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If you want the listing, be careful with criticism

Services for Real Estate Pros with Marte Cliff Copywriting

With inventory levels at historic lows, even agents who usually avoid FSBO’s and expired listings are reaching out to these sellers. Unlike most of the population, they’ve indicated that they want to sell, making them prime listing candidates.

If you’re one of those agents, do be careful with your criticisms.

Owners of expired listings naturally want to know what went wrong.

But of course, you won’t know what did go wrong until you’ve spoken with them and/or done some research. So when prospecting to them, outline the steps to a successful sale and the things that can go wrong along the way. Then let THEM form their own conclusions.

If the agent’s behavior or their lack of marketing was the cause of an expired be careful with criticism if you want to list expired listingslisting, they'll see it. If their own behavior was the cause, they should see that as well, once you've shown them the correct way to go about selling a home.

Offer to sit down with them and go over what could have gone wrong and what did go wrong as they see it. The last thing you want to do is tell the homeowner that it’s all their fault for choosing an inferior agent! They’re already thinking that and probably blaming themselves for their poor choice. So speak with care. Don’t rub salt in the wound.

If you’re prospecting to these homeowners by mail or email, do give them an overview, but then send multiple messages with more detailed information about the right way to do things.

You don’t have to write all those expired listing letters yourself…

Instead, visit my Expired Listing Letters Page to order your own set of ten letters, plus a special report and a sellers checklist. If you like, before you order, you can click the link on that page to read a sample.

If the homeowners seem genuinely interested in listing with you, present them with a market analysis without ever mentioning the price that didn't work. Instead, show them why you recommend the price you've stated.

And then – unless you’re leaving their home with a signed listing in hand – do remember to take the market analysis away with you. You don’t want it shown to other agents who may also be interviewing for that listing.

As for prospecting to those who are trying to sell by owner…

When talking with a FSBO seller you might be tempted to point out just how foolish they're being. You might also be tempted to tell them their price is way out of line.

And you know what? If you do, all you're going to do is anger and alienate them. Even if they decide to sign a listing, it probably won't be with you.

What should you do instead? Give them facts.

Give them information about things they must know and things they must do.Give FSBO sellers the facts they need

For instance: Give them warnings about not opening the door to anyone who hasn't made an appointment. Give them other warnings about being careful how they answer a buyer's questions, because when the buyer knows their motivation, their negotiating power is lost.

Don’t be too helpful, however. Don’t offer a market analysis until/unless they indicate that they're ready to list. And, as with the expired listings, don’t leave it behind unless that listing has been signed.

As you know, there are many things they should be considering. And that’s why my original set of ten FSBO Prospecting Letters has grown from 10 letters to 12 letters, plus a “hot market” version of two of those letters, plus special reports. 

Why so many? Because the information in each letter builds upon the information in the previous letter – and each letter drives home the fact that selling FSBO safely and successfully is a LOT of work. Also – there are plenty of letters because it takes some people quite a while to change their minds about selling without an agent. You want to be top of mind with them on the day they make that decision.

You can see a screenshot of the letter titles and click to view a sample letter when you visit my FSBO Letters page at https://www.copybymarte.com/for-sale-by-owner-prospecting-letters/.

One more thing…

Even if the listing you’re after is not an expired listing or a FSBO, do temper your criticism.

I recall a friend telling me about selling her house on Mercer Island. The first agent came in and told her everything that was wrong with the house. The second agent told her everything that was right with the house.

Guess which one got the listing and sold the house.

The bottom line: Be careful what you say – either in person or in a prospecting letter.



Roy Kelley
Retired - Gaithersburg, MD

This is very good advice to share.

I will schedule a reblog.

Jun 11, 2023 01:01 PM
Marte Cliff

Thank you Roy Kelley - I always appreciate your support!

Jun 11, 2023 02:27 PM
Don Baker
Lane Realty - Eatonton, GA
Lake Sinclair Specialist

It's been my experience that they sometimes know, but are often embarrassed to stay with the same agent and admit they were wrong.

Jun 11, 2023 01:36 PM
Marte Cliff

That's an interesting angle on the subject, Don Baker. I agree that embarrassment does cause people to behave in strange ways. 

