A couple of weeks ago, I had the privilege of participating in Inman’s “My First Sale” series. I wrote from the seller’s perspective, with an eye to sharing how my agent made the process successful. Here’s my story:
I have a confession to make: I’m an MLS lurker. It’s not that I don’t love my current home – it’s just that you never know what opportunity might present itself. And in fact, that’s how my husband and I ended up selling our first home. I was lurking on the MLS one evening and came across an incredibly cheap fixer-upper just a few streets over.
At the time, we lived in a 1,300-square-foot Cape Cod. Between our high-energy 3-year-old and the fact that we worked a combined 40-50 hours a week from home, it was feeling a bit cramped. The fixer-upper seemed to have just the right amount of additional space, and in the right places. So we went to look at it. It turned out not to be a good fit, but our wheels started turning. Suddenly, we had a burning desire to sell our home and find something new.
It could have been a recipe for disaster. It was pretty much a snap decision, and it was 2009: the height of the housing crisis. Everyone told us we were crazy and would never sell. Everyone except our agent, that is. And thanks to him, the sale was a resounding success.
Our agent did many things right in that process, but here are the standouts:
He had the true pulse of the market.
On the surface, 2009 was a rotten time to sell a house. But our agent looked below the surface at the specific circumstances of our situation. 2009 was also the year of the $8,000 first-time homebuyer tax credit, and our house was perfect for first-time homebuyers. In addition, second-tier houses (the kind we wanted to buy) were available at historically low prices. This meant that the price break on our new home would far outweigh any hit we might take on the sale of our existing home. Our agent went over these and other factors with us and encouraged us to sell. When we agreed, he went over all the comps with us in detail and priced the house carefully. We ended up with a contract in just six days, after choosing from several full-price offers.
He went more than the extra mile.
We went through a whirlwind three weeks to get our home ready for sale. I think we condensed seven years of unfinished home improvement projects into about 10 days. All the while, our daughter was chronically ill with severe asthma. And my husband, who worked a high-travel job, was out of town for all but five days of the process. Needless to say, I was overwhelmed. Our agent, who loved older homes and remodeling, literally rolled up his sleeves to help. He helped move furniture, swapped out cabinet hardware, and even checked in with contractors while I ferried my daughter to and from doctors’ appointments. When my husband had to miss closing, he sat with me through a grueling four hours while I signed every paper three times: once as myself, once in POA form, and once as my husband.
He knew how to market.
Our home was in one of the city’s most popular neighborhoods, but not on the most desirable street. And there were plenty of others like it in terms of size and layout. But we had made significant investment in eco-friendly improvements, and our agent played those up in the listing, at the open house, and at showings. He also insisted that we pack up about half our possessions and stage the home, and he used professional photography. The couple who bought our house told us those that those three elements tipped the balance in favor of our property.
He knew what battles to fight.
One of our buyers also had heavy travel demands, and we simply could not find a closing date when everyone was in town. Since it was not our first rodeo, our agent encouraged us to build goodwill by following the buyers’ calendar. After the sale was final, the buyers told us that our willingness to accommodate them affected the way they approached contract negotiations – because we’d been “so nice,” they didn’t want to be jerks about repairs or closing costs. On the other side of the experience, the sellers of our new home flat-out refused to negotiate on price. It was an estate sale, and our agent sensed that emotions were getting in the way. After a dressing-down from their attorney (for rejecting a reasonable offer on a home that none of them wanted anyway), the sellers came back. They even took $1,000 off our lowest bid in an effort to apologize and show good faith.
All this goes back to an agent’s true value proposition. What do you do that makes you indispensable when compared to some tech tool? Our agent certainly made his value proposition clear. After all that he did for us, we’ve referred him many times to other people, and we couldn’t imagine buying or selling a home without him.
What did you learn from your first sale, either as an agent or a seller? Share in the comments!