Use know-how to set unrealistic sellers straight

What one question does the public want to ask real estate agents? It tends to be either macro — how’s the market? — or micro — what’s my house worth? The macro question can generally be answered with data, but the question of home valuation is a little tougher, partly because the homeowner generally has a price in mind.

Any homeowner who has decided to sell has probably researched their home online and viewed a few AVMs (automated valuation models), but for the homeowner, their price often has little to do with what a computer has said their home is worth — the value can feel more emotional than clinical.

Because of the emotions involved, a listing presentation can become a bit of a pitched battle, the agent wants to walk the client through all of the reasons to choose them, explain the value of the firm they are with, their marketing services, the successes they have had and all they offer.

The prospective client fidgets waiting for the moment of truth when the agent reveals the analysis of the market and the price that the home should be brought to market for. Some present a range, a high, medium and low, which provides flexibility; others offer one price.

Each technique comes with its own risks: A range can give the homeowner the impression that the agent lacks confidence, but one price can leave the homeowner feeling like there is less room for negotiation.

The homeowner generally has a price in mind, too, and often it can be higher than what the agent recommends. It’s here that the negotiation becomes crucial. Too often it seems an agent will capitulate on the go-to-market price only to later have to eventually argue for a price reduction as the market responds with offers more in line with the agent’s original analysis. This can be a tough strategy, as a home gets less attractive to buyers the longer it sits on market, and in the end, the client can lose more money depending on what the carrying costs for the home are.

In a situation where an agent is competing against others for the listing, it can be hard to hold on to the courage of expertise. However, right pricing, determined by careful study of the market and personal experience, is one of the core competencies a real estate agent can offer. The homeowner might know the home and even the neighborhood, but they don’t have hundreds of negotiations and offers under their belt.

How do you hold your ground when the homeowner is insisting on a higher price?

Here are a few potential ways to continue the conversation:

  1. Explain the value of lower days on market and how this can also contribute to savings. Use data based on what the client pays to maintain and carry the home to help make your point.
  2. Dive into negotiation strategy, explaining that the price that is set might not be the final price and that if someone comes in at asking it might be possible to negotiate for a higher rate.
  3. Get a pricing opinion. Back your expertise with that of your broker or other esteemed agents in your firm. The homeowner might get a deeper understanding of what you are trying to say if others back you up.
  4. If the homeowner insists on a higher price, explain to them that marketing at a premium will also require a larger investment in marketing materials and advertisement to promote the home.

None of the suggestions above are bulletproof. In the end, the agent must make the decision on whether he or she feels that the home can be successfully sold at the price the client wants. Deciding to acquiesce to the client on pricing and simply hoping for the best is not a strategy, and it discredits the role of a real estate agent as a professional. In the end, right pricing does more than just get the property sold: It contributes fundamentally to the experience that the homeowner has during the course of the transaction.

Deidre Woollard was part of the marketing team at and is currently the head of communications for Partners Trust, a leading luxury brokerage in Los Angeles.

Email Deidre Woollard.

Par rnudo