Jun 11, 2023 02:28 PM
Anna "Banana" Kruchten
HomeSmart Real Estate - Phoenix, AZ

Marte it's been years and years and years since I've reached out to fisbo's or expireds. And the odds are high it won't happen ever again.  Leave that to the new agents as it gives them a chance to hone their skills.  Our agents used to do just that - work em both.

Jun 11, 2023 03:51 PM
Marte Cliff

Anna Banana Kruchten Phoenix Broker You've built such a strong referral/repeat business that you don't need to go searching for leads. The new agents and those who have not yet built their referral base do need to keep searching.

Your level is something new agents must aspire to!

Jun 11, 2023 04:45 PM
Andrew Mooers | 207.532.6573
Northern Maine Real Estate-Aroostook County Broker

Great points and your blog posts are always valuable and worthwhile reads Marte Cliff ! Criticism of a FSBO or especially chiming in if that seller starts in on the last agent's faults. Don't do it. Be professional, not critical works best.

Jun 12, 2023 02:52 AM
Marte Cliff

Andrew Mooers | 207.532.6573 - I hope this morning's new contact is one who did choose the wrong agent - and not one who wouldn't listen.

Sending good vibes your way for that...

Jun 12, 2023 10:06 AM
Marte Cliff
Marte Cliff Copywriting - Priest River, ID
Your real estate writer

Thanks Andrew Mooers | 207.532.6573. I appreciate your kind words. 

Chiming in when a seller criticizes the last agent is tempting, but not good to do. Neither is trying to defend them. Best to be quiet and listen - you might learn that it wasn't the agent at fault at all, but the seller who wouldn't listen to that agent.

Jun 12, 2023 06:59 AM
Andrew Mooers | 207.532.6573

Like a doctor that studies your chart and vital signs. He or she take off the stethoscope and sigh and says we have these options. If the patient gets mad, starts throwing things, or knows more about the medical procedures, you can not help them. You want them to get a second, third, whatever it takes opinion to stay alive, for quality of life.

This this morning in a contact form response.. I really need your help. Haven’t had much luck with other realtors.

I reached out, hit a machine, left a message and emailed her to learn how and if I can help here.

Jun 12, 2023 07:06 AM
Wanda Kubat-Nerdin - Wanda Can!
Red Rock Real Estate (435) 632-9374 - St. George, UT
St. George Utah Area Residential Sales Agent

A positive mindset is attractive, no need to disparage others or the property, Marte and I have won some listing opportunities because of that but will decline if someone wants me to deeply discount services. One lady did that and I turned her million dollar listing down...Now that the house sold with another agent, she wants to be friends. There is zero chance of that! LOL

Congrats on being featured.

Jun 12, 2023 09:56 AM
Marte Cliff

Thanks Wanda Kubat-Nerdin - Wanda Can! - It's interesting how the same people who would faint in shock if you wanted them to take a pay cut have no qualms about asking YOU to do so!

Jun 12, 2023 10:08 AM
Lise Howe
Keller Williams Capital Properties - Washington, DC
Assoc. Broker in DC, MD, VA and attorney in DC

Great set of suggestions and i am sure your letters are even better

Jun 13, 2023 12:47 PM
Marte Cliff

Thanks Lise Howe - I hope so


Jun 13, 2023 01:01 PM
Kat Palmiotti
eXp Commercial, Referral Divison - Kalispell, MT
Helping your Montana dreams take root

A positive attitude will result in positive words which will result in positive outcomes!


Jun 17, 2023 05:10 AM
Marte Cliff
Marte Cliff Copywriting - Priest River, ID
Your real estate writer

That's right Kat Palmiotti - all that positivity leads to good things!

Jun 17, 2023 08:09 AM
Leanne Smith
Dirt Road Real Estate - Golden Valley, AZ
The Grit and Gratitude Agent

My suggestion is be careful with specific letters to expired listings. Just because the property was listed and expired is not an open door for the seller to be harassed with phone calls or mailings.  The seller did not sign up with the agent and subsequently the mls for these outreaches.  When I heard about how real estate farms with my 50 years of sales experience, I nearly cringed as this for me was marketing spam.

