Austin Realtors continue to disappoint me

by Steve Crossland, REALTOR in Austin TX on December 24, 2008 · 9 comments

I just finished entering the last listing we’ll take this year (that I know of) into the Austin MLS. I know, it’s Christmas Eve, but I’m all done shopping and don’t have anything better to do before we have a house full of relatives later tonight.

Anyway, we signed the listing agreement earlier this month, but had to wait for the tenants to move out, then get the home cleaned and touchup painted, then get our stager in and then the virtual tour people. Now that it’s in “model home” showing condition and ready to sell, I’ve entered it into the MLS. It’s really not a good idea to enter a listing before it’s 100% ready for the market, and we try never to do so.

After I enter a new listing, I always do an MLS search for the subdivision and take a look at how our listing sits among the competition with regard to price and presentation – to see it as other agents will see it in a search result. Let’s take a look at how we stand up against the competition on this one.

This listing is in Austin’s Colony, east of Austin. The first thing I notice when viewing the 35 active listings in Austin’s Colony is that only 4 of the 35 have all 12 photos (the MLS limit) being used. There is no excuse for this. Only 3 of the 35 have a virtual tour (all three being listings that also have all 12 photos). 10 of the 35 listings have only 1 photo, and those agents should be ashamed of themselves. 7 of those 10 listings have been on the market longer than 60 days, and still just 1 photo.

Before taking this listing, and determining the best price to recommend to the seller, I previewed a bunch of homes in Austin’s Colony to see what the competition would look like. I went into 6 resale homes of similar size. The best one word I can think of to describe 5 of those 6 homes is “crap hole”. They were filthy dirty, damaged, dirty carpet, unkept yards, no utilities on in most, some still had trash, debris and abandoned furniture.

Who or what is this a reflection of? Is it the owner’s fault or the listing agent’s? the way I see it, it’s the listing agent’s fault for not properly demanding the the seller’s put these properties into better showing condition.

It’s an embarrassment to our profession that we have Realtors willing to list homes in this condition. Sylvia and I would and do simply say “no thanks” to an owner not willing to put a home in presentable condition before listing. Shabby homes attract subpar offers and reflect poorly on us as agents. These sellers are not “saving” any money by not properly preparing these homes and the agents are not building credibility.

So, to the average buyer touring homes in Austin’s Colony, our listing will be the cream of the crop from a pricing and appearance standpoint, and that was not hard to achieve. I expect we’ll have an offer sooner rather than later. At minimum, we’ve put the odds on our seller’s side for that to happen, now we just have to see if the market responds. We are in the best 10% on price for 1800 sqft homes, and the top 10%, if not the very top, in condition.

On this listing I also visited the new builders out there and asked a lot of questions about what is selling and what isn’t. Turns out 5 bedroom homes are all sold. They move quickly, I was told, and they sell before they are completed. Our listing is a 5 bedroom, but I was going to call it a 4 bedroom with an office or 3rd living area. That’s what we’d do it it were in Circle C or SW Austin, because normally the extra living area would be received with greater interest by buyers browsing listings than would a 5th bedroom.

I’m glad I did my homework because it turns out that in this product, at this price point in this neighborhood, these buyers are more interesting in having a 5th bedroom than an “office” or 3rd living area, so we listed it as such. Now we are one of only two 5 bedrooms homes on the market in the neighborhood, and we’re more than $10K lower in price than the other.

Merry Christmas!

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Tary snyder December 25, 2008 at 11:36 am

Way to go Steve.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and Sylvia.

Tary

2 lenny December 25, 2008 at 2:30 pm

analogy….

used cars….. dirty and not priced properly…

3 Tony Tovar December 26, 2008 at 1:57 am

Hiya!

First off, I’d like to thank you once again for a great entry Steve. Personally, it sounds like common sense to approach every listing made by presenting each home to the best of one’s ability, both in showing its appearance and the preparations that go into making the listing; it would disappoint me as well as it has you to see such poor first impressions gone to waste. However, there has to be an upside to these realtors and their poor listings right?

