I started in residential real estate as a "lone wolf" Realtor/broker 23 years ago working out of my home. Because I never joined a company I never had the opportunity to accompany another agent on their listing appointment. I have no idea how other agents conduct their listing appointments so I'll just talk about how I approach them.
My listing appointments are almost always the result of someone calling or emailing saying me they're thinking about selling their home and would like to visit with me. We'll set up a day and time and that's when I get to work.
Before the appointment I always ask for the seller's email addresses so I can send links to different areas of our website. I may have an hour or to work with and there's a lot of ground to cover. I don't want to waste time talking about me. I would like the sellers to know something about our company and me before the appointment. I send a link to the pages on our site with things like our current listings, areas of specialization, marketing plan, team, notable sales, testimonials, along with my sales history, and biography. This is a good time to remind you having a professional and well maintained website to direct people to is essential if you want to get to a higher level. Without question, our company website has been the biggest differentiator between us and our competition. I'll have more on this in following articles.
Before the appointment I go to the MLS to look up the history of the home. Has it ever sold and if so, when and for how much? If it's currently listed, how many days has it been on market, etc. MLS pictures are helpful but you won't find them on every home. If it's never sold on the MLS you'll probably have no idea what to expect when you walk in the door. I want to know what's recently sold and is currently for sale in the immediate area of the home? I look up the home on Google Maps to see if there's anything behind or next to it that might be of concern.
I'm a stickler for being on time. This was drilled into me when I was in commercial real estate. You don't want to be late meeting with an executive and that goes for homeowners as well. I usually arrive at the home 10 to 15 minutes before the listing appointment so I can drive the streets around it to see if I've missed anything like FSBO's. It's embarrassing when a seller asks you about a home one street over and don't know a thing about it. Being on time shows respect for the homeowner's time. If I'm going to be held up in traffic, I'll call the sellers to let them know I might be a little late. I always have the seller's phone number on my Gmail calendar for cases like this.
After introductions, I like to walk through the home and back yard before we sit down to talk. I ask the sellers for permission to take pictures so I can refer to them when I'm pricing the home. I might forget if the home had hardwoods upstairs or a huge pantry. If I see something that might be a potential issue or obvious buyer objection, I don't just ignore it. It might be an abnormal crack in a wall, discolored ceiling, sticking doors, etc. I always ask if there have been any roof or foundation issues, when the roof was replaced, if there's ever been any water penetration, etc. I want to know everything about the home, both good and bad.
Sellers might want to sit at in the breakfast area, kitchen or family room. If I'm sitting at a table, I'm on the front of my chair, not slouched back. That's another thing I was taught in my prior commercial career. The sellers know I'm engaged. Again it's a little thing but in my opinion, it's sending the right signals. I bring our professional marketing material which we can go through if they have questions, but hopefully they've already visited the links I've sent them. I also brought a blank copy of our listing agreement, not for them to sign, but to review if they want. I let them know those contracts are from the Texas Real Estate Commission or Texas Association of Realtors and fair. We didn't have our own attorney draft them.
I don't price homes on the initial listing appointment. This might be the biggest difference between the way I work and other agents work. I let the sellers know I have to have time to think about their home now that I've been through it. Sellers usually want me to give them a quick ballpark price but experience has taught me not to do it. I could be way off pricing a home quickly and the first number you give the seller will always be the one they'll remember.
Why not just give the seller a price and ask them to sign the listing agreement at the initial listing appointment? The majority of homes I sell within my area of specialization are custom and on acreage lots. Many agents work cities with lots of homes on city sized lots. It's relatively easy to price homes when there's a lot of sales data. Homes in my area vary greatly in size, age, acreage, finishout, and lot features. Add to that there just aren't that many sales within a six month period.
I never ask "What do you think your home is worth?" It's my job to come up with an opinion of value. That's why they called me. Asking a question like that is fishing. What they want for the home really shouldn't even be a consideration. The bottom line is what is its fair market value.
I don't ask nor even want to know the seller's bottom line price. That can be dangerous. Let's say the seller is asking $1,750,000 but tell me their bottom line is $1,549,500. Then we receive an offer at exactly $1,549,500. Although it's pure coincidence, what's the seller going to think? What would you think if you were the seller? It should go without saying a listing agent should never reveal a seller's bottom line price without their permission but I've seen it done many times. Once we're in negotiations the seller might say "Tell the buyer agent our bottom line is $1,549,500". That's perfectly OK.
I provide my opinion of pricing by email either that evening or no later than the next day. There might only be one or two home sales that even remotely fit the criteria of the seller's home. I can't just run a CMA with 10 homes comparing features because they aren't there. I have to go into more depth and explain my reasoning on pricing if I don't have homes to compare.
After my opinion of value is sent to the sellers, I text them to be on the lookout for it. Then I'll give them time to digest it and will call them for their thoughts. If the sellers are upset with my pricing, and sometimes they are, they won't get back with me. Sometimes agents will overprice intentionally just to get the listing and sometimes they genuinely can make a case for it. You can't let it bother you when you lose a listing opportunity if you've done your best in pricing the home with little information to work with.
If the seller is in a general agreement on pricing we'll meet one more time to tweak it. We talk it out and come up with a final number. We send the listing agreement on-line, they sign, and we're ready to go.
I'll have more articles on pricing custom homes on acreage in later articles.