Jun 17, 2023 09:00 AM
Marte Cliff
Marte Cliff Copywriting - Priest River, ID
Your real estate writer

Leanne Smith I might agree with you regarding phone calls, but I believe that mail, and especially postal mail, is just advertising. Kind of like the grocery flyer that comes each week - if you're not interested, you toss it. If you are interested, you read it.

Jun 17, 2023 09:25 AM
Hella M. Rothwell, Broker/Realtor®
Carmel by the Sea, CA
Rothwell Realty Inc. CA#01968433 Carmel-by-the-Sea

One of my "bread and butter" markets in which I'm the primary selling broker, always has at least one or two sellers that decide to go to other agencies.  And invariably, they start out over priced and then slide down over time.  In the meantime, mine have sold pretty quickly in most cases.


So what is my strategy?  Never ever take these listings if/when they are offered to me. They actually help me sell my listings becausse word gets around the community that mine "sell".  


Plus, in my 15 years in the real estate business, I have NEVER taken a FISBO and never will.  

Jun 17, 2023 09:38 AM
Marte Cliff

Hella M. Rothwell, Broker/Realtor® I think it makes perfect sense not to take overpriced listings. They cost you money - and your reputation.

I do understand how new agents might feel pressured to go ahead and try it - especially if they have family members asking them why they don't have any listings yet.

Jun 17, 2023 10:57 AM
Hella M. Rothwell, Broker/Realtor®

Your help, then, would be invaluable to help these agents not to get over eager and promise what they can't deliver; after all, they might fail just like the previous agents.  There are just some properties that just keep sitting there.  

Jun 17, 2023 06:05 PM
Jan Green - Scottsdale, AZ
Value Added Service, 602-620-2699 - Scottsdale, AZ
HomeSmart Elite Group, REALTOR®, EcoBroker, GREEN

GREAT POST!  Love your suggestions, your links and helpful ideas about winning listings.  So true.  Don't criticize, but offer your processes.    Well done!

Jun 19, 2023 06:16 PM
Marte Cliff
Marte Cliff Copywriting - Priest River, ID
Your real estate writer

Thank you Jan Green - Scottsdale, AZ . Most of what we need to say can be turned from a negative comment to a positive - it just takes a bit of thought!

Jun 19, 2023 09:15 PM
John Juarez
The Medford Real Estate Team - Fremont, CA

Confidence in me can be built by asking questions and listening closely to the answers. Criticising a former agent will get me nowhere and can be counter-productive.

Jun 20, 2023 07:43 AM
Marte Cliff
Marte Cliff Copywriting - Priest River, ID
Your real estate writer

John Juarez Yes. I do believe  you've got it down pat!

Jun 20, 2023 06:56 PM
Joan Cox
House to Home, Inc. - Denver Real Estate - 720-231-6373 - Denver, CO
Denver Real Estate - Selling One Home at a Time

Marte, this was an excellent post, and belittling or berating other agents doesn't help one bit.   Makes us look petty.

Jun 25, 2023 12:18 PM
Marte Cliff

I agree,  Joan Cox - when you try to bring someone else down to lift yourself up, you only bring yourself down.

Jun 25, 2023 09:27 PM
Patricia Feager, ABR,CRS,GRI,MRP
Selling Homes Changing Lives

Marte Cliff - Sage advice should be like guideposts on a journey through the woods. Sometimes, the seller can't see the forest through the trees. You illustrated this very well! Letting them decide what they did wrong without a verbal insult gains respect for the potential client and self-respect goes a long way when it comes to trusting the right people. 

This is an excellent blog post! Thanks, Marte. 

Jul 23, 2023 06:44 AM
Marte Cliff
Marte Cliff Copywriting - Priest River, ID
Your real estate writer

Thank you Patricia Feager, MBA, CRS, GRI,MRP. I appreciate your comments.  

Jul 23, 2023 08:50 AM
Roy Kelley
Retired - Gaithersburg, MD

Good Sunday morning, Marte.

I hope all is going well for you this month.

Jul 23, 2023 09:04 AM
Marte Cliff

Thanks Roy Kelley - All is well here, and I  hope the same for you! 

Jul 23, 2023 10:14 AM