2016 Update: This was written in 2009 but most of it is true today. Our market is better in 2016 than it was in 2009, so that's not as relevant, but the truth is, homes that aren't priced correctly for their condition can still sit on the market for a long time. Some of the items below can also thwart a sale.
I showed Orland Park homes for sale over the weekend and also showed homes in Homer Glen, Palos Heights and Palos Park. The first home was vacant new construction and the agent was holding an open house. She stayed out of our way and allowed me to show the home to my buyers, who know me and know I'm looking out for their best interests. One of these places was a nice home on a busy street.
The 2nd home showing was a whole different story. I was told the seller would be home but did not expect what occurred. I warned my buyers the seller would be home before we entered the house. They were not happy with the information and she commented, "I thought sellers were supposed to leave during home showings." I told her they should leave but we can't force them to.
But this seller took it a step further. He was our tour guide.
And buyers and their agent do not need a tour guide
This house was almost completely redone, and it was done nicely. However, the seller talked and talked and talked some more. To be polite, my buyers gave him more attention than they did the house. He told them things my buyers could have cared less about, such as the wall that used to be out this far and was now only this far. He kept telling us what was before and what he did to create the after. My buyers did not care, at least not during the first viewing, what the houseused to be like. They only cared what it was like now.
I tried pulling them away from his lead but he just wouldn't have it. I wanted to pull him aside and ask him to allow me to show the home instead of him showing it. I didn't feel there was a correct time that wouldn't have made him feel mad or embarrassed, so we let him "sell" us. I could tell my buyers were uncomfortable and one of them even rolled her eyes at one point.
Fortunately, my buyers are very nice and didn't completely hold things against this seller. But they would have been so much more comfortable if he had left us alone.
Buyers can tell pretty quickly if they're interested in a home or not
No amount of explanation or history or showing every little thing by the seller will help sell a home if the buyers aren't interested in it for whatever reason. In fact, we went through another nice home that one of the buyers kept talking positive about but the other buyer said he just wasn't feeling it. That was not a house they will consider putting an offer on.
It doesn't matter if an agent misses a small feature, the buyer most likely has already made their decision with or without knowing about certain amenities such as a brand new sump pump or some other item that might not have been mentioned. A seller can do more damage trying to push every little thing than staying in the background.
Sellers should not be home during a showing if they want their property to be sold
Buyers feel very uneasy when a seller is around. They don't want to seem too interested so they view the home more quickly. They don't take the time to stop and picture themselves and their furniture in the home when the seller is around. They won't speak candidly about their likes or dislikes. They won't ask me questions while we're in the home and an emotional investment is less likely to occur unless the home is absolutely amazing.
In the case of the home with the seller as tour guide, the home was nice but it wasn't amazing. Add to that the discomfort the buyers felt, and this seller made his chances of selling worse. I can barely remember the interior of the home as I was so angry that he wouldn't leave us alone.
Let's shed some light on the problem
Even on the first showing, an open house being held by the listing agent, I had to walk through the home and turn the lights on. In fact, I had to ask "tour guide seller" to turn on the lights (so we could see what he was talking about). I don't expect a vacant home to have the lights on, but we saw one house (which is at the top of my buyer's list) where the seller was not home but had all the lights turned on. We weren't sure if the home was professionally staged or this seller had impeccable taste and neatness. We didn't think anyone lived there until we saw clothes in the closets. It wasn't my favorite house of the day, but my buyers loved it. And I believe part of it was the presentation. It really is important!
Sellers, turn on all of the lights before you leave for showings. Don't make the agents have to look around for them. Open the curtains or blinds and let the light in. It really makes a difference.
And yet another issue that did not help to sell another home
We had 7 homes to view that day. We were running towards the end of the scheduled showing hour. I got a call that our 2nd to last showing could not be done as the agent had to leave to show a different property. She left 5 minutes (so she said, I didn't check the time of the call) before the end of our showing window. And that was the problem, this agent had to be present for the showing.
I'm not sure why she had to be present, maybe there was a dog that knew her and she could handle, although that was never mentioned. Some sellers insist their agent be present during all showings. This is ridiculous and I would never take a listing with that as a requirement.
I am a busy, full-time agent and wouldn't always be available for every showing on a listing. What that would mean is that I would have to turn down showings. And turning buyers away does not help to sell a property. They might never come back.
In fact, we drove by the home to view it from the outside. Seeing the exterior, my buyers weren't too anxious to reschedule a showing on this property. It might have been very nice inside, but the outside wasn't up to par with other homes I had shown them. So by not allowing us inside, these sellers lost a showing. Would seeing the inside have changed my buyer's minds? I don't know and the sellers will never know.
Sellers should never expect their agents to have to be present for a showing. Unless there's a darn good reason, such as a dog that is not crated, sellers should use a lockbox if they can't be home. There are some areas where it is expected that every seller uses a lockbox and that's just how it is. Sellers in those areas don't even question it. They know that's how it works in their area and if they want their house shown and sold they do what is expected.
It's a tough market, people
I keep doing CMA's for properties in areas/subdivisions that haven't had a single sale in more than 6 months. There aren't any comparable listings since appraisers only look back 3-6 months in today's market. They will go out of an area or subdivision to find a similar home as a comp than go back more than 6 months.
In some areas/subdivisions the only properties that have sold are short sales and foreclosures, bringing the value of the area down. Owner-owned homes not in short sale status can't compete with the prices of the distressed properties around them. Not only do they have to price their home right (low), but they better allow it to be shown at all times and not hinder the showings by following buyers around and saying too much.
Mortgages are more difficult to come by today and will be even more difficult with changes coming soon. Interest rates are still low, but buyers need to qualify. If it becomes more difficult to get a mortgage there will be less buyers looking. You don't want to turn off the qualified buyers that want to view your home.
This might sound like an angry post. I am just shocked. I'm not sure if these sellers' agents just haven't explained things to them or these sellers just don't listen. I'm trying to help all sellers in this depressed market. Make it as easy and comfortable for buyers to view your property. Leave the home or stay out of the way, don't volunteer information unless you're asked and make sure all lights are on and window coverings are open. Of course, if you're not priced correctly none of this will matter, but that's a different story.
If you're a seller that wants an experienced agent to help get your home sold and not just up for sale, give Judy Orr a call at 708-536-8200. You can also fill out the Internet Market Analysis form to get your market value sent to you via e-mail.