What Sellers Really Want is to be Lied To...

Real Estate Broker/Owner with Kirby Fine Homes

 ...at least this is what I am finding out, and I don't understand why.

A few weeks ago I went on a listing appointment. I had already walked through the home, so I knew what needed to happen in order for the home to sell quickly. The owners asked me to be very honest about the condition of their home, and wanted me to be brutally honest. I don't sugar coat listings, so being completely upfront and blunt about their home was not a problem for me.

During the appointment, they wrote down all the things that needed to change to get top dollar for their home. Here are a few things I saw:

  • the fruit wallpaper in the kitchen had to go - replacing with neutral color paint updates the home and make it look more modern
  • the ceiling fan in the kitchen had to go - ceiling fans not only distract buyers when looking at a kitchen, they are usually ugly, and dated. No one puts ceiling fans in kitchens anymore, and buyers hate them.
  • the carpet needed to be replaced - the new carpet they told me about over the phone was in fact 10 years old and hadn't been cleaned in 10 years
  • the home needed to be painted inside and all child damages to walls fixed
  • the aromatherapy scent had to go

The sellers believed their home was a certain price, in its current condition. I told them that their home would not reach that price unless they changed the things I mentioned.They were comparing their home to other homes, that no appraiser would use as comparables. While the price that I told them to list at was $10,000 below what they had hoped, they said they understood and would fix the items on the list. Before the seller left, he asked me if it would be possible to list higher. I told him he could do anything he wants, but that I would be coming back to him in a month for a price reduction.

I thought things went well, but when a week passed of no returned phone calls or emails, I knew something was up. Finally I got the call that they were hiring another real estate agent to represent them. Through sources, I found out that the husband was offended and thought I had told him his home was crap.( If memory serves me right, he told me he wanted me to be brutally honest.) I also found out that the agent walked through his home, telling him:

  • his home was beautiful and not a thing needed to be changed
  • his home was worth $10,000 more than I told him - the magic number he wanted to hear

I guess what he really wanted was for me to lie to him, and give him a lot of fluff. Sorry, but that is just not my style. See, I believe that if you really want to sell your home, then you need to do things to set your home apart from all the other junk out there. Trust me, there are so many homes on the market that are average, that buyers find it hard to choose. So the only solution is to make your home look as good as it can. Painting is one of the cheapest ways to add value to your home. Removing anything that dates your home, like tacky wallpaper, or gold colored light fixtures, is a good thing, and relatively cheap to fix, too.

There are also a lot of desperate agents out there that will tell a seller anything they want to hear, just to get the listing. These are the mediocre agents that plague our industry. They will take an overpriced listing knowing full well that in a month, they will be asking for a price reduction. My question is, if the first month of a new listing is the most crucial time of the entire listing, why would you start by overpricing it?

Buyers, and their agents, KNOW when a home is overpriced, and instead of taking a look at it, they will pass it buy. Like I said, there are just too many homes for sale in the Twin Cities to choose from, so the easiest way to eliminate homes is to throw out those that are overpriced. Bottom line, if you want to be lied to, at least admit it to yourself before the listing appointment. And if you let the agent know as well, then you may not waste their time, by having unrealistic expectations.

Comments (103)

Kisti Skaar
REMAX Properties - Albert Lea, MN
AMEN! I am so glad someone is finally saying it! I've heard for years the "buyers are liars" saying and have even seen it embroidered on a pillow, but no one ever says it about the sellers. I too have come across this numerous times and wished they would've gone with a different Realtor. They want to hear what I have to say but don't want to LISTEN.
Feb 27, 2008 02:36 AM
Pam Graham
All Real Estate Options - Jacksonville, FL
Jacksonville, Clay & St Johns Counties
They will eventually see their error and wish they had listened to you. Hopefully when they do, their listing will expire and they will call you because you were honest.
Feb 27, 2008 02:43 AM
Terry & Bonnie Westbrook
Westbrook Realty Broker-Owner - Grand Rapids, MI
Westbrook Realty - Grand Rapids Forest Hills MI Re
In this market we need to get away from clients that don't want to listen and work with people that want our help and are willing to listen. On to the next.
Feb 27, 2008 03:34 AM
Kathy Seger & Ben Staten
RE/MAX Around Atlanta - Woodstock, GA
Red Hot Atlanta Homes Group

Thanks for the wonderful read.  It is alway nice to to be reminded that other agents have the same hurdles in their business.  In the mean time, I keep dreaming about the listing appointment where the seller agrees to the recommendation and price then sales in 30 days.  You know it does happen!     

