Bianca Denham: What do sellers really want?

There’s a natural gap that exists between sellers and buyers, a tension that is to be expected in the course of every transaction.

It is natural for any vendor, who only gets one chance to sell what is in many cases their biggest asset, to desire a premium price for that sale.

It is also natural for buyers, for whom the purchase of a property is likely to be the biggest purchase they ever make, to want to achieve good value when making that purchase.

That gap justifies the existence of real estate agents.

It’s important to remember that fact.

If it were easier for sellers and buyers to agree to an eventual sale and purchase price, there would be less need for our services.

We need to love that gap.

The data shows that most markets in Australia have seen pricing increases in the past 12 months.

We are in a seller’s market in most states, with buyer enquiry, inspection and loan pre-approval numbers up year-on-year.

For some, that may feel surprising because the sentiment of sellers don’t necessarily reflect that fact. 

This is curious and doesn’t get represented in the hard data, but is garnered through anecdotal evidence.

To paint a clearer picture, what we are seeing is that while we are having multiple interested parties and bidders for many properties, some vendors aren’t necessarily completing their sale with a feeling of excitement, or that they have achieved market best price.

In many cases, our agents, principals and auctioneers need to work really hard to close the sale.

This can be frustrating for agents, who may feel they have prepared a competitive and comprehensive campaign, but there are some fundamental processes agents all over the country are dropping the ball on.

This exacerbates the trend.

To put this into perspective, I’d like to start with a question:

What do vendors really want when they sell their home?

If you ask many agents, their first answer would be to achieve a specific price.

This can be one of the first tripwires that we set for ourselves.

When agents become too attached to achieving a specific price, that focus can mean agents inadvertently push away genuinely interested buyers and miss the opportunity to discover what the market is actually saying the current value of the property is.

Most sellers, when surveyed, don’t put price at the top of their list.

They will often make comments about trust, getting the sale made and comments around pricing usually state that they want to ensure that they achieve the best money the market can pay rather than a specific price.

If we take a perspective of providing this platform, it can drive agent activity differently.

Below I will outline the critical moments and behaviours that amount to a flawless sales campaign, and create ecstatic sellers, who can eventually manifest amazing referral opportunities for your business.

Set yourself up for success

When we sell property for our full time job, it’s easy to forget what a massive event this is for most vendors.

Many agents don’t meet the level of communication and campaign management sellers expect.

In many cases, setting expectations and coaching sellers on what to expect can assist with their overall satisfaction with the process.

Conducting a ‘set to sell’ meeting can be a really valuable way to establish the ground rules and help vendors understand what to expect during the sale campaign.

It’s important to note, that this is separate to the listing presentation itself and should be conducted, ideally, within 24-72 hours post listing.

The ‘set to sell’ meeting is where you explain the flow of the campaign.

When will photos, editorial and marketing collateral be prepared?

How should vendors present their homes for open inspections?

When will opens happen?

How should they manage buyers who approach them directly?

What about when you will communicate, and in what format?

Will it be via texts, calls, emails and reports, or all of the above?

Who will they hear from, only you or various team members?

How many enquiries and inspections should they expect?

What happens once someone visits the home?

There is no information too trivial to tackle and a good rule of thumb is if you’ve had an issue with a seller in the past about something that happened during a sale campaign, maybe you could add it to your ‘set to sell’ agenda.

The second part of a ‘set to sell’ meeting is to prepare your vendor for what to expect with regard to the expected sale price and interest from active buyers.

In essence, it’s preparing the vendors for the reality that they should receive interest from buyers who, in some cases, will likely want to offer lower than what they would like to accept.

It’s important that agents engage with all interested buyers because as we know, people are all different and will approach offer, negotiation and eventual purchase in different ways.

You cannot know what a buyer will pay until you put them through a formal process and you should never make assumptions on behalf of the seller around what they will accept for their property.

Exceptional prices are achieved more often in competitive environments, with multiple offers rather than in isolation, so it’s critical for agents to focus on engaging multiple interested parties rather than pushing away early interest based solely on price.

It’s also important that you keep an open mind when entering the market with relation to price.

In many cases, it’s the agents themselves that can be the barrier to the sale rather than the vendors.

An agent who is too attached to achieving a particular price, rather than turning over every stone to ensure they have found the market’s very best price can be two different things.

Being fixed on a particular price can impact the eventual sale price both positively and negatively, we have seen many examples where agents may have capped the eventual price by being too wedded to their appraisal price, this is especially prevalent in rising markets where the market is outpacing all parties, agents, vendors and buyers.

