Sniffing Out Motivated Home Sellers;
4 Clues ” & a Red Herring

Black Friday isn’t just when retailers offer their best deals of the year.

Historically, it’s also the time of year when home Buyers can score deep discounts (at least in the Twin Cities; I don’t know about milder markets like Phoenix or Miami).

How do Buyers (or their agents) spot a motivated Seller and potential bargain?

Here are my top four signs.

“Wait “Till Next Year”

One. The home is on the market.

Duh, right?

Not necessarily.

Around Thanksgiving each year, plenty of less motivated Sellers opt to pull their homes off the market until after the holidays (the preferred way to do that is to switch the home’s MLS status to Temporarily Not Available for Showing, or “TNAS”).

By default, home sellers who keep their homes on the market are more motivated.

Just like home Buyers who are active over the holidays.

Two. The home is vacant (next best: a house full of partially packed moving boxes).

To a Seller who’s already moved out (and possibly relocated to another city), a vacant home represents just one thing: a financial drain.

Not only do such owners need to pay expensive, winter-time utility bills**, but they also have to make sure the walk gets shoveled, the furnace doesn’t go out, ice dams don’t form, etc.

All while continuing to insure the home and pay property taxes (ughh!).

Three. Market time to date.

Which Seller do you suppose is more realistic on price: the owner of a home that just debuted on the market last week, and is getting fresh attention from lots of motivated Buyers?

Or, the Seller whose home came on the market last Summer at a too-aggressive price, languished, and is now playing catch-up with a new, lower price (see next), refreshed marketing, new photos, etc.?

Yup, that’s what I think, too.

Four. A fresh price reduction from an already attractive list price (it doesn’t count if the price reduction simply makes an egregiously overpriced home less so).

A good local agent who’s familiar with the Comp’s (“Comparable Sold Properties”) will know the difference.

“Motivated Seller Will Look at All Reasonable Offers”

So, what’s not a sign of a motivated home Seller?

A Seller who screams that they’re motivated ” or a listing agent who does.

At least in my experience, such “language of desperation” is simply a marketing ploy, and is often instead of doing the things truly motivated Sellers do (like market and price well).

**Cutting the heat in a for-sale home definitely qualifies as a “penny-wise, pound foolish” move.

That’s because home buying is an inherently emotional process, and nothing chills (sorry) Buyers’ interest faster than seeing their breath when they enter the home (a decade ago, that was also a sure sign of a foreclosure).

See also, “How Do You Tell if a Home Seller is Motivated? (Hint: It’s Not Because They Tell You They’re Motivated)”; and “The Right ” and Wrong ” Way to Telegraph Seller Motivation“; and “Price Reductions: a First Chance to Make a Second Impression.”

And these:  “Christmas ” and TNAS ” Season”; “TNAS Over the Holidays:  How Prevalent?“; “Does TNAS Tweak Buyers’ Interest?“; and “What’s the Opposite of On the Market, But Not For Sale?”

About the author

Ross Kaplan has 19+ years experience selling real estate all over the Twin Cities. He is also a 12-time consecutive "Super Real Estate Agent," as determined by Mpls. - St. Paul Magazine and Twin Cities Business Magazine. Prior to becoming a Realtor, Ross was an attorney (corporate law), CPA, and entrepreneur. He holds an economics degree from Stanford.

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