Monday, April 17, 2006

Beware Angry Sellers

In addition to the expected increase in sob stories about people who are finding themselves underwater on their exotic loans (it's only going to get a lot worse folks), we are now starting to see angry pro-seller articles like this one -- sellers are angry because it is, or becoming, more of a buyer's market; sellers are having to jump through all sorts of hoops and make all sorts of concessions to sell a house.

Although this article doesn't focus on Marin, it still just so resonated with me given what I've seen of the Marin real estate market where it is now hard to walk into an open house that hasn't been staged, doesn't contain granite counter tops, industrial strength kitchen appliances (stainless steel of course), fake Tuscan wall paintings, cherry wood cabinets, designer faucets, tiles that come all the way from some exotic sounding Italian village, bags of French herbs, etc., etc.

Some choice quotes:
The housing market used to be so hot that buyers began writing offers before real estate agents even entered a new listing. And then agents advised buyers to improve their bids by writing personal letters to the seller, explaining where they planned to put the nursery and gushing over the owner's wonderful taste in decor.

Now with last month's real estate listings up by 23 percent since the same time last year, Twin Cities sellers might want to try writing a personalized letter of their own:

"Dear Buyer: Make us an offer. Puh-leese."

The long-predicted real estate bubble hasn't proved out, but you can tell by the number of "For Sale" signs on your block that the tide has definitely turned. Cable television channels, once overcrowded with programs showing how to sponge paint your walls to resemble a Tuscan villa, now are teeming with programs like "Designed to Sell," "Sell This House" and the ever more desperate "Buy Me."

In all of these programs, sellers are advised to paint over their sponged Tuscan walls with something inoffensive that buyers will like. Not that anyone really knows what buyers want, there being more than 26,000 homes for them to choose from in the Twin Cities — a record high.

Similarly frustrating to sellers is the current trend for "staging" a home, creating a kind of still life of single-family living with none of the books or personal knick-knacks but a constant supply of fresh flowers, scented candles and other gimcrack no real family could stand for five minutes. Buyers have become so accustomed to these faux tableaux — the angled couch, the arranged tea service with cozy, cashmere throw — they seem not to notice the actual architecture surrounding it.

20 Comments:

Blogger peterbob said...

This was so much fun to read. You could just see the author typing away as she HERSELF sits alone in her living room during her own open house.

Apr 17, 2006, 11:38:00 AM  
Blogger Athena said...

a very good read ;-)

You know, I never will understand that whole "staged" thing... with the no books especially.

for me... I want to see books. lots and lots of books... and I assure you there will be one major requirement of the house I buy.... either it must already have a library, or a room that will be able to be turned into an awesome library.


Going into a house with no books makes me think of people who aren't very smart and the last thing I want to do is give people like that money.

Apr 17, 2006, 11:52:00 AM  
Blogger marin_explorer said...

I'd much rather see empty rooms and white paint than staged to look like a Basso catalog page; I can do a far better visualization myslef. Who else has seen these BR/LRs painted in burgundy, "eggplant", Tuscan ochre, etc? What were they thinking...selling for conversion as a B&B?

"This does not mean buyers are required to pay the asking price. But they should pay some respect...

The second rule of real estate is less well known: 'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.'"


In terms of respect, a third rule of real estate could be: "respect is given to those with the upper hand". Ergo: buyers don't kiss ass in a down market.

Apr 17, 2006, 12:08:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

But they should pay some respect...

Yeah. Right. Sure. Where was the respect for the buyers over the last few years? Ain't payback a bitch.

Apr 17, 2006, 12:14:00 PM  
Blogger Athena said...

I think the sellers and real estate agents should probably pay some respect to math and economic fundamentals.

I am personally sick and tired of people who don't have the aptitude for basic principles of economics and math talking out their butts about real estate never goes down... can't lose... (insert puke icon)

Apr 17, 2006, 2:45:00 PM  
Blogger Athena said...

eek... in a bad mood. Maybe shouldn't be posting. :-/

Apr 17, 2006, 2:45:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The New Road to Serfdom" By Michael Hudson
Harpers, May 2006

Apr 17, 2006, 3:08:00 PM  
Blogger marinmaven said...

I have no problem with the whole staged open house event. Maybe it is because I watched "Design to Sell" that I "get it". What they are trying to do is sell more than a house, but an idea of the lifestyle you could have if you bought the house. There is no need to for the current owners perculiar tastes or bad choices to get in the way of a buyers' wish fulfillment and impulses.

We live in a country who shovels millions of dollars to Martha Stewart who peddles the concept of the ideal lifestyle.

The sellers/brokers don't want them to dwell on the fact that they will be too busy to enjoy candlelit dinners or pickup their kids toys.

Do I really want to see what my neigbors are really like when I crash their open houses, or do I want to see a tasteful and idealized version of their home?

Empty rooms are deceptive, almost any room can seem spacious without furniture.

Apr 17, 2006, 3:42:00 PM  
Blogger Marinite said...

Empty rooms are deceptive, almost any room can seem spacious without furniture.

