Never Afraid to Tell It Like It Is…

I’ve been to several people’s homes in the last few weeks. Not to list the property now, but to give them that “to do” list they need to get their home ready for listing in late March or early April. Having that list a couple of months ahead of time is very helpful to my clients, as it gives them plenty of time to do things, and the confidence that they are doing the right things.

Having done a few of these in the last week, I wondered if I would approach the topic differently if this family greeted me at the door 🙂


Would I have boldly removed all of the knobs from those kitchen cabinets, the ones they just bought and spent hours putting there, thinking they looked great,

…to show them the cabinets actually looked better without them at all.

Would I have swept the 31 garish knobs into the kitchen drawer if Tony was the one who had just spent his time putting them on to the cabinets?

Often the hardest part of our job is delivering the hard truths. Then standing back to see if the owners will be receptive to the changes…or will they “shoot the messenger”? Perhaps growing up where that crew was just a bunch of comare to me, gives me the talent to boldly give people the hard truths, with no sugar coatings, that they need to get top dollar for their homes. I never thought about it that way until this morning. But I can honestly say I’d deliver the same news to Tony, like a caring paisano, that I do to my clients day in and day out.

Real Estate is not for Sissies…it’s a tough job and we often deliver the hard news. In fact, it’s why I got into the business in the first place. When I heard agents saying, “I let the market tell them”…”Oh, I couldn’t say THAT”, “I know it’s overpriced, but I’ll just let them sit on market for awhile until they “get” that”, I was honestly appalled!

Agents are often appalled at the things I do for my clients and say to my clients…I’m appalled that they don’t.

There IS crying in Real Estate. There’s no room in this market for agents who don’t want to tell their seller clients and buyer clients everything they know. I’m never afraid that someone is going to fire me.

It’s always better in my book for the messenger to get shot…than for the messenger to keep the message hidden in his pocket.

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ARDELL is a Managing Broker with Better Properties METRO King County. ARDELL was named one of the Most Influential Real Estate Bloggers in the U.S. by Inman News and has 33+ years experience in Real Estate up and down both Coasts, representing both buyers and sellers of homes in Seattle and on The Eastside. email: cell: 206-910-1000

40 thoughts on “Never Afraid to Tell It Like It Is…

  1. Whenever there’s “bad news” that I have to give a potential borrower, I feel it’s so much better to do so upfront. For example, I just met with a couple who were considering refinancing and the bank kept dishing out excuses instead of saying “its your credit scores”. The LO kept stringing them along because they didn’t have the guts to be straight with them…which actually worked out well since in my opinion, they should not refi at this time. And now they understand what’s really going on.

  2. I hate to do the whole East Coast/West Coast thing. I’ve been working in Real Estate on the West Coast for 10 years vs. 8 prior on the East Coast. For the first 8 years people expected me, as the agent, to find and tell them all the “bad” things. On the West Coast many more people only want to hear the good stuff.

    Often it is the client who wants to pretend everything is GREAT! and not the agent at all. I find it very difficult to get owners to make a list of the pros and cons of their home. Often they want to turn every weakness into a selling point 🙂

    Even some buyers are disappointed when I won’t pump them up saying the market can only go UP!

    Sometimes I don’t blame the agents, even though I can’t do it myself, for telling people what they want to hear. Many refuse to hear the truth. I have been very lucky to attract more and more clients, via blogging, who can handle the truth.

  3. Bob,

    I don’t go boating with just about ANYONE! I can’t swim…with the fishes. I was seriously scared when a real estate franchise owner, whom I tussled with in forums quite often, asked me to come on a cruise. I’m more scared of some agents than Tony and that crew.

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  5. This is one of good points about email and blogging. I do prefer to give “bad news” verbally–preferably face to face. However, I think it’s important to follow it up with an email and if it’s information that can help others, blog about it (leaving the clients name out, of course).

    The email helps keep a record of communication because, as you’ve said, sometimes people just hear what they want to hear.

  6. Sunday Night Stats. I posted them, but for some reason the post only shows if you click on my picture in the sidebar. Odd. Dustin is checking it out. It’s like the invisible post.

  7. Ardell,

    While we were still in the area this weekend, we went around looking at houses in Juanita with an ex and future coworker. It seems like there are a lot of sellers who really need the clue-by-four waved at them. One for over 900k that is a complete gut job to bring it from 1942 to 2008 (I’d be tempted to offer 600 and then plan on putting 200-300 in updates). The agent said the wife is willing to take anything but the husband is being stubborn and “knows” he’s right, but nothing has been tendered since it listed months ago. Several that were nothing special but seemed to have decided that 849k was right when 725 was probably more realistic. All had been on the market for 4 to 6 months, and the showing agents said nobody was bringing in any offers.

