NY Times on Seller Stress Syndrome
how hard is it to stay ‘show ready’ for months?
There was a big article in Sunday’s NY Times Real Estate section (The Home That You Can’t Call Your Own) that dealt with the stresses that sellers live under while their Manhattan loft or apartment is offered for sale.
battle metaphors (invasion and Marine barracks)
Teri Karush Rogers did a nice job in getting so many sellers to bare their souls (and their angst); to top it off she closed with a nice quote from me (later on that). Rogers set the scene, contrasting the (obvious) pain of moving to the (insidious) pain of preparing for strangers with money that you want traipsing through your apartment, opening your closets and cabinets:
Tethered indefinitely, they must endure invasion (and banishment) at an hour’s notice, countless rejections by strangers, scrutiny of voyeuristic neighbors and, more frequently these days, the erosion of their own expectations.
Battle fatigue can set in quickly under the strain of keeping one’s home in the meticulous condition of a Marine barracks.
relationship metaphors (searching for a mate)
One seller, Melissa Alcruz, compared her three-month ordeal with a search for a mate. “You have to make the apartment look good, but you can’t look too fussy or high maintenance — your house can’t look like a museum,” said Ms. Alcruz, 37.
Homebound by a difficult pregnancy, Ms. Alcruz nevertheless compulsively cleaned her floors and windows each day while enduring more than a dozen showings and two open houses per week and swallowing backhanded compliments like, “Wow, they did a really great job for a so-so apartment.”
skirmishes, but toddlers may be beyond metaphor
When it comes to controlling clutter, initially and before each showing, parents of young children engage in an ongoing skirmish against action figures, Legos and Exersaucers. It can involve a grueling daily slapstick routine of hiding and retrieving toys, highchairs and strollers.
“We literally took luggage carts of toys down into the lobby of the building every Sunday for open houses — toys, ottoman, laundry baskets, everything we could possibly move out of the apartment — and we would bring it back up” from a storage closet in the lobby on Sunday night, said Ms. Ain, who has a 21-month-old daughter and lived through four months on the market.
“During the weekday showings, I would scramble to get the big toys and stroller out,” she said. “It became very harried. I happened to have a toddler who was not a great sleeper, and I was very emotional and overwrought.”
choices, always choices
Personally, I find that sellers are much better at doing ‘the drills’ that are required, and do them more willingly, if they understand from the beginning that the agent is not making Rule To Make Their Lives More Difficult. When the sellers understand that the readiness of the loft or apartment can be a factor in helping them sell more quickly and/or at a higher price, they “get it”, and they choose it.
It can come to appoint where the sellers are near exhaustion with the effort – or just having a bad day or week. If they have covered all this before, it is easier for the agent to ask the seller how they would like to proceed: do we take it off the market for a while, or do we cut down on appointments for a while, or do we pay to have some housekeeping help for a while, or …?? Most people, if they can get a good night’s sleep over it, continue to make the compromises necessary. Or they are encouraged (not by the agent, exactly, but by the market’s feedback) to drop the price if they can’t maintain the condition.
Agents often under-estimate what is required to keep a loft or apartment “show ready”, especially if there are toddlers or teenagers involved. Some folks are intrinsically neat, but most of us are not.
I has one loft listing for which I did a showing while the teenager (home from school mid-afternoon) was asleep in his room instead of at the library as expected. We left that door closed that day.
I had a seller audibly exhale once we were done with showings, gasping that she could now leave her underwear out again if she wanted to. Sellers are wonderful, God bless ‘em, and almost always hold it together.
Back to the big finale of Rogers’ NY Times article….
If the agent understands that the sellers are under great stress and can tell when they are ready to blow, the agent is more equipped to handle the situation positively.
when all else fails
So when I see a seller is in the red zone, I would rather they not limit appointments or reduce their attention to being “show ready”. I would rather they blow at me (even if I have to lie to myself that is nothing personal 😉
Sandy Mattingly, an associate broker at Coldwell Banker Hunt Kennedy, encourages his clients to dump their angst on him.
“Part of the agent’s role is to be a blotter for that so they can get it out of their system and go back to running on a smooth level,” Mr. Mattingly said.
Does that feel better? Now let’s sell the loft….
(C) Sandy Mattingly 2007