I was just being honest. Get serious or get off the market.

The other day I had the unfortunate opportunity to show a home to one of our seller clients that seemed, on paper, to be an ideal fit for their needs.

It was one of several we were scheduled to see that day, and unlike the others, for this listing there was no lockbox…meaning we had an appointment and the seller would be there to let us in.

When we pulled up in the driveway, I knew right away that the home wasn’t going to work.  The landscaping was overgrown, the paint was peeling.  My client didn’t even want to go inside.

But the homeowner was standing at the front door, devouring an apple.  So inside we went…thinking we’d be in and out quick.

After a cordial introduction and a hand off of my business card, the seller revealed that he was also the listing agent.  The house was his. And he proceeded to lead us through the house, pointing out some updates he must have made 20 years ago.

Trying hard not to touch anything we followed him around.  What I had hoped would be a quick in and out turned into 20 minutes that keeps coming back to haunt me.

I couldn’t help but notice the cobwebs in the corners, the cracked ceramic tiles, the dirty dishes in the sink and the laundry piled on his bed upstairs.  It was pretty evident that there was not one finger lifted to prepare the home to be shown.

The TV in the family room was blasting a soccer match and the pillows and blankets on the couch made me think he woke up from a nap to let us in.

When I asked about the crack and water stain on the ceiling in the foyer, he told me he “had someone scheduled to fix it in the next week or so and not to worry about it.”

Now, I’ve been in plenty of horrible houses before.  Here’s what made this one so special:

In every room, on every wall, in the garage, in the basement furnace room, in the bathrooms, in the hallways…literally every vertical surface in this house had religious decorations.  Photos. Paintings. Pages torn from magazines hanging with Scotch tape.  Everywhere.

Between the unkempt house, the overgrown landscaping and junk around the backyard, the deferred maintenance, and the shrine… I was hoping I wouldn’t get a request for feedback.  I just didn’t know what I would say.

We got in the car and lathered up with Purell. And on the way to the next home, we talked about all the things that the seller was doing wrong.

The seller, who works for one of the largest offices in town, was acting as his own agent. And he was home, showing the home by appointment only. A home that had no business being on the market. My client had absolutely zero interest.

So that’s what I said in the email I sent him later that afternoon.

I wasn’t trying to offend him. I was trying to give constructive criticism to an agent who should have known better.  How could he not?

And then it got really fun.

I got a phone call from the seller that evening when I was out for dinner with my wife wanting me to explain my feedback. I politely told him to call me during the day if it needed further explanation.

He called me back early the next morning (Sunday) around 8 am and left a message.

And again at 8:30.

When he called at 9:00 I picked up.  And I explained:

  • Everything about his home indicated he wasn’t real serious about selling.
  • The home was not in condition to be shown, and certainly shouldn’t be listed at the price he was asking if he intended to sell it in its current state.
  • He was performing the cardinal sin of real estate; being home for showings and walking buyers around.
  • He needed to clean up the yard, the house, the dishes and the bathrooms.
  • He needed to remove all the religious items adorning the walls.
  • And if he couldn’t or wouldn’t do all of that he needed to immediately drop his price at least $50,000

He was flabbergasted. Told me I was rude. That I wasn’t a professional. And that there was a special place for people like me.

He told me he had 4 other showings the same day we were there, and that in the 90+ days his home had been on the market he had never been so insulted or offended.  He told me that the feedback from others was generally positive and that I had no idea what I was talking about.

The truth sometimes hurts, I said.   In our market, if a home in his price range hadn’t sold in the first 10 days or so there had to be a problem.  And the biggest problem was him.

Because nobody was ever going to be honest with him if he’s the agent selling his own home. And certainly not when he’s been home to give a tour for every showing.

I suggested he invite a few agents from his big office to see the house and solicit their feedback since he didn’t like mine.  And I noticed a couple of days later that the home had been withdrawn from the market.

Maybe it was something I said.