Sellers Are Yellers!

Judging by the feedback I got from last week’s article, Buyers Are Liars, I will probably have a similar reaction from agents on this one as well.  Just as we’ve all heard the saying, “buyers are liars”, we’ve also probably heard this one: “Sellers are yellers”.

This is, of course, referring to the fact that it’s much easier to get the listing than it is to keep the seller happy for the duration.  Don’t believe me?  Try reaching a listing agent the first few days of the month.  They are generally AWOL and you will get their voice mail.  They don’t want to get that call from the frustrated seller on the first of the month when their mortgage payment is due.

Well I have great news.  It doesn’t have to be that way.  Those angry sellers are really angry for only one reason, and we can eliminate that if we take and manage the listing properly.  Most sellers are angry because they have unmet expectations — the agent has over-promised and under-delivered.

How we can minimize the seller’s frustration, or better yet, eliminate it altogether.  It really is not that hard to do.  But it has to start before we get the all too familiar question — “Why hasn’t my home sold yet?”

Let’s be honest.  We want to say, “Because it’s real estate, and real estate sucks right now, if you hadn’t noticed!”  Instead we have learned to blame it on the house, the price, or other reasons to take the pressure off of us and put it on them.  And yes, unfortunately that approach works to a degree, but I recommend another approach.

As you read this I want you to be brutally honest with yourself.  When you took that listing last week did you tell the seller that the average days on market was 294 days?  (That’s what it currently is nationally.)  Probably not.  Why not?

When you took that 90-day listing, did you tell the seller that they stood a 15.7% chance of selling their home during that 90-day listing term?  No.  Or maybe you took a 180-day listing.  Okay, your odds of selling are a whopping 28.6%!  You probably didn’t tell them that, did you?  No, because you felt pressure to keep the listing short to make them happy.

So how can you eliminate that frustration?  A couple of ways.  First, by setting honest expectations up front.  Most agents are afraid to tell the seller the truth for fear they won’t get the listing.  The fact is, we don’t get paid to list houses — we get paid to sell them.

Think about it.  How much money do you get paid for listing a home for 90-days, when it sells four months after you’ve lost the listing to another agent working expireds?  And who is the “bad agent” and who is the “good agent”?  The fact is that the home was going to sell in seven months anyway, but you just helped somebody else become the hero.

Maybe your idea of a great time is enduring 90-days of angry seller calls while waiting on that 15.7% chance of getting paid, the whole time fronting the advertising costs and praying a miracle happens.  Maybe that’s your idea of a good time, but it certainly isn’t mine.  So what do I do?

I start by telling the seller what the odds of selling really are.  If you’re not familiar with calculating probabilities for your sellers, check out the calculator here on my blog. (It’s at the bottom of the page.)  It’s simple and it will give you a level of professionalism that most agents have never even thought of.  That’s why I always take a one-year listing.

The next thing I do is present an approach to selling their home that will sell it twice as fast as the average days on market.  Using the Traffic approach you can cut their selling time in half and net them more money in the process.  If you’d like to learn more about that approach, read The Ultimate Listing Presentation series here on my blog.

Besides setting the right expectations up front, the third thing I do is tell them not to expect a call unless we have a problem or an offer.  I generally say something like this:  “Mr. Seller, I need you to know that I currently manage the marketing for 50 homes (or whatever it is).  Unlike an agent that only has one or two listings, I cannot possibly call every seller every week, just to check in.”

“Think about it.  If each call is a 5-minute call, that’s over half a day every week just to tell you that nothing has changed, and that’s assuming I catch everyone on the first try!  That’s time I can better spend trying to market your home to other agents.  So, here’s what I’ll promise you.  I’ll contact you if anything develops on your home, or when we receive an offer.  Otherwise, if you have a question, you call or email me and I will be happy to talk to you.”

“In the mean time, every Monday I update a special website with the latest information on the weekly web traffic for your property, the phone calls we’ve received, and  the number of new buyer inquiries we’ve seen.  Feel free to check the site whenever you want.  It’s located at  But don’t hesitate to call me about anything.  I’m happy to answer all my clients’ calls.”

Now I realize that you may not be managing that many active listings and if you only have a handful, then a call a week is not that big a deal.  But if you have a lot of listings, build a blog website (for free) and update your activity once a week and your clients can check it whenever they want, and you have saved yourself a lot time and your clients are happy.

Finally, when the client does call, frustrated because their home hasn’t sold and the one across the street just did, remind them of the earlier conversation where you were realistic about the time frame.  Then check the probability calculator and say something like this:

“Let’s see, how long have we been on the market?  Hmmmm.  Only 110 days? Oh!  Well as frustrating as it seems, Mr. Seller, the odds of selling by now are only 18.3% or in other words, more than four to one against your selling by now.”

“Don’t worry about the home across the street.  Even a blind hog finds an acorn every now and then.  We’re doing all the right things, and I am confident we will sell it.  We just need to let this market work, and it will.  We don’t want to give the house away, or we could sell it today!”

Now that type of an approach keeps the sellers satisfied because they know that you have their sale under control and that you are being honest with them, in spite of the tough market.  And it forces them to be realistic in their expectations, because you continue to factually bring them back to reality.

And it also opens the conversation for price reductions (or commission increases) to help them as it becomes apparent that the home is not selling when it should.  And it allows you maintain the posture of the professional you are.

So, the next time you think that all sellers are yellers, think about this:  Are you really the one causing the frustration?  If you’ve done a poor job of setting expectations and communicating with them, it may very well be your fault.  Maybe it’s time to change a few old habits.

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