Merry Christmas
Tony Tovar

4 Tony Tovar December 26, 2008 at 1:58 am

Oh, in case I dont get to say this later…

“Happy New Year!’

5 Phill Grove December 26, 2008 at 11:12 am

Steve,
Nice post. I will comment, however, that my partner has listed a number of properties in Austin’s Colony in the past. Usually they are SHORT SALES and the owner has moved out and left the home a mess. Whereas we could spend our $$ cleaning these up, the truth is that many or most of them won’t sell anyway at the prices the lenders want for them. So, my point is that sometimes there is a reason that realtors spend little time or effort cleaning up and listing crap holes that rarely sell anyway…

6 Michael @ The Stage Coach December 26, 2008 at 2:10 pm

Hi, Steve:
When I visit for a consultation with homeowners, I bring pictures found on the internet from homes in the neighborhood and show them how other houses measure up. My instincts are usually pretty sharp as I tell them which ones are professionally staged, cleaned up, or just listed. The REA’s always seemed surprised by this information.

I can not figure out why this is surprising to them. Most REALTORs are going to provide a CMA – why not a CMA with pictures? [pictures are worth 1000 words] It seems to be common knowledge that most home searches start on the internet. So why not check out the competition on a basic local home search?

Like Steve says, No excuse not to use all 12 photo spots available… Yet, I continue to come across homes where the featured picture is of the back yard & swing set. And others where the cat is staring at you from atop the refrigerator. And yet others with dirty clothes spread about the bedrooms.

My last rant on this topic goes to Phill’s last comment re: ‘crap holes that rarely sell anyway’: Why take a listing if you are not going to try to market it to your best abilities? If you put a sign up in front of the home with your name on it, and it’s a Crap Hole inside, you are going to become associated with these Crap Holes. The Crap Holes of Austin’s Colony – there’s a catchy name for a yard sign. Don’t be that REA! I would not put my name on a picture of a Staged home if it was not Staged to the best of my abilities. Steve seems to be making the same point: if you are not even going to try, if you are not going to do the minimum, then why take the listing?

Here’s some free Staging advice: Cleaning is one of the cheapest possible ways to help increase interest and value. There’s no excuse for leaving furniture and rubbish scattered throughout the house in a listing. If you’re not going to make enough money on the listing to make it worth your time and effort, The Crossland Blog from a couple of days ago has a list of other business opportunities for you. [Don't start the Home Staging business - it's not at all what you think]

Another inexpensive idea is getting a couple of cans of contractor grade paint – Pittsburgh/Monarch Summertime Flat is probably the most used paint in the area for walls – and give the primary areas a fresh coat. A couple of people could knock off two gallons in a day.

That’s just my 2x cents.
Michael @ The Stage Coach

7 Steve Crossland December 27, 2008 at 11:11 pm

Hi Phil,

Yes, I know the challenges that short seller agents have, and the foreclosure agents. We don’t take those kind of listings or pursue that niche, so it’s easy for me to forget.

I know that a KW agent in California is mopping up with REO listings, and he does in fact prep all the listings out of pocket, but he’s selling hundreds of homes a year and has a system in place, his own makeready crews, etc.

I think the banks fail to realize that when they sell these homes in poor condition, it drags down the value not only of the home beinbg sold, but of the entire neighborhood, including their own future (foreclosure) sales in that same neighborhood. The money “saved” by not prepping the home right ends up being more than lost in lower offers and general price errosion in the neighborhood.

To me, it’s a tough, low profit niche to try to list and sell distressed property. You guys that do it have to have a lot of volume to make it work.

Steve

8 Garreth Wilcock December 29, 2008 at 12:09 pm

Steve,

It is sad to see so many listings with no virtual tours or just one photo.

Another thing I liked about your listing here is that you use 507 of the maximum 512 characters in the description text field (for internet use). When agents don’t take the 5 minutes to put together a decent paragraph about the home, it makes buyers think that there are no interesting features in the home.

Good luck with the listing!

Garreth

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