As real estate agents, a major part of our job consists of going into houses and being asked to pass my opinion. I get asked about water depth and number of bedrooms and anchorage and flood zones and location and elevation and acreage and porches and utilities and — well just about anything you can imagine.
Every single person has opinions and preferences when it comes to a home, but more importantly, everyone is going to have a budget. Most opinions are based off of a buyer’s priorities, because their budget is what’s driving them. Are they looking for a spectacular view or water that’s deep enough to dock a sailboat? Is having a pool more important than privacy?
Typically everyone is going to have a budget, and this is going to be the driving force behind what they want in a home. People will voice their opinion to you whether you ask for it or not, and when this happens, they key is to listen — because every opinion has value.
Here is some food for thought to help you digest each opinion along the way…
Focus on Topic, Not Tone
For anyone who has ever played a sport, you know that receiving constructive criticism from a coach can range anywhere from humbling to humiliating. And when you learn to listen to the message that your coach is delivering instead of the way in which it is delivered, you become a better player.
Everyone in the process — agents, buyers, sellers — tends to get offended and hear an insult when instead we should be recognizing a suggestion. When a buyer comes across what is, for them, a deal breaker in a house, they often deliver what is intended to be constructive criticism. Unfortunately, more often than not, the seller comes away from the conversation feeling rejected and hurt and loses the ability to draw anything valuable from the message.
Remembering to focus on what is being said rather than how someone is saying it allows you to gather important information on market preferences and not become caught up in the tone of a message.
Quality of Criticism
Some criticism can be incredibly helpful while some can be completely disregarded — knowing how to tell the difference is essential. It will be up to the agent to figure out how much importance to attach to each message.
Imagine you’re selling a waterfront property on the Rappahannock River and you receive criticism from a buyer who is new to the region, on their first day out, and has no idea what they’re looking for. How much credibility should you give the criticism? On the other hand, is the criticism from a buyer who looked at 5 waterfront properties in your area and bought the one down the street a cause for concern?
Unqualified criticism does little for anyone. Qualifying the criticism allows us to either gain insight about the market we are competing in or shrug off a message that may have otherwise caused us anxiety.
Be Patient and Observant
You can’t please everyone who comes through your house and it would be a waste of time and money to try — everyone has different tastes. That being said, if you begin to notice trends in complaints (3 people think the pier needs maintenance and wish there was a pool in the yard), it would behoove you to pay attention.
Take note of what people are saying — if you hear a critique once, it’s probably just a personal preference rather than a market expectation. However, if you start to hear the same critique over and over again, it’s probably in your best interest to tackle the problem head-on or adjust the price accordingly.
Price Almost Always Faces Criticism
Indistinct negative feedback is the worst type of feedback you can receive. When you receive criticism that is obviously negative but doesn’t point to anything concrete, it makes it hard to come up with a plan. Just the same, even obscure or vague feedback can have value, too.
Pay attention to when feedback begins to change from openly negative to balanced.
Buyer expectations have the biggest influence over the criticism you might receive regarding your home. So what factor really drives buyer expectations? Price.
If your home is blatantly overpriced, you will receive largely negative criticism because prospective buyers have come in with expectations that reflect a price higher than what your home delivers. Likewise, if your home delivers above and beyond what individuals expect at its listing price, you may hear nothing but high levels of interest and intrigue. The key is finding the middle ground – where your price matches market expectations in terms of amenities, acreage, location, etc. Focusing on the mood of criticism you receive will give you valuable insight into whether or not the quality of your home matches the price at which it is listed.
If you do find yourself having to go down on the price, pay attention to when feedback begins to change from openly negative to balanced. Remember, you still want some criticism, otherwise it may be a sign that you’ve under-priced your home! A balanced combination of positive and negative comments suggests your home is priced accordingly and can be competitive in the market.
Although housing, like stocks, bonds, or rare automobiles, is just an asset, it is an intimate one. The criticism we receive on even our vacation homes somehow seems to deal a heftier blow to our egos — but it shouldn’t.
We try to tell our clients that their homes are worth what the market says they are worth, not what the buyers say, nor Zillow, nor anyone else. The market is never forgiving, but it is always correct, and it holds the key to everything you need to know — you just have to be willing to listen. That being said, the number of people who receive feedback but draw the wrong conclusion from the message is astounding.
Remember, be objective, don’t overreact, and take notice of trends. If you do these things, the criticism you receive will be immensely helpful and you will maximize the value of your home.