Ignoring My Own Advice: A Realtor's Tale of Buying and Selling Her Personal Residence

Real Estate Agent with Prudential Northeast Properties

Last month, my husband and I put our condo on the market (my first place... *tear*), and now that it is under contract we are looking for house #2.  The process has made me do a lot of thinking, particularly about the stark differences in my personal real estate decision-making process and that of my clients. 

I have a hunch that I can't be the only Realtor who has experienced this.  Can you relate?


My Advice:  Don't over-improve your home - you won't get your money back.

Client Behavior:  They allow me to work with what they have through staging and professional photography to accentuate the positive and maximize their profit.  Smart.

Personal Behavior:  I could have ultimately gotten a higher price for my condo before putting in a new patio if I had listed it during the tax credit craze, but would have been embarrassed for my fellow brokers to see my outdoor living area looking less than perfect.  So I waited until it was done (the patio and the tax credit), and absolutely won't get the money back.  Makes no sense, but feels right.


My Advice:  Tie up the house first, but be sure to load the contract up with inspection contingencies.  And you should definitely test for radon, and mitigate if necessary - it's a known carcinogen.

Client Behavior:  We always inspect, test, and on top of other inspection issues always ask for the full radon system, which often becomes a deal breaker between buyer and seller.  To keep transactions from falling apart, I've contributed to the purchase of more of those systems than I care to admit.

Personal behavior:  When I purchased my condo five years ago, I did a general building inspection, but never tested for radon or anything else.  This time, if we buy an existing home, I plan to have a builder I trust look at the house before making an offer so that I have a general idea of the cost to bring the house up to my standards.  Then we'll make the offer contingency-free to secure the best possible price. 


My Advice:  Take your time shopping for homes - after all, you'll probably be there for a long time.  You'll know when you've found "the one."

Client Behavior:  Some find "the one" right away and jump on it; others exhibit a real hesitation to make an offer even when a house meets all of their needs and wants.  Lately, most buyers are falling into camp #2.  Rates are low, but there's a feeling that they'll probably stay in the 4% range for a while and that prices may fall further. 

My Behavior:  Bid early and bid often!  Worried about prices falling?  Not really, as we've seen marginal increases locally... but if so, bid low.   And for me, there's no such thing as "the" one - just a lot of options, each offering its own unique potential.


I could go on and on, but won't.  Instead, I look forward to reading your comments and experiences.  From conversations with other Realtors, I've been hearing that most of us are so comfortable with the buying and selling process that we're willing to take risks that we wouldn't (and shouldn't) advise our clients to take.  We also may just have more risk tolerance in general - after all, we are working on 100% commission in a volatile economic environment.  Some would call us crazy; I would just call us confident. 


Comments (9)

AmeriFirst Winston-Salem
AmeriFirst Financial (Winston-Salem, NC) - Winston-Salem, NC

"My Advice:  Take your time shopping for homes - after all, you'll probably be there for a long time.  You'll know when you've found "the one."


Good post, Michelle, about this point.  We all have to remember that we see many, many more transactions than any normal buyer may in their entire lives.  This gives us the advantage of perspective of what is and is not a big problem.  (Price, selection, condition, etc)

Our clients, with their limited real estate experience, become victim to both being over eager and also slow.  The movement in rates up over the last month hurt buyers' buying power a lot more than that dinkering over the $5,000 price reduction.

It's refreshing to see someone openly admit that sometimes despite the wisdom of all the advice you listed... our clients are often ruled by their own gut feelings and emotions -- right or wrong.  We can continue to give them good advice though and hope that it breaks through the haze.  :)

Thanks for your post.  Merry Christmas to you and husband as you look for a new place.  


Dec 22, 2010 08:20 AM
Allison Stewart
St.Cloud Homes - Saint Cloud, FL
St. Cloud Fl Realtor, Osceola County Real Estate 407-616-9904

Michele- I enjoyed your post.  I think you have a very good outlook on what you did versus the the advise you give professionalluy to your clients. But when it comes to your personal living space, making those improvements and taking advantage of the tax credits that were available at the time does have a value not measured in dollar...that being enjoyment. :)

Dec 23, 2010 01:53 AM
Raiza Schwartz
West USA Realty - Ahwatukee, AZ

I found your post amusing and honest.  It's funny how we expect and tell our buyers and sellers what to do and then we fail to follow our own advice.

