If the Comparable Sales are so Crummy, Why Did They Sell (& You Didn’t)?

J Philip Faranda August 13, 2011

I can see why people get biased. I got word tonight that my client’s offer on a home in Tuckahoe was accepted. She is very happy. What is unusual about this particular deal is that the sellers actually interviewed me before they first went on the market but elected to list with someone else. I respect the agent, so I was happy for them. He and I are pals, and we are excited to be doing our first deal together. Ironically enough, the home is being sold for the exact price I predicted back in February, which was also probably the reason I didn’t get hired. 

The real pleasure about the negotations was that even though we started somewhat far apart, my colleague and I kept cooler heads and affected a meeting of the minds fairly quickly and solidly. It was very cool, and a far departure from the mini dramas I have seen playing out lately where the agents, who should be stablizing figures, have let their emotions get the better of them and inject unneeded drama into a process that calls for calm and sanity. 

Among the sillier tactics I have seen is the petty nonsense some sellers and their agents pull when comparable sales are cited as justification for the price offered. 

  • Oh THAT dump? Our place is way better
  • Number 122 up the street? Are you kidding? Have you seen how it backs up to the highway?
  • Obviously you’ve never seen the inside of of this one. It is a fetid relic.  
  • That is in no way shape or form a comparable. Please. How insulting. 
Now, the more mature Westchester neighborhoods are no cookie cutter subdivisions, and it is true that no two houses are exactly alike. But a comparable sale does not suggest an exact sale. It simply appeals to similar end buyers. So if you have an 1800 square foot tudor, a 1900 square foot colonial is plenty close enough. And while I respect some honest bias toward one’s own home, it is ludicrous to think that the other homes that have been selected by by the market while you remain unsold are bad places. If anything, buyers in Westchester are scooping the cream off the top. If another house sells ahead of yours, what makes you think yours is better? Why would a buyer choose another house if it was not as nice as yours for the money? 
 
Are the buyers stupid? Blind? Hardly. Buyers today are more savvy and careful than they have ever been. If a house sells ahead of another, it is always for good reason. 
 
In short, it is foolish to discount the comparable sales because of subjective bias, especially in this environment. Anything selling now is priced right and in good to great shape for the money. You can take that to the bank. The sooner some sellers (and their agents) come out of the fog that their house is not the only habitable house in the neighborhood the sooner they will sell. It means suspending bias, but it pays off far better in the end than destructive house vanity. 
 
Brokers and agents who grasp this are doing their job right. 

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