The Elephant in the Room
Have you ever been sitting with a client and your gut told you to ask something, but you just couldn't quite get the words out?
This often the case when you are afraid a question will make someone uncomfortable. However, those uncomfortable questions are critical to get at the heart of the matter. You can't start to solve a problem if you don't actually know the full scope of the situation. If you know something isn't right and you are afraid to address it, then it is the quintessential elephant in the room.
For example, imagine an agent needs to talk to their seller about their overpriced property. The agent has run the numbers and knows that unless there is a price reduction, the property will not sell. I look through the MLS and constantly see properties that are overpriced and I expect to browse through photos and see elephant toes peeking out under the drapes because the listing agent has not had that difficult conversation with the seller. The agent may dance around the issue by talking about showings or some feedback the agent has received, but the agent hasn't had the conversation, found out the true motivation and challenges the sellers may face with the price reduction, and helped the seller face the truth.
Agents who have a difficult time expressing themselves during discussions like these need to learn that avoiding or delaying the truth only creates further problems down the way. One way to approach the situation is to ask questions and get the seller involved in the conversation. Here is how it could go:
Agent: "Seller, as you know, your home has been on the market for six weeks. However, we haven't had the market traffic we want or received any offers. The market it telling us we are overpriced and I want to talk to you about a plan to get your property in line with the market. Do you have time to talk with me about this today?"
The seller can react in any number of ways here, so let's assume the seller doesn't want to reduce the price and gives you some grief about that.
Seller: "I have time to talk, but I am comfortable with the price we are at. It only takes one buyer to bring an offer."
Now many agents would regard this as a stalemate. However, it is in the seller's best interest to push a little harder. Here is an example:
Agent: "I would like to talk with you a little more about this price. I understand that you don't want to leave any money on the table. That's just good business sense. However, getting your home sold is my top priority as without the sale, there is no money to leave on any table. So why does the listing have to be at this price?"
The actual reason doesn't matter all that much because the seller still has to decide if he or she is going to bring the home into line with the market or not. But you can help the seller solve their own problem by asking this question.
Seller: "Well, you know I want to move to the coast and want to build my retirement home. I need $x to do that which means I need to sell my home for $x."
Now that you know why, now you can get into the discussion and help the seller solve the problem. Now the truth may be that if the seller absolutely has to get $x at the sale and if the seller cannot get that price, then perhaps this is not the right time for the seller to be selling the home. That may be the truth of the situation. Here is how this could look:
Agent: "I completely understand that you are planning your new home and that you have a dollar value that you need. But what if you can't get that dollar value? What is your plan then?"
Now that is how you address the elephant!
Asking those tough questions and telling the truth to your sellers, even when it is uncomfortable for you, is a gift you give you clients.
When a seller is overpriced they NEED to hear the truth, when a seller's home is in poor showing condition you NEED to tell the truth. If I had to tell a seller that their home was in poor showing condition or that I had been getting negative showing feedback comments from other agents I might say this: "I have something to share with you that you may not like, but because you have hired me to always do the best job for you, that includes telling you the truth about what I am hearing from agents that are showing the home. May I share that with you?" I ask permission because I have had sellers say that while they wanted to hear the feedback, the timing was not right at that moment. I respect that and we will eventually have that conversation. However, most of the time they are eager to hear what you have to say and they appreciate the truth.
If you go to your doctor you EXPECT the truth. It would be professional negligence if your doctor didn't tell the truth. As a real estate professional, you too are required to present the truth to your clients. However, knowing is not the same as doing.
Likewise, when you are working with a buyer who wants to buy a home but you know they will be competing with many other offers, you need to tell them the truth of how difficult it will be to actually buy that house unless they are willing to come up with more money. Don't be afraid to ask questions and get into the conversation.
So the next time you see an elephant trunk peeking out from behind the pantry door, speak up, ask questions, get into a conversation and don't be afraid to speak your truth. Along the way, you will save yourself time, money, and frustration!
Don't Ignore the Elephant in the Room. Address It!
By Denise Lones CSP, M.I.R.M., CDEI - The founding partner of The Lones Group, Denise Lones, brings over two decades of experience in the real estate industry. With expertise in strategic marketing, business analysis, branding, new home project planning, product development, and agent/broker training, Denise is nationally recognized as the source for all things real estate. With a passion for improvement, Denise has helped thousands of real estate agents, brokers, and managers build their business to unprecedented levels of success, while helping them maintain balance and quality of life.