The Story of the Closet

J Philip Faranda August 6, 2010

I’m going to indulge in one of my real estate pet peeves. Thanks in advance for your patience. 

Wa Wa WaImagine you are buying a car. You sit in the driver’s seat, smell that indelible new car smell, and the sales associate dangles the keys in front of you as you prepare for a test drive. Then, just before you put the key in the ignition, the salesperson begins a 5 minute soliloquy on the glove compartment. After enduring that little, strange episode, you start the car and roll 5 feet, just as you begin to pull out of the spot, the salesperson asks you to stop. Popping open the trunk, he then begins a tutorial of the rear storage as the car idles and you tap your feet awkwardly. You just want to get this thing on the road and see if it’s for you. 

Finally, getting back in the car, you roll toward the parking lot exit and he stops you again, this time to explain, with granular specificity, the storage compartment between the two front seats. How does this guy make a living selling cars? Short answer: he doesn’t make a living, because if he only talks about what is important to him, he’s not going to last. He doesn’t grasp that if you like how it drives, short of a dead guy in a bowling bag back there, you don’t care about the trunk.  

The same goes for homeowners who show their house to their prospective listing agent. I recently had this sort of person walk me through his modestly sized house, and it took nearly 20 minutes to walk through a home I could have walked through in less than 5 minutes. The cause of the delay was the guy’s insistence on giving me the historical abstract of every room, what he had or hadn’t done with it, why that was so, and what he’d do if he were to keep the house instead of selling. For an ADD guy like me, it was like watching paint dry while I listened to the wa wa wa of the grown-ups on a Peanuts cartoon. 

I’m a professional; I know what a closet is, and I know the pros and cons of a half-finished bathroom. How the bathroom came to be half finished or why you chose to take the hanging rod out of the bedroom closet and put up shelves instead is not terribly important, at least not for every..single…room…in..the..house. 

It all boils down to the stark fact that most homeowners are lousy salespeople and need to slowly step back from the person looking at the house. If it feels like home, they ask questions. If it doesn’t, they won’t buy if you showed them where you stored the dead sea scrolls in the attic. 

Leave out the closet story. Stop expecting the showing agent to put on a horse and pony show. Homes are bought, not sold. I never spoke to anyone and had them say “the agent” or “the owner” as the reason they chose their home. A good agent will assist you in presenting the home, staging it, marketing it to the right prospects, and dealing with the people carefully who walk through. We know when to question; we know when to shut up; we know when to let them soak in it; we know how to sell. You don’t, and if you did, you aren’t objective. People know what they are looking for. We help them find it. 

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