Time money businessSmart, saavy Silicon Valley real estate agents won’t take just any listing. New agents (or brokerages, for that matter) or those struggling may be less picky.  This may be confusing to home owners who find that some Realtors will agree to list the home, others won’t – so let’s discuss it a little.

Real estate licensees aren’t just people who hold open houses on weekends.  Rather, real estate agents are independent businesspeople in the business of selling real estate. Many of them work 50+ hours per week.  In order to be successful, they have to evaluate the probability of success, whether with buyers or sellers, before deciding to take on those clients.  If they agree to work with buyers who never buy or sellers who never sell, they will be out of time, out of money, and if they make this judgement mistake too often, out of business entirely.   In the last 4-5 years about 1/3 of real estate salespeople have left the industry.  Those who are surviving or thriving are very judicious about how they expend their time and resources.

Under some circumstances, home sellers may project enough “red flags” or have unreasonable expectations such that real estate agents will turn down the chance to list their home.  Here are a few things I’ve run into over the years, either personally or heard about from other agents who said no to sellers:

  1. Unrealistic expectation on likely sales price of the home (demanding more than the probable buyer’s value of the home)
  2. Unwilling to compensate agents or brokers as they require OR expecting them to take on far more work than is to be expected in selling a property (such as overseeing the entire remodel of a house – we are not general contractors!)
  3. Overly restrictive showings (too much advance notice, insisting that listing agent be present for all showings)
  4. Not permitting some basic marketing or access avenues (no open house, no sign, no lockbox) or unwilling to follow sound professional advice on staging, presale inspections to make the property attractive to buyers – these are “basics”
  5. Problems with showings (messy, smelly homes or sellers insist on staying home during showings, follow buyers around in the house etc.)
  6. Secretiveness – when sellers won’t level with agents about their plans it sets a bad, even scary, tone that causes agents to worry about hidden risks
  7. Nastiness, second guessing or micro-managing – some sellers may want to call the agent 8 or 10 times per day or desire to oversee even the smallest detail on marketing the home (see every email sent, for example).  Others can be rude or insulting.  Some constantly double check everything the agent says to verify every angle or detail and then quotes back to the agent “well another agent I know says…” which is frustrating and insulting.  Sometimes listening to others at work, who are unqualified to give real estate advice and getting that “over the cubicle wall advice”, causes home owners to not follow their agent’s advice (see # 4 above).
  8. Concerns over legal problems and liability, such as a home owner with dementia selling the house rather than the adult kids or other friends or relatives getting a power of attorney to do it for the parent (I have run into this directly). If there are any mental capacity issues, it is a lawsuit waiting to happen.

Most of the time, real estate agents want to list good homes and have the opportunity to market and sell them.  If they (or I) see enough “red flags” with a seller or the property, though, it’s time to decline the opportunity.  Often times, these same houses do not sell the first time they are on the market but later become an expired, withdrawn or cancelled listing.  (Sometimes they simply take a very long time to sell as the owners adjust to market realities and begin to accept their agent’s advice.)  Sellers wonder to themselves, “why didn’t my house sell?”  The answer is often an inflated price but just as often there are other problems compounding the failed sales effort too, very frequently an unwillingness to follow professional real estate advice.

Not every home will sell.  A wise real estate sales person will not get hooked into a listing agreement where the seller isn’t as motivated to sell the property as the agent is to sell it.  This is a team effort, requiring a shared vision of what needs to happen.  Even under the best of circumstances, homes don’t always sell.  So if there are big issues from the seller or the way the home is shown, it’s a bad business decision for the real estate licensee to get tied to them – it’s too much like trying to do the job with one hand tied behind your back. Who agents and brokers work with is ultimately a business decision.  If they are turning you down for the listing contract, at the end of the day it’s a statement about your or your property’s business risk. If you are confused as to why they decline the opportunity to list your house, townhouse or condo, you can always ask them, and most likely you’ll get a helpful answer.