Matthew Ferrara, Philosopher

Ten Simple Phrases for Talking to Home Owners

>Maximize the summer selling season with our ten simple conversation starters for home owners. Once the government withdraws the Bernanke Bucks from the housing market, the laws of supply and demand aren’t going to hold their punches. So real estate and home owners need to get serious – and these discussion points should help focus the mind on the market realities.

Let’s face it: Home are an amazing fiction. In fact, they do not exist. There are home owners, who might wish to sell their home. But let’s not pretend that makes them a seller of anything. At least not in any real economic sense.

With the exception of a home builder, who actually manufactures and sells a number of homes, most home owners don’t qualify as a seller in a marketplace. Adding one single commodity unit to a saturated marketplace does not a seller make. In fact, nobody is a seller until – and if – they close the deal. So acting like they are selling – and making all the mistakes that come with it – isn’t helping home owners these days. But we don’t have to get all Adam Smith to understand the most basic reason home owners aren’t sellers:

They are already searching for their next home. Thus, they are .

For months before contacting a real estate agent, owners have been shopping – pre-buying, really – for their next home. They search online and visit open houses. And just like the potential buyers for their home will do, owner-buyers are reviewing, comparing and judging their options. They are turning their noses up on properties they see as inferior, unacceptable or – gasp! – overpriced.

And rightly so, because they are buyers.

Unfortunately, most owners-pre-buyers have to dump their current home before they can make a purchase. Yet it is that moment of confusion – fueled by an industry that thinks listing homes is all-that-and-a-bag-of-chips – that these owner-buyers think they are sellers, in control of the process.

That’s the problem, isn’t it? Many troubles in the marketplace stem from a case of the mistaken identity. Even when the market was “hot” it was up to the buyers to decide to enter into a bidding war. Hot or cold, if no buyer wants your product, you’re never going to become a seller.

Sellers only occur at the closing table.

That’s why these ten simple questions to ask homeowners are so important to agents trying to get owners to the closing table. These phrases are designed to get owners to understand that they themselves are buyers; and the same thoughts they have about the homes they are previewing will be no different than the thoughts other buyers will have about their home.

These ten conversational phrases might help snap the market out of its Janus-faced doldrums. At the very least, they will make for more interesting and honest discussions, for agents who cannot afford to represent unsellable inventory, and owners who cannot afford to fool themselves any more. So let’s get started:

  1. Mr. and Mrs. Home Owner, before I accept the price you suggest we market your home at, would you remind me again how many homes you successfully sold this year?
  2. Of course I’ll be happy to advertise your home in the newspaper; if you could only show me the newspapers you have been using to search for your next home?
  3. I’m sorry, which did you say you couldn’t afford? To put off Gen X buyers who prefer new construction, or the cost of three cans of paint for your 1970s living room?
  4. Oh, the bathroom is painted like a scene from 101 Dalmations! How silly of me to think that was mold.
  5. Are you good with synonyms? I’m trying to come up with a word for charming to describe how smaller rooms merit $25,000 more than the home across the street.
  6. Yes, it is a shame the hardware store that sold the golden nails went out of business. They helped lots of other owners beat the market, too!
  7. Sweat equity? Is that what that smell is?
  8. Did I hear you put in an offer on a home across town? The sellers must have been very pleased that you offered them the full price!
  9. Can you tell me where you buried the statue that has protected your equity during the greatest recession in a century?
  10. I must agree: placing a sign in the yard would make it look cluttered. We can do without it.

So, no promises these will turn around the market. But one thing is for sure: if real estate professionals don’t start discussing some of these ideas with home owners – tailored for style, of course – there’s not going to be any sellers with buyers at the closing table. And possibly not many owners left in some markets, either.

  • rustya

    I only wish we could get away with presenting these in this exact way. Great post.

  • I completely understand; if you like, send them to my link beforehand; they can be mad at me, but if it helps them see the light and make better decisions with your help, I'll be the fall guy… :>

  • SeanCarp

    Matthew – one of my favorite comments to use when Sellers wanted to try their price for thirty days was, “we could try that price for thirty days, but just not the first thirty days.” Often, when said with a smile or wink, they got my point.

    Home owners are dealing with a much smarter buyer pool – one that understands the market better than at any time in history, thanks to the web, social marketing and common sense. When a buyer has been looking at homes for 2-10 weeks they have a good feel for the value a home has. When an owners value and a buyers value match, you get a sale. When they don't, you get a kicked tire.

    Realtors should remember that the best marketing technique they could ever use is a correct price to begin with. Everything else takes care of itself.

  • Absolutely! The critical marketing component of any commodity is its market price. Great comment!