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The Little Slice of Hell House: A Lesson on Honesty in Real Estate

You probably read about the Colorado home that was listed as a “little slice of hell.” The real estate agent marketed this “investor special” as frankly as possibly in an effort to avoid any surprises for potential buyers. From candid photographs to blunt descriptions, she was painfully honest. It wasn’t the seller’s idea, but she trusted her agent. And it paid off—offers started rolling in when the listing was just a few days old. It’s an extreme example, but it highlights the importance of honesty between sellers and agents.

The Value of Honesty

The seller-agent relationship can be mutually beneficial when all goes well. But that success hinges on being forthright. Agents have to be truthful about the local market and realistic sales prices of a home, even when it’s not what a seller wants to hear. Sure, there are situations where a client may believe the agent is only trying to price a listing low for an “easy sale,” and sometimes that is true, but not nearly as often as you might think. It’s also on the agent to market a home to its best advantage, but this is a delicate line to walk. Positioning a home to look as appealing as possible is one thing. Using tricks of the light and specific camera angles to make a home seem brighter or bigger? Well, that could backfire when prospective buyers tour the home in person. We’ve seen that more than once with the new trend of virtual staging—but that’s a story for another post.

I once sold a loft where the lower level was turned into a sex dungeon, and the listing agent marketed it as “Dungeon included.” It was clever, provoking, and entirely accurate. And to the right buyer, it was the right approach.

While it may seem easier in the moment to tell a seller what they want to hear, whether that’s related to the market, a realistic listing price, or in the best way to market their home, honesty will serve everyone far better in the long run. Trust is predicated on honesty, and you should absolutely trust your agent to give you guidance and know their advice is based on experience and not a desire for an “easy sale.” How do you tell? Ask for their track record.  It’s easy to see if a property is getting at or above value compared to comparable sales, and don’t hesitate in pushing back asking for evidence of why your property should be listed at one price or another.  It’s our job to educate you, without highlighting the flaws or advocating against your property, which is not easy line when a client’s home is their baby, as it is in most cases. When your agent recommends that you invest a specific amount for upgrades that will increase the value of your home, or recommends a specific timeframe for going to market, it’s not always easy to take in, particularly if you’re reading the news that implies homes sell themselves. For the record, they don’t, and even in the hottest markets, the list of unsold properties is much longer than you may think. When I am representing my clients, I give them options. Here are the advantages of listing at this price, here are the potential pitfalls, and I finish with if this was my property this is what I would do. But ultimately the decision is yours!

If you’re selling or buying, look for an agent who will help you make the best of any situation you find yourself in real estate wise. You know where to find me!

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