Delivering Bad News

Posted by: Linda Davis on July 5th, 2008

There is almost nothing more rewarding in the business of real estate then making the call to first time home buyers to tell them their offer has been accepted. In today’s market, calling sellers and telling them their house is sold can also provide an “I’m so glad I’m a Realtor feeling”.

Unfortunately, delivering bad news is also part of the job and I’ve been delivering it in large doses of late.

Despite the local facts and statistics, national print media headlines and on air reporting by the talking heads, many sellers believe their home is worth more than it is. It is my job, as the friendly local Realtor, to be welcomed into a seller’s home, burst their bubble, and otherwise ruin their perfect day.

Delivering bad news doesn’t come easy and is a learned skill. Having been through 3 market corrections over 3 decades, I have had a fair amount of practice in delivering bad news. I once had a seller burst into tears and although I appear tough, it was an effort to remain professional and not start bawling right along with her.

Hey, I don’t like this market either. Sniffle.

This week I’ve had the opportunity to take the wind out of the sails of two future sellers. As I delivered my CMA at possible listing #1, Mrs. Seller just stared and never said one word. Mr. Seller escorted me out of the house, a quick (although it seemed a lifetime) 7 minutes from when I entered. I assume I’m not the winning listing agent on that one.

Potential listing #2 was different. The seller was outraged that my price was so low and chose to debate me by presenting comparable sales for his home that were 25 years newer and in supremely better condition.

Although this takes more skills as an agent, I actually prefer debating rather than making someone cry or getting the silent treatment. Unfortunately, I won the debate but lost the listing.

Ironically I will lose both listings to real estate agents who don’t have the experience of delivering bad news. It is a whole lot easier to tell a seller what they want to hear and then work on price reductions along the way. Unfortunately, in a declining market, this can be a serious misstep as the home seller finds himself “chasing the market down”. In the end, the home will sell for less than my original market analysis.

I don’t feel any rush being able to say “I told you so”. Although there is some satisfaction in knowing I was right, I’d much rather have collected the commission.

I keep a file of the MLS summary sheets of the listings I’ve lost because the seller didn’t like my price. The file is getting thicker.

Linda Davis is a Realtor with RE/MAX Realty Group in Ledyard, Connecticut.



4 Comments on “Delivering Bad News”

Louis Cammarosano

Hi Linda
Paul Blackburn over on the HomeGain Agent blogging network also summed up the points you made above regarding the hard conversation agents are having with potential clients all over the country about the potential (lower) sale value of their homes.

Paul in his blog post “Why your home is NOT special”, chooses to get that point made up front with his potential prospects so maybe he avoids having the reaction to bad news as he is setting up his potential customers’ expectations right up front BEFORE he even meets them.

Jim Johnson

Great Blog. I have been selling real estate in Bend Oregon since 1981 and find it refreshing to find a helpful blog like yours. Keep up the good work.

Ken in Chicago

IMO delivering bad news is about the hardest part of our business. Sooner you take care of it the better.

Can’t stand agents that are willing to lie to a seller and tell them their home is worth more then it is. They are costing their sellers money.

Toronto realtor

Hi Linda, nice comment. It is really true. This is also part of our job since I am working as a Toronto realtor. I have learned that you have to accept it as a part of a business and if somebody is unsatisfied you do not have to care. If you’ve done a good job according to your best will then there is no reason to think you did something wrong.

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