Feb 27, 2008 04:02 AM
Lynn Johnson
Coldwell Banker Home Connection - Owatonna, MN
Owatonna, MN Real Estate
Jennifer - Sorry to hear about your experience, but it's a universal one.  In this market we still have sellers who refuse to see reality.  At least you did the best you could to provide them with an honest view of the market, pricing, and the condition of their home.  Sometimes they just have to find the truth for themselves before they become believers.  Don't stop being honest and realistic.  In this market we don't need to sit on overpriced homes that need updating.  There are plenty of other ways to spend our time and advertising $$.  Best wishes for a prosperous 2008.
Feb 27, 2008 05:35 AM
Sandra Barckholtz
west usa realty - Peoria, AZ
Associate Broker - Arizona



I had the same thing happen to me recently. The house backed up to a major busy street and was so outdated. The owner wanted to list if for more than 40K over the recent comps. I held my ground and lost the listing. 

I see it as a blessing.


Feb 27, 2008 06:25 AM
Paula Hartwick
Royal LePage Gale Real Estate - Kanata, ON

What sellers need to know is there is a difference between things that add value and things that make a home more saleable. If there are two homes that are completely identical in every regard (including price) but one has old wallpaper and the other, a fresh coat of paint in neutral colours then guess which one is likely to sell sooner? A fresh coat of paint will help the house sell sooner, however, that doesn't necessarily make it worth more than it's comparable. Great post!

Feb 27, 2008 06:46 AM
Regina D. Malone
First Realty Auction - Cookeville, TN
Auctioneer/Realtor - The Auction Lady
Just had the same thing happen to me 3 days ago. It hurts as a agent to try to help people, do the best you can for them and someone else feeds them what they want to hear and they fall for it. You know the seller's will regret later what they have done, but for now it's too late.
Feb 27, 2008 07:37 AM
Lorraine or Loretta Kratz
Crescent Moon Realty, Inc. & Land N Sea Auctions. - San Marcos, CA
Certified Negotiation Consultants


I think that it a case of don't kill the message. On some of the items that you noted was a issue with the home I would say was over stated. I know that all real estate is local. Here in California buyers do not hate ceiling fans. In fact they are considered an aid to energy efficiently. Another thing I noted in your blog, you have a tendacy to make the seller wrong for selecting an agent that they preferred over you.

Stop ---- and look at your selling skills. Could they stand a bit of updating. Again, I think it call rapport.

Feb 27, 2008 10:19 AM
Ruben Colon
McCormick Partners Realty - Chicago, IL


Sometimes "Brutally Honest" is not the right approach. I do agree with you that an over priced listing is mostly a waste of time, advertising dollars and spent emotions. Most sellers want agents to be honest with them regarding pricing, but all sellers already have a price in mind. Before any transaction whether it be taking a listing or making the sale can happen, most agents forget that the first step is making friends with your customer and then building trust.  The "one stop" listing approach is not very effective.




Feb 27, 2008 10:20 AM
Christy Powers
Keller Williams Coastal Area Partners - Pooler, GA
Pooler, Savannah Real Estate Agent
It's a hard place to be in. You never really know what exactly should be said or how to say it. Like everyone says, you win some, you lose some.
Feb 27, 2008 11:33 AM
Jennifer Kirby
Kirby Fine Homes - Minneapolis, MN
The Luxury Agent

Lorraine- like you said, real estate is local. The ceiling fan, as I mentioned, was in a 10x6 kitchen. Ceiling fans in other rooms are ok, but not in a kitchen. I lived in California for 4 years, and I don't recall ceiling fans in kitchens being a good thing. Maybe you just missed that part of the post. For a home priced around $200,000, with six more just like it in the neighborhood for sale, the things I mentioned ARE a big deal. In fact, the funny thing about all this is that those items are cheap to fix, but will bring big results when a buyer walks through.

