"But mouse-friend, you are not alone
in proving foresight may be in vain:
the best-laid schemes of Mice and Men
go oft awry,
and leave us only grief and pain,
for promised joy!"
Robert Burns, To a Mouse
Okay, maybe that is a little over the top for a real estate transaction, but only by a little bit. I have been involved in many transactions that promised joy, only to find out that I was wrong. Sometimes, there are tears at the table. Other times, like in this story, everything starts off with a promise of joy for everyone involved and quickly devolves into real frustration and more than a little pain.
The Promising Beginning
It started off with a phone call from a real estate agent from another state. One that I rarely get. "Hi Ray, I found you online. My mom and dad need an agent." The phone interview went well, I called the agent's mom and dad and scheduled a listing appointment, also a rare event for me. Almost everything I do is by referral.
Anyway, I showed up at the listing appointment only to find out that I was competing against a very seasoned agent, an agent that I really liked and respected. The interview went well and I was shocked to to find out that I would get the listing. This was a beautiful home that would be highly valued and my client joked, "Ray, I bet this is will be your highest priced listing yet." I just smiled. We were all happy and there was the "promise of joy!" I even created one of my first YouTube videos! (It has brought me 6,648 views and 47 subscribers)
The Best Laid Plans
While every sale is important, this one required a lot of planning. It was a beautiful, five bedroom, four bedroom, 3,831 square foot home in a great neighborhood. I hired a professional photographer and a wonderful stager. I had a good idea on value, but it was a real outlier of a house. It was only a few years old with almost all of the surrounding homes much older. I wanted a second opinion of value, so I hired an experienced appraiser. The appraised value came in at $895,000, which was under the valuation Zillow offered at $922,000 on its website. Everything was in perfect order and ready to go!
The Plan Goes Awry
I listed the property and almost immediately Zillow dropped its valuation below our listing price. I began marketing the property everywhere and held open house after open house with no results. I ended up holding over 25 open houses and that did not include many open houses held by other agents. We dropped the price five times over the next few months. Each time we dropped the price, Zillow dropped their valuation lower than our sales price quickly, which was really very frustrating to my clients. We moved forward with little concern over a new, strange virus hitting China. It was a world away.
The strange virus, Covid, was detected in Washington, then shortly thereafter, in all parts of our country. The open houses continued, but there were no more handshakes and we were told to keep our distance. It was not a good time to sell a home and my clients decided to take a break. We cancelled the listing to reevaluate the situation.
We decided about a month later to relist. We listed the home at $824,000, only see California shut down on 3/15/2020. Again, Zillow dropped their valuation below our new price and there would be no more open houses in California. It was getting to be an even more challenging situation. At least the home was vacant and we could make special arrangements for showings.
Other agents started calling in earnest. They were sure that COVID was going to hurt the real estate markets and that all prices would fall and fall quickly. We felt the price was fine, but my clients dropped the price one final time. They really needed to sell. Much to the chagrin of my clients, Zillow dropped their valuation below our sales price once again.
The Successful End?
Our price reduction brought in a buyer. We closed at $790,000, over $100,000 below the appraiser's original valuation and almost one year from the day we originally listed the home. An unhappy record for me with too many expenses for my clients and too many sleepless nights for my clients and for me. It was a tough year. The original plan did go awry quickly and had to be changed several times. Now, back to Robert Burns, To a Mouse,
"while forward-looking seers, we
humans guess and fear!
I may not fear the future, but I do respect it and prepare for it. I make plans, adjust them as needed and, while in the midst of even the most difficult transactions, remember what Abraham Lincoln used to say, "This too shall pass!"
Thank you, Patricia Feager, MBA, CRS, GRI,MRP and Kathleen Daniels, Probate & Trust Specialist for this month's challenge. It has given me the opportunity to reevaluate some of my past experiences. It has also given us all the opportunity to know each other better and that is a good thing.
"Try to understand men, if you understand each other you will be kind to each other. Knowing a man well never leads to hate and nearly always leads to love."
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