Saturday, February 28, 2009

How to Sell a House - Part Eight - The Wait

The house is launched with the brokers' open and now you wait. I usually request that all calls for appointments go through me, rather than through the owners. It may not be as direct, but I have a better chance to coordinate things that way. I also believe firmly that it's my job to sell the house and this gives me a chance to point out features and answer questions.

I can compare this part of the process with throwing a party. You wait for the guests to arrive, uncertain whether they got the invitation ("It's a great house!") or even want to come. If there are no showings immediately, it generally means there are no buyers who have been waiting breathlessly for a home like yours to come on the market. Or they can't get here right away.

When properties on the lake were hot commodities and only three or four came on each year, agents had lists of people to call when one did. Listing agents called their buyers first but if they worked for the sellers assiduously they let all the other agencies know at the same time. The more people looking and eager to buy, the better offer the seller was likely to get.

These days are different. We have so many homes on the market - new construction, waterfront, town and village - in all price ranges and so few buyers that the "fly in this weekend or you'll miss it" market is gone. So sellers wait.

The rule of thumb had been that it took 8 to 12 showings prior to receiving an offer. These did not count open houses, but were true appointment showings. It was always so helpful for sellers to hear that, because rejection is hard. Returning to the party analogy - guests arrived, stayed a while, but chose not to hang out.

The waiting these days is not so much for the offer, but for the buyers. My listings are still being shown, my open houses attended, but the eagerness is gone. My sellers look for ways to bring people in, but unless the agents have qualified buyers it doesn't do much good to offer incentives.

But keep your spirits up, sellers! The house must be clean every day, the clutter able to be hidden at a moment's notice, the dog bathed and groomed, and it's not such a bad way to live. I remember one client saying that even if the house didn't sell in the 8 months it was on the market, at least it was clean for 8 months.

And remember - a great deal of it is in your control. Any house will sell if the price is low enough. If a buyer is approved for $200,000 and a house that previously (pre-Recession) would have sold for $350,000 moves into that price range, my guess is that it would sell.

Old joke: A man sees an ad in the paper for a 3600 sf house for $10. He believes it must be a mistake, but goes to the house anyway. "No mistake," says the woman who answers the door. "My husband ran away with his secretary and told me to sell the house and send him half of the proceeds. There's a Porsche in the garage - you can have it for $5!"