If you are being transferred, enlarging your family, or preparing to make an offer on another home, you are a motivated seller – ready to make the best deal to sell your home quickly. You and your real estate agent can take numerous and appropriate actions to help you meet your goals.
But many sellers aren’t in a hurry to sell. They may want to test the market to see how high prices will go, or they might want to try a different lifestyle, but are undecided as to when and where they want to move. Realtors call these sellers unmotivated, because without firm plans, they can give the agent very little to do to move the transaction forward. The unmotivated seller can’t sign a listing contract, and therefore the agent can’t market the home, tell other agents about the home, or show the home to buyers.
Yet it is often at this stage of indecision that sellers’ will most often contact an agent. They let the agent know that they are “thinking of selling” and ask the agent to create a marketing plan for them, including the gathering of comparable data of homes in the neighborhood. They use this information to help them decide whether the timing is right to sell, how much they could possibly net from their home, and to help them decide what range home they would like to look at when they are ready to move. Then the sellers tell the agent, who has put in hours of work to get this information, that they will let him or her know “when they are ready to make a decision.”
Many sellers feel entirely comfortable taking real estate agents’ time in this way. And most agents are glad to give it, but what these sellers don’t realize is that without a target moving date, they have not only wasted the agent’s time, they have wasted their own.
In most areas, markets are changing rapidly. Some parts of the country have reported as much as a 10% change in home prices within a quarter. That doesn’t take into account the rapid appreciation and depreciation that can take place with the entrance of a major employer to an area, or the devastation to real estate prices that can accompany a natural disaster.
When an agent gathers information for a seller, that data only applies to the current market. If the seller is three to six months away from being ready to sell, the homes that are featured in the comparables will already be sold, and a new group of competing homes will be on the market, and the comparables and marketing plan will have to be revised to benefit the seller in that market. In other words, every bit of information that the agent gave the seller is essentially worthless unless they plan to list their home for sale immediately.
You may wonder why agents are willing to work so hard when the promise of the listing is months away, or may even go to another agent. Some agents will happily work hard to secure your listing in the future, but more frequently, you will find that many of the best agents will not. First, there are other sellers to serve who are motivated to sell their homes now. Second, top agents can not afford to be burned. They only have their time and expertise to sell, so the better agents are learning to pass on unmotivated sellers who only want free information.
So which kind of seller are you? You may see yourself as a motivated seller, but one who has just a few decisions to make first. If so, here are a few things you can do so that the time you and your agent spend is productive, and not wasteful for either of you.
- Interview you agent honestly. Tell the agent up front that you don’t have a time frame, but share your basic plans and what the hurdles are. Perhaps the agent may have suggestions to move you forward.
- Use the agent’s expertise to advantage. Ask the agent for his/her advice as to what types of will be most useful to you in your particular situation. His/her answers may surprise you, as well as move you more quickly toward your goal.
- Be willing to pay for information. Many top agents will give you the comparables you want at a reasonable fee. Others may be willing to consult with you on an hourly basis until you are ready to sell. You can request that the consultation fees be rebated when you list and close your home with the agent.
- Don’t use an agent with the intention of stiffing him/her. Some sellers think it is okay to get all the information from one agent, usually the top producer in the area, and then give the listing to Aunt Sally. This is wrong and could come back to haunt you in ways you’ll never know. If you don’t trust Aunt Sally to do the work on your home from beginning to end, chances are she might have a less than stellar reputation in the marketplace, too. It’s a fact that good agents like to show other good agents’ homes, not the homes of people they don’t trust. Also, word gets around, including everything you told the agent (who no longer represents you). The agent is also free to share with other agents what her first impressions of your house really were. Think everything from fewer showings to no showings, and lower offers to no offers.
- Learn about agency. Before you divulge some types of information to an agent, make sure that the agent will be serving your interests exclusively in the transaction. If you don’t have a contract with the agent, s/he is under no obligation to keep what you tell him/her private, particularly when your home comes on the market via another agent.
- Keep the agent updated. If your plans start to gel, let the agent know. S/he may be able to take some actions on your behalf that will move things along.
Written by Blanche Evans