And peddling "an idealized lifestyle" isn't deceptive? LOL! Just pick up your crap and maybe vacuum the floors before the open house starts to give people an idea of what it's like to live there.

Apr 17, 2006, 3:50:00 PM  
Blogger Athena said...

oh the idealized lifestyle is the biggest lie... but that is what it is all about. people wanting to LOOK like they are living the life- hence why they are financed up to their eyeballs.

Apr 17, 2006, 5:30:00 PM  
Blogger moonvalley said...

Athena,
for me... I want to see books. lots and lots of books...
You want to see books???? Come look in our two car garage, we're parking in the driveway . We have over 5000 books.Of course we just moved in and are surrounded by boxes...but still.
The buyers still want to get their asses smooched is all. They miss it. Tough luck. What goes around..etc. I'll be damned if I'd be wiling to write an essay explaining why I wanted to give someone a pile of money.

Apr 17, 2006, 8:59:00 PM  
Blogger fishtaco said...

The first rule of real estate is, "Location, location, location."

The second rule of real estate is less well known: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."


Yes, the second rule definitely applies. Sellers will be collectively reaping what they have sown for some years to come and I imagine that it will only get worse.

Here is a choice quote from "Home Buying for Dummies":

Don't let your highly developed sense of fair play make a sucker of you. Sellers frequently confuse "fair" with "impartial". Despite its friendly name, fair market value isn't a warm cuddly fairy godmother. On the contrary, it can heartless and cruel. Need isn't a component of fair market value.

Apr 17, 2006, 9:14:00 PM  
Blogger marin_explorer said...

Empty rooms are deceptive, almost any room can seem spacious without furniture.

I know it's not everyone's style. Since my taste is on the minimalist end, the empty space actually defines the room, versus what is put in it. It also helps me to see whether the space flows well. Granted, most people need to see something,so I understand the commercial need for staging.

Apr 17, 2006, 11:58:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Do onto others..." Now that's rich! No pun intended. As many experts are saying, the sellers are behind the curve ball on the turn in the market.

I spoke to a realtor recently and he had the nerve to ask me if I had a problem with a home that needed updating. Yes, I do. For half a million dollars, I shouldn't have to do a thing.

Prices in the exclusive area where I rent (2 years now) are dropping an average of 20% That is still way overpriced.

Apr 18, 2006, 8:14:00 AM  
Blogger Marinite said...

For half a million dollars, I shouldn't have to do a thing.

AMEN to that!

Apr 18, 2006, 9:35:00 AM  
Blogger marinmaven said...

"And peddling "an idealized lifestyle" isn't deceptive? LOL! Just pick up your crap and maybe vacuum the floors before the open house starts to give people an idea of what it's like to live there. "

Sure it is. Salesmanship is deception to varying degrees. It goes from de-emphasizing the negatives and emphasizing the positives to often much worse. This is why I can never go into sales, but I do try to understand how they work so I don't fall victim to it.

Just because I prefer the staged open houses to all others, doesn't mean I fall for it. It is still about the home's actual cost/benefit ratio rather than the fuzzy and warm potential it represents.

Real Estate salespeople go to the trouble of staging a house because it works and they see that it increases the price people are willing to sell it for.

As for the original article, I am a frequent attendee of such open houses and have been guilty of asking questions and comparing various homes for sale in the area to the openhouse I am in - which makes for a nervous salesperson.

"Gee the backyard seems smaller than the other houses in the neighborhood..."

Apr 18, 2006, 9:44:00 AM  
Blogger marinmaven said...

I go to these open houses because I want to see for myself houses that are asking $750k to $800k for 1950s Hoytt tracthomes I know once went for 25k-30k. It's crazy.
Btw, my favorite open houses are the ones that have free coffee and snacks. I guess the next thing will be an open bar at openhouses.

Apr 18, 2006, 10:05:00 AM  
Blogger Wickedheart said...

I think anyone knocking Designed to Sell hasn't watched the show. I think most older homes could use a little updating and some repairs. I don't see what's so wrong with investing some hard work and little bit of money (the show's budget is only $2000)sprucing your house to sell. Sure beats the sellers who just slap a price tag on their POS house and expect you to fork out top dollar for it. I've seen sellers who don't even haul away the trash before they list. You can see their nasty old mattresses and loads of crap in the realtors photos.

Apr 18, 2006, 7:23:00 PM  
Anonymous rejunkie said...

Like this one?

Apr 18, 2006, 8:25:00 PM  
Blogger Wickedheart said...

Yes, rejunkie, that is just the kind of stuff I'm talkin' about. There were several of those in my "pocket" neighborhood. The wreck behind my mom's house was the absolute worst in the hood. The kitchen and both bathrooms needed to be gutted. There was extensive water damage in the bathrooms. The kitchen was not useable. All flooring needed replacing. To clear the debris from the yard had to take at LEAST 3 of those construction sized dumpsters and a tow truck too. The realtor lied (can you imagine that?)to me about what it sold for but anyway the true selling price still did not reflect the condition it was in.

Apr 19, 2006, 7:32:00 AM  

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