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When You Should Walk Away

Some sellers are just not going to listen to the market. When should you decline a listing?

“We tell sales associates to define their own standards and set minimum expectations,” says Carla Cross. She recommends that you consider the following factors as creating your own standard:

• Is the property marketable?
• Is the seller cooperative?
• Will the seller be a long-term referral source?
• Do you have a long enough listing?

Floyd Wickman recommends a different rule of thumb. “Walk away if you can’t get one of three things—price, time or motivated sellers—going for you,” says the founder of the Floyd Wickman Team LLC. “If you can’t get the right price, sometimes you can get the right length of time,” he explains. “If sellers are in no hurry, you can take a 12-month listing with low expectations as long as they understand you can’t put time, money or energy into the listing. They’re just speculating.” When you have speculators, Wickman suggests using a disclosure form he calls the broker-seller disclosure. “I tell sellers that I need a form to present to my broker saying that I estimated the property value at X amount, but the sellers want to try a higher price and understand that my expectation is very low that we’ll get this price. That gets the monkey off my back.”

You might be safe taking an overpriced listing, says Wickman, if sellers have a deadline. Say they’re being transferred but don’t need to move for 90 days. “If they want to speculate for the first 60 days, but then they have no choice but to lower the price, that’s the difference between wanting to sell and having to sell,” he explains.

If sellers are still stuck in last year’s pricing and you decide to walk away, Cross reminds you to be nice. “When you tell them, you have to say it in an attractive way,” she says. “You can say, ‘You’re lovely people, but this price isn’t a price buyers will accept. And in three weeks, you’re not going to like me. We won’t have a good relationship, and I know you’ll never give me a referral even if the home sells later. I’d rather keep our relationship rather than have you walk away mad at me.”