The Elephant in the Room

Education & Training with The Lones Group, Inc.

The Lones Group, Inc.

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.

The Lones Group, Inc.

Re-Blogged 1 time:

Re-Blogged By Re-Blogged At
  1. Praful Thakkar 04/26/2015 09:00 PM
Real Estate Best Practices
Washington King County
listing presentation
client communication
price reductions
solving problems
real estate
denise lones
the lones group
elephant in the room
zebra report

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Joe Pryor
The Virtual Real Estate Team - Oklahoma City, OK
REALTOR® - Oklahoma Investment Properties

A few years ago my wife and I got tired of the gut feeling of unease becasue normally the question that should have been asked wasn't and it is an afetr the event feeling. What we did is create a system of written core vlaues about our business that connected the barin to the gut and brough vague feelings of unease into clear light. Questions or decisions are now much more automatic. 

Apr 24, 2015 05:36 AM #1
Sandy Nelson
Riley Jackson Real Estate Inc. - Olympia, WA
your Olympia area Realtor

I think every agent has, at one time or another, had to have a price adjustment conversation with a seller. It's difficult, but we owe it to our clients to be up front with them.

Apr 24, 2015 05:39 AM #2
Wendy Remley
Utah Prestige Real Estate - Syracuse, UT

Part of my listing presentation is figuring out sellers' proceeds. I want to make sure that my clients have a realistic view of what they will get from the sale of their house, or even worse, what they'll have to pay to sell their house.

Apr 24, 2015 05:57 AM #3
Denise Lones
The Lones Group, Inc. - Bellingham, WA
CSP, MIRM, CDEI - Real Estate Coaching & Branding

Joe - Having a plan for how to handle situations like that ahead of time is a great idea. Thanks for your comment.

Sandy - So true, and if they haven't they're either avoiding it or new to the profession. Thanks for being such a long-time reader, I always appreciate your comments!


Even in today's housing market where may segments are inventory starved we still see overpricing occur. We talked about this on a recent call where one of our members brought up the great point that not every section of the market is seeing multiple offers, but that's what the media makes it seem like, so the temptation is there even for owners in slower moving segments to think that "oh, everyone's getting multiple offers, I can price higher and expect more too." But of course, it's up to us to tell the truth.

Apr 24, 2015 06:05 AM #4
Mike Cooper, GRI
Cornerstone Business Group Inc - Winchester, VA
Your Neighborhood Real Estate Sales Pro

Denise, the nice thing in your dialogue is that you shifted the responsibility for the high price to the seller. He/she will ultimately determine if he/she really wants to sell and buy that coastal house. 

Apr 24, 2015 06:41 AM #5
Shanna Day Team Leader (UT & AZ)
Keller Williams SLC (UT) and Keller Williams Realty EV (AZ) - Park City, UT
Keller Williams Realty

Stating the obvious is a lot of times just speaking the truth.  Sometimes truth hurts - sometimes it just is what it is and it doesn't offend at all.   Sellers really need us to speak the truth, and it sure makes our jobs easier when our clients will speak the truth to us to and there isn't second guessing. 

Apr 24, 2015 07:12 AM #6
Denise Lones
The Lones Group, Inc. - Bellingham, WA
CSP, MIRM, CDEI - Real Estate Coaching & Branding

Mike and Shanna - Both of you nailed it. To the head of the class you go! - Denise

Apr 24, 2015 07:23 AM #7
Kathleen Daniels
KD Realty - 408.972.1822 - San Jose, CA
San Jose Homes for Sale-Probate & Trust Specialist

It is not my style to not ask. I always address issues that need to be addressed. I feel not addressing is a dis-service to those we are trying to help.

Apr 24, 2015 09:48 AM #8
Praful Thakkar
LAER Realty Partners - Andover, MA
Andover, MA: Andover Luxury Homes For Sale

Denise Lones every real estate agent should have courage to do this!

(They can borrow my elephant, if they want.....)

Apr 24, 2015 02:02 PM #9
Richie Alan Naggar
people first...then business Ran Right Realty - Riverside, CA
agent & author

I introduce the elephants by name and let them pet culls the herd

Apr 24, 2015 11:29 PM #10
Barbara Todaro
RE/MAX Executive Realty - Franklin, MA
Marketing Agent for The Todaro Team

Good morning, Denise Lones we are often the bearer of bad news .... someone has to do's all part of doing business.... 

Apr 26, 2015 09:04 PM #11
Sandy Padula and Norm Padula, JD, GRI
HomeSmart Realty West & Geneva Financial, Llc. - Carlsbad, CA
Presence, Persistence & Perseverance

Denise Lones Communication is one of the cornerstones of our industry. Without it, we would not be agents for very long, or shall I say, Succcessful ones. Thanks!

Apr 26, 2015 10:14 PM #12
Tammy Adams ~ Realtor / Podcaster
Maricopa Real Estate Co - Maricopa, AZ
A Maricopa Agent who Works, Lives & Loves Maricopa

I start at the listing appointment with any elephant in the room. Some times it has to do with something about the home that really needs to be brought up. I'd rather have this conversation early when they are more open to hearing it vs telling them on the follow up calls over and over. 

Apr 28, 2015 04:32 PM #13
Denise Lones
The Lones Group, Inc. - Bellingham, WA
CSP, MIRM, CDEI - Real Estate Coaching & Branding

I love seeing all of the positive comments from agents willing to deal with those "elephants" upfront and head-on. As a coach, I know every agent has some issue come up that is intimidating to address it as it ought to be. I hope these responses will strengthen them when they are faced with that. Thank you to all of you! I'm not-so-secretly hoping that someone will share a story or two of how they faced their elephant and it turned out for the better.

Apr 29, 2015 02:06 AM #14
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CSP, MIRM, CDEI - Real Estate Coaching & Branding
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