A Tip For Sellers

Here’s a little slice of life. I’ve got some buyer clients who are qualified up to $900,000 looking for a house with minimum 3 bedrooms, one level, good area and not a tear down and, of course, a good deal. We were planning to go look at some places one Saturday recently. All of my clients are plugged into an automatic property search that’s part of my website and they receive listings as they come on the market. This on-line organizer allows them to mark homes they’re interested in or delete those they’re not too hip about. ( It’s not uncommon for a client to delete a real gem and mark as interested a real dump…but that’s what I’m here for…to educate them). Typically clients will express an interest in living “somewhere in the Mid-Peninsula”. It’s actually kind of unusual to hear someone insist on living in only one city, so again, it’s my job to cull down the choices to a selection that the client will like based upon the education they’ve been giving me during our relationship. It’s also common for a client to mark 15 to 20 houses as interested but I discovered a long time ago that once people get past the 5th or 6th house their memory of what they’ve seen blurs a bit and they find it hard to keep track of the many details of the houses they’ve seen. Consequently I almost never show more than 6 houses at a time, there’s a natural, human point of diminishing return if we do…for everybody. It’s important to note that if you’re looking in more than one community there’s always going to be something to see in any given price range at any given time. It does happen that one house stands out way over and above all of it’s competition but it’s much more rare than you might think. My point? If you’re a seller chances are your house is not unique…there’s other houses comparable to yours on the market too.

So here’s what happens in the real world. I try to find a manageable 6 houses out of a stack of maybe 15 listings the client’s expressed interest in. Since I’ve typically previewed these houses I know immediately which represent the best opportunity to meet my clients expectations and that’ll reduce the list right away to 8 to 10 choices. How do I reduce it further you ask? The sellers do it themselves! On Friday afternoon I’ll call these listings to make appointments to show the houses Saturday morning. The first two, simple, no problem. The third goes like this:

Me: Hi, this is Jim Minkey with Re/Max, I just called to see if I can show your house tomorrow morning?

Seller: Who? What?

Me: Jim Minkey with Re/Max…is it OK if I come over tomorrow and show your place?

Seller: Ummmm…No

Me: (confused) Ummm…I can’t?

Seller: No, sorry, we’re busy tomorrow. Why don’t you come over on Sunday afternoon during the open house.

Me: Umm..sorry but my clients have plans on Sunday. They’re meeting me tomorrow.

Seller: Oh, well

Me: Thanks anyway…good luck.

The fourth call is fine and then we have this one: The listing agent is from out of the area. The house doesn’t have a lock-box, has no seller phone number and all showings need to be arranged through the listing agent. So I call him/her in area code 415,510,408 and sometimes 831 or 916 and inevitably leave a message. Do you suppose agent x returns my call? Ah..no. Actually yes they do…at 4:00PM on Sunday afternoon. “Go ahead and show it. There’s a combination lock-box hidden in the meter box on the side of the house” Great, too bad my clients looked at houses yesterday. “You’re exaggerating” you say. I’m serious…this kind of thing happens almost every-time I make appointments to show property.

Here’s the thing..when your house is on the market it’s your product.It has to be exposed to potential purchasers. It’s no different than if you opened a store at the Hillsdale Mall. Imagine Restoration Hardware’s manager saying “Sorry, you can’t come in here on Saturday afternoon, my aunt’s in town from Topeka and we’re busy. Why don’t you come over between 1 and 4 on Sunday afternoon?” Or even better…Restoration Hardware’s manager has to drive over from Fremont to unlock the door but only if you’re lucky enough to catch him on his cell phone to make the appointment well in advance. It’s not a coincidence that these listings tend to sit on the market a long time…and take several price reductions in the process.

No question, it can be a grueling adventure having your home on the market. I’m also well aware that often agents will call, make appointments, and never show up. It’s a pain to have to keep the place in perfect showing condition, especially when the kids are running amok and dinner is burning in the oven but the rewards can be great in doing so. In this market in particular you want as many potential buyers as you possibly can get.


  1. Linda Intfen says:

    Hi Jim,
    You said that you are interested in someone “selling” their house, so I thought I would ask you to please take a look at a new house on the market. It is a move-in condition home, new windows, appliances, counters, and refurbished hardwood floors, an awesome master shower, etc., and in a great area of Foster City. It is 1240 Swordfish Street, and it is a 3 bedroom 2 bath 1890 square foot home. Take a look, and it is only $869,000!!! Thanks!

  2. Good stuff, Jim. Unfortunately this kind of stuff happens way too often. 4 things sell a home: Price, Location, Condition and Marketing. Sellers need to ensure that they put their best foot forward by pricing appropriately, presenting their home in the best condition, while obtaining the services of a qualified Realtor who will market the home aggressively and thoroughly.

  3. We sold our previous house in Foster City about 2 years ago, when the market had turned sour. Between buyers pulling out, etc. it ended up taking about 6 months to finally sell/close. We have two cats and a dog and anytime someone called we had to do a mad scramble to run home from work and grab the dog, lock up the cats, etc. it was a royal pain every time. Imagine this 1-2 times a week for six months, not to mention keeping the place immaculate the entire time while living there and having the pets, in case someone wanted to come by at a moment’s notice. But if we hadn’t gone to all that trouble every time, we probably still would be trying to sell the place.

  4. We are trying to sell our home in FC right now. I understand and agree w/ your point about making the house available to show at a moment’s notice but it is also frustrating that we leave the house say for 30 mins and return only to find they never came by!..This has happened more than once or twice and I find it very rude and inconsiderate of our time. Sometimes this practice makes the buyer more skeptical as well.

  5. Jim Minkey says:

    You raise a VERY common and annoying complaint tezbear! I’ve heard it alot over the last 20 years. There’s really no excuse for it either. It couldn’t hurt for an agent to call back because plans had changed and let you know. Here’s the problem…at the end of the day you still have to allow access to the home. The home is still your product no matter what the buyer’s do…and you want to sell it. One day you’ll go out and allow the house to be shown as you’ve been doing and those buyer’s will write an offer. When that happens you’ll forget about those rude folks who bugged you in the past. I do understand and agree with you though…selling your home can certainly be challenging.

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