Great Post!

Dec 23, 2010 04:55 AM
JoAnn Moncure
YWGC Realty - Towson, MD

Hi Michelle--

loved your post~~all very true.  I went thru the same process about 2 years ago~~  I sold my townhouse that was way-over-improved  ---agree with you about not wanting to be embarrassed showing a less-than-perfect home-----even worse for me, I am an architect as well as a realtor, so the pressure to do good work is even greater!)  So I  lost a chunk of money on the sale, and the buyer got a great deal.    However, I more than made up the loss, on the new purchase.  Agree with you about not needing to find "the one"--- there are always tons of options, and each does offer their own unique opportunities.....  if you are like me, you'll buy, fix up, and then start looking again in a few years.   Nice homes in great locations always sell, even in this tough market. 

The lesson we need to be imparting to our buyers is the obvious one:  if moving UP the ladder, it's a fantastic time to buy.  There are deals everywhere.  Rates are great.   You may lose $$$ on the sale of the current home, but you'll more than make up for it on the next purchase.   One has to look at the BIG picture.  

Since we realtors do this every day,  we are much better prepared mentally to get into the game of real estate~~ and therefore are more prone to do things "our way" vs. protecting our clients with cautionary tales.  We have internalized all the lessons we preach, yet we act emotionally and sometimes make rash decisions.   But in the end you hopefully got where you wanted to go (and hopefully got a great deal!)

You sound like a wonderful realtor, and I hope you have found a nice house!  Let me know if you need any free architectural advice :-)    Happy New Year and best of luck to you in 2011!


Dec 28, 2010 02:47 AM
Carri Brown
McCall Montgomery Real Estate - Baton Rouge, LA

I have always felt it is easier to give advide than take it.  AHHH HAHHH moment for you that you realized it.  Great post, and good luck in 2011

Dec 30, 2010 02:14 AM
Michelle Finnamore
Toronto GTA, Alliston, Newmarket - Vaughan, ON
Preparing your property for sale

Hi Michelle, this is a great story. I stage homes and have to go through the same process that I tell my clients. It's not easy, I am just as attached to my home as my clients are.

When I am out looking at new homes I fall in love with each one as I have a construction background and know how I could make the house look with just a few changes.I still get each house inspected to be sure I know what I am getting into before I plunk my money down.

I'm working with a very experienced sales rep right now that is selling his own home. He has invited me out twice to let him know what to do to stage the home to appeal to a younger family that is typically mvoing into his 25 year old neighbourhood. After two months on the market and no offers he is finally going to stage the house as suggested and relist the house in January. See, it happens to the best of us!


Jan 01, 2011 08:24 AM
Nick Dailey
RE/MAX Affiliates - Union, KY
RE/MAX: Northern Kentucky Real Estate - NKY MLS - Short Sale

I always like buying and selling for myself because it reminds me just what our clients are going through.

Jan 03, 2011 02:17 AM
Alyce Martin
The Realty Group, LLC - Albuquerque, NM
Albuquerque - THE Place To Be!

Michelle - You sound like a great Realtor and selling your diggs will give you even more insight into your client's sense of reality.  I wouldn't worry too much about that deck - we're supposed to be the experts (!) so I'd probably do the same thing as well.  I'd rather eat the expense than be embarrassed.  Aren't we a funny group?

Jan 05, 2011 02:01 PM

I had my house on the market for a short time (decided to stay put for a while, so didn't sell) and not only was I my own worst client, but double that for my husband. I second guessed everything that I was doing and felt panicked at the thought of other agents viewing my personal space. But, I have to say, it did give me a good dose of the real feelings that Sellers have and certainly more empathy!

Jan 12, 2011 09:12 AM