    Hate to say it, but this is what I’ve seen elsewhere in the country the past year or two, and it hasn’t ended yet there.


  8. Mark,

    I’m tracking this week to week, as it started in September and we’re hoping for an upward adjustment over the next few months. It could be a short season.

    Those that aren’t selling…aren’t selling. Yet others sell without price change and at higher prices around them. It’s an odd phenomenom. Stay tuned.

  9. Not always Leanne,

    Sometimes you can drop a little, under a price tier, like $415,000 to $399,999, and improve condition at the same time. But after that, people have to be patient. Quick one week sales are few and far between these days.

    It’s like “the good old days”. You have to be creative, patient and pay close attention to the cues. Dropping price is often needed, but simply saying drop the price is the easy way out.

    We’re back to checking feedback in terms of did they buy anything? If not, then lots are still just looking, and dropping price is a fool’s game.

  10. ARDELL – this is so great and so true! I do the same thing, but I always thought it was my Southern upbringing:) – There is nothing to hide in real estate and if you try then the buyers and sellers are smart and are going to know you are bs-ing them.
    I sure hope someone likes the fifty plus handles my hubby took six months to get on my cabinets after our remodel, though, because they are not coming off! lol

  11. Oh NO, Courtney. “someONE” likes them” :). The proverbial special someONE who will. LOL

    These were 80s dark oak cabinets with darkened brass hinges and shiney brushed nickel knobs. All knobs. No handles. Nothing else anywhere was brushed nickel, and there were so many of them they looked like polka dots.

  12. ARDELL- I mentioned one of your post last week in my blog and now find myself visiting your site often to gain an additional perspective on how others handle thier business. Great advice on how to handle clients upfront and not sweep potential conflicts under the rug. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve delivered news that clients did not want to hear only to see them back after failed attempts to sell with another agent.

  13. Being nieve will kill ya! People will EVENTUALLY thank you for telling the truth which will set you free. Knowledge is power. As long as people really know your motive is to help and set them up for success. Sharing the facts from a lenders pov takes subjectivity out of the picture. People get nervous cuz so much is riding on this sale–hopes and dreams–stay with principals!

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  15. Ardell,

    Have you ever lost customer after the truth came out because they decide not to proceed with their unrealistic expectation? For example customer won’t be able to find what they want at their price range, or a property won’t be able to sell for what customer expects, so they choose to keep the property.

    As a home owner, I always want to truth, about my house and about the market, that way I can decide what to do without wasting everyone’s time. But I always thought that’s very selfish of me because I might end up not selling/buying, which cost the agent’s sell. It’s nice to know some agent prefer to tell the truth as well, even though the truth can be as painful as the 360 mirror in WhatNotToWear 😀


  16. Carrie,

    Lost clients from “truth” issues:

    I once listed a house and the woman’s husband was literally dying in the room. On oxygen. This was a while back when people had a one time right to sell without capital gain.

    After I listed the house I found out she was within six months of attaining that age. I also found out they had a zero cost basis.

    I told her to talk to her attorney because her husband’s share of the house would get a stepped up basis to date of death value, and if she waited six months she would have no capital gain at all. I told her to check that with her attorney.

    She thanked me and I cancelled the listing. One of her sons bought the house after she had no capital gains, with the money he received from his father’s estate. Everybody happy.

    Another client lost from truth:

    I listed the home of a young couple with small children where the husband had just lost his job. They couldn’t afford the payments. I asked them if they had told their parents. They said they were embarassed to tell them. I told them they should tell the parents before their house had an offer. The parents helped them out, I cancelled the listing, and he got another job and they kept their home.

    So Carrie, I have not lost a customer by telling them the truth about what they needed to do to get their home ready. I often pitch in and do a lot of it myself, so that makes the news easier to take.

    Those are not really lost clients in the sense you are asking. In 2007 I told two buyers that they should rent and not buy because they were planning to move out of State within two years. They rented instead of buying. But I don’t think that fits the description of a “lost” client. I did show them several homes on a few different occasions. But sometimes it just takes that long for them to open up and tell me their plans.

    I find that by telling them the truth, they eventually also tell me the truth. It doesn’t happen in the first hour of meeting them, most times.

  17. You have to be honest with clients thats why they have hired your for your expertise and knowledge of the industry and area and can provide for them the best possible sale or purchase.

    People know when they live in a cluttered home or if work needs to be done. They just don’t want to do it and especially when there gonna sell but that is exactly when to do it and can mean the difference from selling sooner better price or months/years later for less.

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