Hornung: It pays to listen to your Realtor


Sellers would benefit by listening to their Realtor, says Lane Hornung.

Real estate agents must at times feel like they are the Rodney Dangerfields of the professional world.

They get no respect.  Or it must seem that way to real estate agents when consumers disregard their advice on selling a home, even though a house is often the single largest asset owned by many people.

Lane Hornung, President, CEO of 8z Real Estate and COhomefinder.com has given this topic a lot of thought. Over lunch in Boulder, near 8z’s headquarters, Lane discussed this topic with John Rebchook.

John: Why don’t people listen to their real estate agent?

Lane: Unfortunately, I don’t think people respect real estate agents the way they do many other professionals. If your accountant tells you how to minimize your odds of being audited, you will probably listen. If a lawyer tells their client a course of action may put that client at risk of being sued, most clients will follow that advice.  However, many people disregard the advice of their real estate agent.

Part of this is the fault of our industry. Simply put, not all real estate agents are professionals. Many are part timers who practice real estate “on the side.” As an industry, we need to raise the bar. Our goal should be to have consumers look at real estate agents with the same respect they give lawyers and accountants.

John: What should a consumer expect from a skilled real estate professional?

Lane: Selling a home is obviously a huge financial transaction. It’s just not a matter of planting a “For Sale” sign in a front of a home and waiting for people to come. A big component of selling a home is the process of merchandising it. How it is displayed is critically important. Think if you walk into a grocery store or a clothing store. Those are classic examples of displaying merchandise to get the maximum value.

John: Does the owner of a home really need the input from an agent on how to best show off their home?

Lane: If you asked the average person if he or she could create a display for fall fashion at Nordstom, they could probably do it, but they wouldn’t be all that good at it. They could toss a few sweaters on a table, but it probably wouldn’t have the desired impact that would entice people into the store to shop and spend money. That’s why Nordstrom has professionals on staff to create their merchandise displays.

John: What makes a real estate agent the expert on putting a home in the best light?

Lane:  The thing is, an individual owner might sell their home on average once every seven or 10 years. Good Realtors might be involved in the sale of 25 or 30 homes – or even more – each year. So they know why some homes sell and others don’t. In addition, they tour hundreds of homes each year. The Realtor knows what sells a home and what turns buyers off.

John: What does an agent accomplish by having an owner properly display a house?

Lane: Getting back to the retail analogy, every nook and cranny of a home is like a display window in a Nordstrom store. The consumer may not realize it, but the window display is telling a story.

A good real estate agent does the same thing with every room. By helping the owner remove clutter, bringing in professionals to make necessary repairs, and then staging the home properly, an agent is weaving a vignette so a prospective buyer can imagine living in the home. A good agent wants to make a prospective buyer pre-disposed to buy the house. There’s a lot of truth to the old saying you don’t get a second chance to make a good first impression. If someone is turned off by a home, they’ll move on to the next one.

John: Don’t a lot of people just buy a home on a price-per-square-foot basis?

Lane: Of course there is a rational basis for value based primarily on price per square foot for that location, but within that value range, I think you can expect a 5 percent swing in the selling price solely based on merchandising, on showing condition. So if it is a $500,000 home, we could be talking a $25,000 difference either way – $525,000 for a home that shows perfectly, or $475,000 for a home that is merchandised poorly. If you want to maximize the value of your home within the time frame you are selling it, listen to what a good real estate agent has to tell you, just like you would listen to your attorney or accountant.

John: Should a seller have their home “staged?”

Lane: Absolutely! Staging is a critical component of selling a home. For example, here at 8z Real Estate, at the very minimum we provide an initial staging consultation. There are, of course, levels of staging. Sometimes it just involves de-cluttering and creating a mood with the existing furniture. Other times, it might be appropriate to bring in furnishings needed to supplement existing furnishings, especially if it is vacant.

Studies have shown that a staged home not only typically sells for more money, but often sells faster. The goal of every seller, of course, is to maximize the sale price. So if you spend $500 on staging and sell the home for $5,000 more, that is a very wise and worthwhile investment. And if it sells in three weeks instead of three months, all the better.

John: Thanks Lane.

A monthly question-and-answer with Lane Hornung is a feature of InsideRealEstateNews.com. 8z Real Estate is a sponsor of InsideRealEstateNews. To learn what 8z brokers are saying about the neighborhoods that they farm, please visit this link.

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John Rebchook

John Rebchook has more than 30 years of experience in writing and communications. As the Real Estate Editor for the Rocky Mountain News, he wrote about residential and commercial real estate for 26 years. He has won numerous awards for business stories and columns that he wrote, both as an individual and part of teams. In addition to real estate, he also covered economic development, banking and financing, the airlines, and cable TV for the Rocky. In addition, he was one of the original freelance writers for GlobeSt.com, covering commercial real estate for the Internet publication.

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