Regarding the agent, the lender who referred the sellers to me, sat in on the listing presentation of this other agent, and could not believe the things she was telling the sellers...a lot of fluff was his words..no honesty at all. He even told them to think twice about selecting her. So it wasn't just me thinking the sellers were making a bad decision.

As far a building rapport, I had one month of rapport already built with this seller, because they wanted me to help them find a great deal in new construction to buy. They hadn't originally wanted to sell, but possibly rent. They knew my stance on honesty. I also had looked at their home the week before, so this was a two step process. When you don't get a listing, it doesn't mean you need to "update your selling skills". Sometimes, it just doesn't work out. Thanks for commenting and I hope I cleared up a few things.

Feb 27, 2008 11:54 AM
Laurie Logan
Keller Williams Realty, Inc., Broker Associate - Madison, WI
South Central WI Real Estate

The thing I find most frustrating when a seller makes this type of mistake - they are rarely willing to admit it.  I hear people discuss 'bad real experiences,' they rarely say "oh, that first agent really was right, and we just wouldn't listen..."

On a listing appointment, I get nervous when one spouse (or both) goes silent.  If I can't get them both really talking, I fear the worst.

Feb 27, 2008 12:29 PM
Esko Kiuru
Bethesda, MD


Some sellers are very realistic and listen carefully to price and fixing suggestions from a real estate agent. And then there are those who think they know how much their house will sell for and often end up not selling at all.

Feb 27, 2008 04:00 PM
Alan 'AJ' Nisen California Contra Costa Mortgage Officer
A Large Bank in America - Lafayette, CA
The sellers have their responsibility too.  The sellers with google could have researched all the agents that they interviewed.  With a good AR presence or google juice, they could have made a more informed choice. AJ
Feb 27, 2008 04:50 PM
ARDELL DellaLoggia
Better Properties Seattle - Kirkland, WA
Often buyers want to be lied to as well.  They want you to tell them the property will go up no matter what.
Feb 27, 2008 05:31 PM
Rick Garcia
The PropertyMax Management Group - Rancho Bernardo, CA
Don't think anyone wants to be lied to... sometimes it's just hard to handle the truth
Feb 28, 2008 07:56 AM
Debra Reed

Well the saying is "buyers are lier's" I guess should be sellers like lier's.  Anyway its all apart of human nature.  What we say, and what we mean is not always the same.

One of my favorite sayings is " people will DO what they want to do".  I think this applies to sellers, some of them if not all have a hard head, sooner or later they get it.  Just hope you are the last agent in when they do.

Mar 01, 2008 03:45 PM
Kathy Fisher Sells Lexington TN homes! 731.845.3413
Five Star Real Estate Services - Lexington, TN
Can anyone explain to me how spending 6 months of advertising expenses on an overpriced listing is of any value to any agent?  Thanks but no thanks.
Mar 03, 2008 02:03 PM
Marcy Hultquist
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage - Decatur, GA
Jennifer, something so similar happened to me just last week (again).  This couple and their two adolescent boys have been in the home for 5 years and are being transferred to NY, so they HAVE to sell. The place - in a toney suburban neighborhood - was a mess ... all the walls needed repainting, some of the siding needed to be replaced, the carpet needed at least a cleaning, there was clutter and (bad) smells everywhere, etc. We went over  the entire home with a fine-tooth comb and I was honest with them per their request, letting them know what they needed to do to  bring their home up to market value. I then did  the CMA and emailed it to them the next day, and they were disappointed to listed with another agent who overpriced it by $10K. I looked at the photos and nothing - except picking up some of the clutter - was done. To be honest, I felt a sense of relief that they didn't ask me to list it because I knew their participation would be minimal. In situations like this, you have to ask yourself whether or not you really WANT the listing and then  move on.  I know a lot of agents don't do that, especially in today's market, but my job is to SELL homes, not just LIST them.
Mar 03, 2008 10:19 PM