The Feedback Fallacy

So an unexpected job transfer snakes its way into your idyllic garden of domestic bliss one uncharacteristically blustery evening, and everything changes.  The fertile soils that you have so lovingly cultivated within its confines are to fall under the purview and care of another’s spade.  It’s time to sell your house.

Home improvement and design shows supplant your regular programs as you strive to understand what today’s buyer is looking for in a house.  While you would never think of replacing the charming old world tiled counter tops for yourself, you know you just might have to for your suitors.  The incremental evidence of your little one’s time on this earth will be obfuscated with nothing more than a coat of fresh paint on the kitchen wall.  All such changes both minor and monumental as you prepare to open your doors to the world.

Once fully prepped, your venerable old home is a lot less old and venerable than modernly stylish.  You’d buy it all over again, and that makes the forthcoming transition doubly tough.

For every showing, you light your strategically placed oatmeal raisin cookie scented candles and illuminate just the right number of lights.  Light jazz emanates from the surround sound stereo system.  No buyer can possibly navigate your well laid maze of hugs and snare traps without signing on the dotted line.

And yet, inconceivably, they do.  The first buyer puts up a fight, and somehow manages to wriggle free.  The second showing yields a prize relo catch who is lost to the sea of competition when the line snaps just as he breaches the water.  The third candidate hops away on his one good leg after gnawing through an ensnared limb to escape your clutches.  One after another they come and go.

You know there can be no possible objection to the condition of your home.  You also know there can be no objection to the price.  Though a bit higher than recommended by your Realtor, you are well aware that your home is vastly superior to anything else on the market.  And the comps?  What a joke!  Sure the Johnson’s home sold for 100k less last month, but they didn’t even have a pantry!  Something is rotten in Scottsdale, and you demand to know what it is.

You ask your agent for feedback from the buyers and agents that have viewed the home.

Which brings me to my serpentine point.

Showing feedback is not to be trusted.  While I routinely solicit input from those who have shown my listings, I do so more as a means of keeping my properties top of mind with the buyer’s agent than as an honest assessment of our positioning within the market.  It’s a tricky business to seek the opinion of the person to whom you would sell something.  For starters, if I am working with a buyer, and the listing agent calls for my showing feedback, he or she better be prepared for the forthcoming diatribe about how horrifically overpriced they are … especially if my clients are interested in the home.  Further, if the listing agent calls me multiple times, emails me and sends a carrier pigeon to my office with a note pleading for feedback, you better believe this mako smells more than a drop of blood in the water.  You can only push so hard before the obvious desperation cedes all negotiating leverage to the other party.  Not a good way to start a dialogue.

I understand the frustration that accompanies a non-selling home.  Believe me, it frustrates your agent, too.  However, you have to tread carefully when chasing down every prospect like they stole the good china.  One of them might actually be your buyer, so you have to maintain some sense of decorum.  Even the mangiest house on the market could do well to play slightly hard to get.

As I sit here typing this, I have received a second voicemail and another email from the listing agent of a property in which a client of mine has expressed an interest.  I have pointedly ignored the first correspondence attempts just to see how hard I will be pursued.  Every subsequent call will result in a 10k reduction on what I ultimately advise my clients to offer.  Believe that.

Ain’t nothin’ but the shark in me.

Besides, the most vociferous feedback seekers don’t seek feedback at all.  They seek affirmation.

Oh yes, it’s wonderfully appointed and wonderfully priced!  It has been on the market for 150 days because buyers are obviously blithering idiots!

You already know the answers to the questions you pose, even if you are not ready to admit it.  No need to run the gauntlet of buyer agents to decode this self-evident truth:

Are you getting offers?


Drop your price.

Please like & share:
  • Paul, love the website! I like to tell my clients that the only feedback we really care about comes in the form of a written offer!

  • Perfectly stated, Colleen. Those who don’t like the home or the price, don’t offer. Those who like the home and/or the value, won’t tell you they do. It’s all part of the game. The part that many don’t seem to grasp is that over-aggressive pursuit is cryptonite to their negotiation with the buyer that actually is interested. Subtlety is a dying art, it would seem.

  • Paul, as a listing agent, I crave feedback. I WANT the agents to spill the beans on everything they hate about a house, because sometimes that is the only way to get the sellers to understand that their house is NOT the best thing since sliced bread…especially in a neighborhood filled with tract homes that only differ in the facades. No, your new laminate floors are not worth a $10k price increase. No, your new A/C doesn’t mean a thing to buyers – they expect the house to have A/C in our climate. I love the cold, hard truth – especially in writing so I can send a direct quote to the sellers and let them know that I’m not the wicked witch of real estate and that the advice I’m giving is valid.

  • Irene Hammond

    I once got a call for feedback and laughed – I couldn’t believe I was getting the call – there was bunny linoleum (yes bunny has in peter cotton tail) in the bathroom – the worst faux painting on the walls – black out film on all the windows and the kitchen was lucky to have survived the stove fire – and those were the highlights – When I laid it all out the caller was perturbed – it was the seller not the listing agent calling – well at least they got the truth and not at all sugar coated

  • When it is the hard issues that listing agents have obviously mentioned before, I like to joke with the listing agent that it is okay to blame me for the bad news. Sometimes having a third-party to blame gets the job done… and the house in better shape for the next showing/buyer.

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Paul Slaybaugh is here to sell houses and chew bubble gum. He's all out of bubble gum. More About Me >>>

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