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6 Tips for Working Successfully with Stressed-Out Sellers

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By Dan Steward

RISMEDIA, October 5, 2010—Selling a home can be an emotional and even stressful process, especially in the current economic climate. For Realtors, it can be just as stressful, if not more so—persuading a seller to sell a home for less than they may have expected, or with more conditions than they might have wanted, is not an easy thing. As a Realtor, you’re often in the position of trying to persuade a homeowner to lower their price a bit, or throw in that patio furniture that the buyer really wants—but this is often a very sensitive, emotional process (i.e., someone’s dear aunt bought them the patio furniture, and they don’t want to give it up; or someone told them their house is worth $600,000, so how dare you tell them $500,000?). The Realtor who doesn’t exercise compassion and sensitivity can incite ire and lose a client easily.

To avoid that, check out these five tips on how to level with a client, getting results for them and being gently confrontational while remaining genuine and sensitive.

1. Do your homework. And show them the results—in person. Nothing will irk a seller faster than telling them things that you don’t physically back up. Case in point—for the seller whose home is worth $500,000 but they want to sell it for $600,000, don’t just say that the market says it’s worth $500,000. “Of course I wouldn’t do that,” you might say, “I print out plenty of comparable listings to show them.” Well, that might work for some sellers, but others will not respond to a printout, especially if the photos of the comparables are less than clear. Instead, take a day and physically show the client some comparable homes—this is the best way to get the point across, and it’s worth the extra time.

2. Connect on a personal level. The seller is telling you they don’t want to give up their grand piano, even though the buyer desperately wants it as part of the deal, because the piano was given to the family by a dear aunt. This is where you need to venture into your own life experience and communicate on that level. Here, you could say, “Family is extremely important to me, so I understand this is a tough decision.” You’d be shocked how simply empathizing with the seller may encourage them to act; conversely, being overly confrontational can cause a seller to become combative, and try to prove you wrong.

3. Gently remind the customer how much it will cost not to sell their home. A seller often needs to see numbers, instead of hear words, in order to be convinced to sell. Let’s say you’re recommending a $20,000 price drop. Especially in the case of a seller who is downsizing or buying a smaller home, it’s important to show how this $20,000 can be easily spent on utilities, mortgage, insurance, any additional wear and tear or fixes. A heated seller, in rejecting a price drop, may momentarily forget the cost of staying put.

4. Bring up the lender’s perspective. Often, a significant price drop will make a house easier for a buyer to obtain—not just price-wise, but also lending-wise. Remind the seller of this by reviewing concrete instances of how it may be easier for someone to get financing for a home at a lower price, increasing the chances of a fast and easy sale without complications—something that’s worth a lot.

5. Have the seller conduct a home inspection. Gaining factual information on the home’s condition will help you—and the seller—establish a realistic price. Knowing that a roof repair will cost $5,000 may inspire the seller to fix the roof before the home goes on the market, thereby increasing its value. Statistically, buyers ask for $2-$3 in price reduction for every $1 in needed repair.

Letting your seller know about the value of a pre-listing home inspection may allow him to make the repair for $5,000, rather than reducing the price by $15,000. This will help your seller and you move forward into the sale more likely to get a price closer to asking.

Listen to the seller’s goals, and reiterate them. When you first meet the seller, take time to discuss their goals, both long and short term. If they want to move out of the suburbs into a nearby city where they work, and that goal is very important to them, remind them that a $10,000 price drop can be looked at as a quality-of-life investment, as selling the house will lessen their commute and reduce stress (something many consider priceless)—it may even enable them to stay an extra hour at work each day, securing their job, and possibly even a promotion, in a tough economy; thus, over time, the $10,000 might be made up in multiples. Emphasize the long view, and the impact the sale will make on the seller’s overall quality of life, versus the short-term financial hit.

For more information, visit www.pillartopost.com.

Dan Steward is the president of Pillar To Post.

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