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Why Won't the Listing Agents Just Give me the Comparable Sales?

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Many agents work in a similar fashion and want to meet at your home.

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Question: Why Won't the Listing Agents Just Give me the Comparable Sales?
From Elizabeth Weintraub's email bag: "Hello Elizabeth: I gave my email to 3 different agents and asked each to get me the comps around my home. Then told each one I would like to see the comp[sic]. They have asked to MEET AT MY HOME! When I have not seen the comps! There are comps over $300,000 within a few miles that would be a comp. That was three dayz [sic] back. I keep checking my email but nothing yet??? If they are not interested in helping me . . . I will get Yellow Pages, I guess, thank you so much." -- a seller in Northern California.
Answer: The thing about writing for About.com while actually working in the real estate business as a real estate agent is that it gives me so many real world examples to share with my readers, such as the situation with this seller who does not know why the listing agents won't just give her the comps. Can't you feel the seller's exasperation and frustration? The irritation the seller feels leaps off the page. It's terrible that the seller feels this way.

However, if this seller feels this way, there are probably many more sellers throughout the country who are going through similar experiences with listing agents. Why won't agents just give you the comps, and why do they insist on meeting at your home? Those are good questions.

How Listing Agents Work

Listing agents are not all the same. Many have developed over the years individual and specific ways of conducting business. However, many business practices are similar to each other. The very first things a listing agent will want to do is:

  • Meet the seller, and
  • See the seller's home.

It's best if the two can be done together. Agents want to meet sellers because real estate is a people business. Most sellers want to meet the real estate agent for the very same reason. You can size up each other in ways you can't do on the phone, decide if you like each other. Listing agents also want a seller to sign a listing agreement, and sellers often feel more comfortable signing documents in person than online.

Although agents will do it, it is practically impossible to price a home if an agent has not seen the home. Laws in California and other states put a lot of pressure on listing agents to inspect the home in person. Pricing a home is an art and part science. It draws from the gut, from an emotional nature, as well as from the surrounding comparable sales.

Without actually viewing a home, a listing agent won't know if a comparable sale applies. That's because a comparable sale should compare a home of similar size, configuration, age, condition and upgrades. Agents who work in your neighborhood will know how much a home with marble, stainless and quartz will fetch over a home with laminate counters, avocado-colored appliances and torn carpeting.

This is not to say that a listing agent might not have a preconceived idea of value, because many listing agents will know the approximate value of your home off the top of their heads. But hopefully they are smart enough not to open their mouths because they could be wrong when they haven't seen it.

There are many times I've shown up for a listing appointment, especially for a short sale listing in which condition is not always that important, and I've had a price in mind that was way off because the condition did not support it. Sometimes, I've had to adjust the price upwards and sometimes down. There is no way around it, an agent needs to view the home in person to suggest a competent listing value.

How Listing Agents View Comparable Sales

There are a few ways to look at the comparable sales, and I suggest sellers consider all of them. It depends who is looking at the comparable sales and interpreting them. Generally, comps are pulled from a 1/4-mile to a 1/2-mile radius. Here are the groups of people who can look at the same list of comparable sales and each can draw a different value:

  • The Seller
  • The Buyer
  • The Buyer's Lender's Appraiser
Of these 3 groups of people, the most important opinion of value is the appraiser's. A listing agent will consider the seller's wishes but if wishes were fishes pigs would fly, or something like that. A buyer might offer to pay more, especially in a seller's market, but a low appraisal could cause that higher offer to vanish. The listing agent wants the seller to select a price that is attractive enough to entice a buyer to make an offer, and the listing agent wants the home to appraise at the accepted price so it will close.

Some listings agents are afraid a seller won't list with that agent if the agent does not promise a high enough price. If the agent suggests a price that seems too high, ask the agent to explain the reasoning behind it. Bear in mind that the list price and the closed sales price could be two different prices. But in the end, the market will dictate the sales price. The seller does not dictate the sales price, and neither does the listing agent. Moreover, never choose your listing agent based solely on the suggested sales price.

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