While an agent is bound to prepare an appraisal price, no agent will ever really know what a property will actually sell for until they enter into a formal sale campaign.

Prepare quality reports and send them weekly

I’d like you to pretend for a moment that you have never worked in real estate and you are a seller about to pay a premium price for a premium service.

What would you expect?

Given that we have already acknowledged that this is one of the most eventful moments in many people’s lives, and that most people expect a high level of communication around such an event, a formal weekly written report is absolutely the minimum standard to be met.

Yet when markets are rising, this is one of the first parts of the process to be dropped.

This is, in many cases, due to the fact that property is selling fast, in some cases before the chance to write a report.

However, if you find you’re attracting more sellers whose expectations are sitting above the buyers’ gauge on market value, you must deliver a weekly report.

This is where you summarise the activity around the campaign:

Driven buyer calls – if you’ve called 25 buyers to invite them to an inspection, that should be in the report, along with the details of whether they came to inspect or didn’t.

Marketing activities – what has been prepared and executed, both paid and unpaid. If you’ve knocked neighbouring streets to advise about the sale, that should go in the report as well as all other paid marketing activities.

Portal activity – the portals will provide you with campaign stats and these will help the sellers understand how their property is competing with other properties in their local vicinity. It will also help you set the scene for any price adjustment advice you may need to provide.

Inspections – everyone who has come through the property must have a detailed account of your follow up. Every call, every voicemail, every text. You need to demonstrate your work, and how you are leaving nothing to chance when it comes to the sale of their property.

Price feedback – the most important two pieces of information a seller needs to know about anyone who inspects their home are: Does the buyer have interest in their home? At what price would they be interested to make an offer? In that order.

Notice I haven’t written what they think the property is worth?

Rather, what they would be prepared to pay.

There is a world of difference between the pricing opinion of a casual passerby, possibly even a neighbour, and that of an actual buyer who is willing to make an offer to purchase.

It is your job to ask the right questions to provide high quality information for your seller to be able to make decisions.

Flowery feedback from someone who has no interest in buying a property can do more damage than good, and may ultimately mislead your seller and misrepresent the current market value.

This part of the process takes practice and you will need to be armed with multiple questions to get to the heart of what a potential buyer would actually pay, rather than a flippant opinion, which may be given without much thought.

Offers – seeking offers is one of the most important actions off the back of bringing buyers through a property.

You are actually creating a platform for your seller to make a decision from.

All vendors expect multiple offers for their property.

Are you creating this environment for them to understand that when they do accept an offer they have made the right decision and have evidence to back that up?

The greatest barrier to creating multiple offers through the campaign is an agent who is fixed to a particular price.

Can you ask open questions that allow the buyer to be honest with you?

Are you pushing interest away by making assumptions on behalf of the vendor?

You must engage with buyers who have enough interest and encourage them to make offers first.

Negotiation comes later, but first you must allow your vendors to see the genuine interest for their home before you discount them on their behalf.

Be prepared to have tough conversations

I heard a quote from the great Kelly Tatlow – “Professionals act as they must, not as they feel”.

It remains one of my favourites and speaks to the heart of the most sacred duty of being an agent.

Having tough conversations is something that holds many agents back.

Those that can, elevate their careers as long as these are handled with tact and care.

As a professional, you are engaged to sell the property, sell it for a premium price, and act in the best interest of the seller.

Sometimes that involves having conversations with the sellers that will be difficult and you know they don’t want to hear, but it needs to be had nonetheless.

If you went to your doctor and they failed to advise you had stage four cancer because they didn’t want to upset you, that would be negligence. 

Failing to tell your seller that their expectations on price cannot be met by the current market could be considered similar.

Holding onto hope that you can achieve a new market record, or that you are better than the market, can be the undoing of the campaign.

If you have done your job thoroughly and provided good quality feedback and information to your clients throughout, you will have created a platform upon which to make recommendations.

Your clients will expect you to guide them through this process and if you are failing to advise on critical decisions, you may be getting in the way of the sale.

Ensure you meet with your clients weekly, talk through the feedback, review the pricing strategy, review their expectations of price and make any adjustments to advertised price from there.

There is no minimum amount of time you need to wait to make a price adjustment, if the market suggests it needs to be done weekly, then you must make that adjustment.

If your clients aren’t taking your advice, in many cases it’s that you haven’t built a sufficient platform and need to work more on the items mentioned above.

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