Monday, November 4, 2019


A changing market ushers in changing realities. 

For one, selling a home in a weekend with multiple offers is far from the reality for most sellers these days.  More often than not, it's taking longer, sometimes a lot longer, to achieve a desired outcome.  Depending on price, condition and location, your timeframe for getting a home under contract can range from a few days until... never.

I recently listed and sold a home for past clients whome the market had treated well.  Just five years ago, they purchased a starter home for $270,000 in a solid neighborhood close to a regional park with excellent Jeffco schools.  It was less than 1,600 square feet of finished space, though, and with two small kids now part of the family equation, moving up to something larger made perfect sense.

We listed the home at $429,000, a number supported by neighborhood comps and a full 59% higher than the price they paid just five years ago.  The equity from their gain would provide a hefty down payment on their larger replacement home and I had no concerns about their situation.  In current Denver housing parlance, they are what is known as "winners".  

Of course, the process of selling a home today is often very different than what we have known for the past seven years.  No more multiple offer shootouts, no more over-the-top escalator clauses and no lines of people forming in the driveway an hour before the open house.

Even so, with two young kids and a smaller floorplan to begin with, I recommended that they clear out for our first weekend on the market.  Sticking around is not worth the hassle of being chased out of your home repeatedly and having to live you're in the display case at Neiman Marcus.

So over that first weekend, we ended up with a handful of showings and good feedback, but no offers.  With my clients returning to town Monday afternoon, we had planned to meet that evening to review anything that might show up, or if nothing materialized, to strategize going forward.

I circled back with agents Monday morning who had shown over the weekend to gauge prospective interest, and as it turns out, we did have two buyers with some legitimate interest.  Both had homes to sell, and that's where it got interesting.

"My clients don't want to end up homeless and so they don't want to put their home on the market until they have a replacement property under contract," said the first agent.  

"Okay," I said, "but give me something to work with here.  Where do they live now?  What price point are you looking to list it at, and what's your professional opinion about how quickly it might sell?"

Our conversation continued and eventually the agent did provide the address, as well as a proposed list price.  As I am prone to do, I pulled this agent's sales history from the MLS and found a transactional desert... five lifetime transactions, one listing in 18 months as a licensee.  

The second agent I spoke with also had a client with a home to sell.  This time, however, the home had been on the market for several weeks without a contract.

"What's wrong with it?", I asked.

"It's a great home, my clients just haven't been that serious about getting it ready because they haven't found a home they love.  And they really like your home."

"So you listed it, it wasn't market ready, no one bit, and now your sellers are suddenly going to get serious if we accept your offer?"


Shortly thereafter, as I was walking out the door to present our first wobbly offer, the second wobbly offer came through.  Five thousand dollars over list with a contingency asking for 45 days to put their heretofore unsalable home under contract.  

45 days?

I drove to my sellers' home and we sat down at the kitchen table.  

"In the old days," I began, "we spread offers out on the table, we would talk through the pros and cons of each, remove the bad ones, keep the good ones, and eventually settle on a winner.  Tonight, I don't think I want to take either of these offers out of my briefcase."

I explained that despite the fact we had two offers, both at or over list price, they were a long way from sure things.

"Both of these properties have issues, and both of these agents do not inspire confidence.  It would be easy to say yes to one and try to make it work, but honestly, if we go under contract and come back on the market three weeks from now you're not going to be happy, and most people are going to assume there is something wrong with your home."

So we did something I can't recall doing in my 13 years in Colorado.  We dropped our only two offers in the shredder.

It's better to wait for the right buyer than to cross your fingers and hope that clueless people get it together.  As I explained to both agents the next day, there were and are all kinds of ways to put this deal together.  All you have to do is let 50% of the earnest money go hard after inspections and guarantee us you'll have a contract in 15 days.  Just step up, somebody.  .  


So that's all we needed to know.  People who are committed, or who have agents who are committed, figure out how to get things done.  The indecisive, uncertain or non-committal end up in a ditch. 

With 23,000 agents in the Denver metro area, we are drowning in freshly-minted licensees but thirsting for good old-fashioned competence.  

My clients stayed on the market and another weekend passed.  Then, on Monday, we received the call we had been waiting for all along.

"My buyers love the home and their kids go to the school just down the street.  They're willing to do whatever it takes to make this work."

Full price, non-contingent, quick closing and nice people.  Check, check, check, check.

Three weeks later we closed, and we even secured a short-term rentback that gave my clients time to close on their replacement home and move in an orderly manner.  Everybody got along famously and all parties were treated fairly and with respect.  

Not every transaction turns out so well, but the lesson here is that it is wiser to do your diligence up front and get the right people on board from day one rather than hitching your wagon to the first pack mule that comes along and hoping things work out.  

In life and in real estate, more often than not, competence, patience and faith will yield the right results.