When Selling Your House is What You Need
Selling your house can be intimidating, even if it’s what you need. In today’s Wall Street Journal section of The Denver Post is a column written by Jeff Opdyke. “A Trip – And a Change of Heart” tells the story of his unfortunate experience in trying to relocate to Hong Kong. Unlike the New York Times, WSJ blocks out online readers unless they subscribe, so I don’t have a link to the column.
Opdyke tells of the difficulties of selling his home, of finding the proper school situation for his children, and of locating a suitable apartment in Hong Kong. It sounds like is was a heart wrenching decision for his family, but they decided to pass up the opportunity after a fraught trip to settle the details.
There are probably many reasons why the decision was the right one for this family – international relocations can be difficult.
The rewards for some are huge, but it still causes upheaval. Much of my client base are relocating families, and several have been posted in China and Hong Kong. They describe such an acute lack of closet space that the extra shower becomes suitcase storage. They also describe the joy of finding peanut butter in the small local grocery mart.
A Realtor friend of mine, Bill Dolan, was so moved by Opdyke’s column that he wrote the author a letter in response. Bill noticed some very telling things about the comments Opdyke made regarding the sale of his home in Louisana. He’s given me permisson to reprint his comments, but I’ve edited them down a bit. You’ll get the gist.
Having worked with many corporate transferees over the years, I couldn’t help but take special notice of some select sentences from your article:
- “Nor can we afford to reduce our house price by the amount we’d need to move it quickly.”
- “We can’t afford to throw away tens of thousands of dollars in equity to facilitate a rapid sale.”
- “That leaves us no choice but to wait out the market.”
Real estate values have declined in every single area of the United States. In my opinion, before you even entertained the idea of moving to Hong Kong, you should have contacted three brokers and/or an appraiser to ascertain market value of your home and used that as a platform: if I jump, can I make it to the other side of the gorge? I am amazed at how few sellers are willing to accept or even try to understand the concept of “fair market value.”
- Your house would move quickly if you priced it at “fair market value.”
- You are not throwing away tens of thousands of dollars in equity to facilitate a rapid sale. You can’t throw away something that isn’t there to begin with. What you paid for your house, and what you owe against it are not relevant. The definition of fair market value is what a ready, willing and able buyer pays for a commodity. (As an aside, what do think the current fair market value of a large SUV is these days? Same as last year, or the year before?)
- You don’t need to wait out the market. If you are not willing to accept today’s “fair market value,” then take the home off the market until the market tells you that you have the equity you want or need to make a move.
I love this article from the New York Times. It is now part of my listing presentation. Over the years I have come to the conclusion that if a property is on the market for more than 30 days or has had 15 showings without an offer, then the price is too high (There are certain exceptions when it comes to very high-priced multi-million dollar properties.)
Good luck with your future relocations.
I’d like to call Bill’s comments an open letter to sellers. This is such a tough conversation to have with sellers. We Realtors aren’t without sympathy for your plight. We certainly wish you could “get what you need”.
I’m a little more patient than Bill seems to be. I generally say 20-25 showings and at least 30 days on the market is the test period. If you don’t have an offer after 25 bona fide buyers have walked through the door, then the price is too high. Your broker is doing his/her job if you’ve had that many lookers. The broker’s job is to expose the property and get traffic.
I’ve had sellers say to me, “Well, you’re just not convincing them to write an offer.” What should I do? Put a gun to their heads? Often the feedback is just disguised price objections. If the Buyer’s agent says that the house is on a busy street or needs too much work or looks outdated, then that’s a disguised price objection. A seller’s choice it to pick up and move the house or drop the price; update the house or drop the price. Sellers don’t like to hear this, and delivering the news isn’t the fun part of our jobs. It’s probably even worse than putting out open house signs…
So, thanks for sharing Bill. Good luck!
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