Four Ways to Tell

In the history of mankind, no first-time Mother has ever under-dressed their newborn in the winter.”

—Manhattan Pediatrician

So which pediatrician uttered the above line?

Mine (and my wife’s).

What prompted that comment were the 3 layers of clothing my wife had already put on our newborn son (a long time ago), coupled with her anxiously asking him whether he thought “the baby was dressed warmly enough?”

What’s that got to do with real estate?

I’ve yet to encounter the Homeowner who thought their house sold for too much.

Setting a (Too) Low Bar?

On the contrary, a great deal of Sellers seem to believe that their home sold for too little — especially in today’s seller’s market, when the proverbial sky seems to be the limit.

So, are they ever right?

To help answer the question, here are the four, inter-related variables I’d weigh:

One. How much market exposure did the home get?

In today’s networked, 24/7 world, serious Buyers (and their Realtors) often know about properties, thru a a variety of channels, before they officially debut on the market.

That includes “Coming Soon” on MLS, Edina Realty’s proprietary Network One, and all the pre-list marketing good agents do — both online and off — to generate interest in upcoming listings.

Bottom line: if a home is a good fit for a serious, prospective Buyer, it’s a good bet that they’ll: a) know about it; and b) have gotten in to take a look.

Even homes that sell almost immediately can have dozens of showings, and be viewed by thousands of Buyers online.

Two. Was the home professionally and aggressively marketed?

My checklist of “To Do’s” for Sellers literally has 143 items on it.

Things like, “work with professional stager to the get the house ready; “arrange professional photography and meet them at the house”; “design high quality marketing materials, both online and print (still)”; “do pre-list networking with other Edina agents” (all 2,300 of them); “plug new listing at various Realtor meetings”; “draft and proof (flattering) copy on MLS”; “put the home on Broker Tour (Tuesdays in the Twin Cities) and heavily promote it beforehand.”

And so on and so on.

All those things come across loud and clear to prospective Buyers.

And so does their absence.

Three. Who was the Selling agent? (representing the Buyer) — and was it the same as the Listing Agent?

As I’ve written before, there are two types of dual agency: “broker-level,” and “single agent dual agency.”

In the first type, both the Buyer and Seller have their own agent — but they work for the same Broker.

While that legally shifts the agents’ duties, in my experience it doesn’t alter either the negotiation dynamic or the outcome.

The second kind of dual agency —- where both the Buyer and Seller have the same agent — is much more problematic.

In my opinion, no agent can serve two masters.

Which is why I will only represent one party in the transaction.

Four. Who was the Listing Agent? (representing the Seller).

Good Realtors have good reputations.

They do repeat business in the same neighborhood(s); are known for being thorough and hard-working; and have an established track record.

Mediocre agents . . . don’t. (In fact, you’re less and likely to run into mediocre agents, because today’s hyper-competitive real estate market has already weeded them out.)

So, to sum up . . . . .

If the same (no-name) agent represented both the Buyer and the Seller; the house sold in days (hours??) with no prep or marketing campaign to speak of; and no other agents had a chance to get their clients through (or even knew the house was on the market) . . . . yeah, it’s just possible that the house sold for too little.

Absent one or more of those factors, I’d be dubious.

P.S.: Note that none of the above factors include, “Sold for less than the Comp’s would suggest.”

While the Comp’s (Comparable Sold Properties) certainly frame the owner’s asking price and eventual sale negotiation, showings and actual feedback trump Comp’s once a home is actually on the market.

Ditto for “sold above asking price” or “sold in multiple offers” — choose a low enough asking price, and any home can sell for more and/or attract a feeding frenzy.

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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