did get her to put away a ton of pictures and put on a new roof.  Not even many showings but there are buyers out there!

Maybe I should try to get a home stager out there - i think the property shows well.

Jul 03, 2009 01:40 PM #12
Lisa Hill
Florida Property Experts - Daytona Beach, FL
Daytona Beach Real Estate

"Don't pussy-foot around the topic" AMEN! I get sick of hearing agents hem and haw instead of doing their job. If we're not sure of ourselves... and obviously don't sound sure of ourselves... then why should our clients feel comfortable hiring us?

Jul 03, 2009 05:08 PM #13
Troy Erickson AZ Realtor (602) 295-6807
Good Company Real Estate www.ChandlerRealEstate.weebly.com - Chandler, AZ
Your Chandler, Ahwatukee, and East Valley Realtor

Jennifer - These are very valid points, and something I need to add to my repertoire.  I need a good contractor and stager that I can rely on.

Jul 03, 2009 07:21 PM #14
Jennifer Allan-Hagedorn
Sell with Soul - Pensacola Beach, FL
Author of Sell with Soul

Troy - Get on it, my friend!! It'll change your life.

Lisa - I have no idea. I've seen some pussy-footer agents in action and it's painful to watch.

Bridget - If your listing is priced "in line" with the competition and there's nothing special about it, it won't sell. It needs to be just a little nicer (staging can help with that) or priced a little lower. Is the house vacant or owner-occupied?

Tanya - I started one of the first staging companies in Denver back in the mid-90's, so I know what you mean! But I was also a real estate agent at the time and the investors were swarming, so it was a great fit.

Robert - Yep. That's been my experience. I once co-listed a house with another agent who didn't have the handy-resources I did - he was stunned at how much control I took over the getting-ready process. And I think you heard my story about my agent who just gave me a laundry list of things to do and said to call her when the stuff was done. Stuff didn't get done. House didn't sell.

Jul 03, 2009 11:13 PM #15
Lori Cain
eXp Realty - Tulsa, OK
Midtown Tulsa Real Estate Top Producer

I keep my Preferred Vendor list on my web site . . . repairmen, handy-man, electricians, plumbers, painters, etc. I don't worry about the liability issue either. I have confidence in the people I recommend and they appreciate my referrals.

I recently represented a Buyer and the Listing Associate was new to the business -- she had no clue who to call to get repair estimates. So, I introduced her to my Bob (Gary) and was certain all the repairs were done correctly.

And I just MET a local home stager -- we're working on some houses together next week -- very excited about developing this relationship!

Jul 04, 2009 05:06 AM #16
Lori Kim Polk
Premiere Home Staging : Home Staging Services - Roseville, CA
Home Stager - Roseville, Sacramento

We have a vendor list too and love to refer. Referrals are the lifeblood of our business. I don't know how we would do it without our "Jorge", "Chad", "Laura", "Jon", "Justin", and "Kevin". Working together as a team is one of the best ways to market and prepare homes. Nice post!

Jul 05, 2009 06:35 AM #17
Glenn S. Phillips
Lake Homes Realty - Birmingham, AL
CEO, Lake Homes Realty / LakeHomes.com

Hi Jennifer... good stuff!!  G

P.S. I'll get Ann info on "Bob" for Birmingham!


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Jul 19, 2012 11:42 PM #19
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