Agent who likes house may work harder to sell it

SMART MOVES

September 06, 1992|By ELLEN JAMES MARTIN

The house was an elegantly appointed Cape Cod in Clarksville with a Waterford crystal chandelier in the foyer, a cedar shake roof and professional landscaping. And it sold in just one day.

Did it help that the listing agent, Pamela Shaw of Coldwell Banker, was so enamored of the house she would have bought it herself? That's a real possibility, realty specialists say.

"If you like a house yourself, you're going to be more excited about selling it than if you think it's a dog," says Gaye Rittenhouse, a sales associate with the Century 21 chain in Catonsville.

Granted, a listing agent who is a true professional will actively promote the sale of a wide range of properties that are well priced and in reasonable condition -- regardless of whether those homes are the agent's personal favorites.

Still, if you pick a listing agent who has a definite personality clash with your particular property, that could drag down your chances of selling the place at a reasonable pace and for a good price.

"If an agent isn't even excited about his own listing, how can he expect the buyers to be excited? The buyers will think the agent knows something they don't know and become suspicious," Ms. Rittenhouse says.

Realty agents are like everyone else -- they have a range of tastes. Some like contemporary homes, others like traditionals. Some favor new property over vintage homes. Some like urban condos better than rustic retreats in the country.

The reality is that most any solid agent can sell a variety of homes successfully.

"They know that different people have different needs for different houses and they market homes without prejudice," says Carolyn Janik, author of "How to Sell Your Home in the '90s," a Penguin paperback.

But don't count on all agents to keep their subjective feelings from coloring their behavior relative to the homes they sell -- whether their attitudes are conveyed directly through remarks or through vocal tone and body language. An agent with an intense dislike for a property -- regardless of the reason -- cannot be counted on to sell that home as effectively as one who loves the place.

"Real estate is a slippery business. There are a lot of subtleties. And for all their professionalism, agents are still human beings," Ms. Janik observes.

Ms. Janik recalls an agent who once ferried her and her husband on a tour of for-sale homes. One of the properties, a small ranch house, backed to a wooded area with a stream. The couple was admiring the property when the agent blurted: "You wouldn't want a house with a brook behind it." The agent apparently felt uncomfortable around water, Ms. Janik speculates.

In the ideal world, you'll find a listing agent who at least likes your property -- if not loves it. If the agent feels positively about your home, he'll have an easier time promoting the home with other agents and buyers who come through. To maximize your chances of a successful outcome, realty specialists make these points:

* Look for an agent with a positive attitude.

"If the agent is enamored of your house, it could add the TLC you need to help your sale," Ms. Janik says.

For most people, the agent-selection process involves one or more agents coming to your home for what's known as a "market analysis" -- a preliminary assessment by the agent as to how the home should be marketed and for what price.

Regrettably, agents are unlikely to convey directly any negative reactions they may have to your property which might influence the deal (although some busy agents will, very rarely, turn down a listing if they think a property is not in salable condition or the owners insist on pricing it too high).

Still, as Ms. Janik says, "there are certain intangible attitudes that come through without ever saying a word." Look for body language and other clues as to what the agent is thinking. Suppose, for instance, that a renovation was done to your house that involved conversion of a carport to a family room. When you show the agent this room, he makes a face or quietly groans. Obviously, he doesn't like the renovation.

There are other clues, too. Does the agent seem comfortable and relaxed when he visits? An agent who is comfortable with a home may stay longer.

* Look with suspicion on an agent who gushes about your home.

"I've heard of agents who gush about properties when they really don't mean it," says Ms. Shaw, the Coldwell Banker agent.

If any agent falsely praises your home and you're aware of it, how could you trust the agent to speak with sincerity on other matters? Anyway, rather than indulging in flattery, a good agent has a more professional attitude.

"Selling a house is serious business. This is not a garden club house tour," Ms. Janik says.

An agent with a serious attitude will analyze both your home's good points and the flaws in need of correction. He won't hesitate to tell you, for instance, that your switch plates are frayed and full of fingerprints, or that your moldings need painting. He should also ask you a series of factual questions -- ranging from the age of the water heater to the size of the rooms.

Stresses Ms. Janik: "Factual information is more important than romantic love in a house deal."

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