There’s plenty of advice for homeowners about what not to say when selling your house. But this list is for agents: things you should never say to your clients. Real estate has universal truths (the lockbox will not work), but agents have to be diplomatic despite these truths. We’ve rounded up our top six things that agents should not say (when selling a house or helping buyers), and offer tips on what to say instead. 

1. ‘You Have Horrible Taste’

a listing photo of a room with too many cats, which makes the agent want to tell the homeowner they have horrible taste, whichis  what should you not say when selling a house.
Homeowner who loves a cat theme (Source: Zillow Gone Wild)

Your seller has taxidermied every cat he has ever owned and placed them around the house. You’re encouraging him to remove the dead animals and stage the home more neutrally. However, your seller is standing firm. How about just one taxidermied cat, you suggest? Nope. It’s all 45 or no house. Your blood pressure is rising, 90 glass cat eyes are staring at you, and you want to shout, “You have horrible taste! No one will buy a house looking like this!” But you don’t. You’re a professional. 

Every agent has had sellers who think their decor choices epitomize style and design. They resist all calls to declutter and repaint the neon green and orange bathroom before a house viewing and maybe pull up the maroon shag carpet while they’re in there.

We can all agree that taste is very personal and that many looks are acceptable in the broad spectrum of design. However, as an agent, you know that staging a home will appeal to more buyers and command a higher dollar. But, as much as you’d like to, you can’t tell them that they have horrible taste. 

Say This Instead

You have a beautiful collection of stuffed cats. It is so meaningful and important to you. However, we might have potential buyers who are allergic or may miss their dear departed cats. They will spend the whole time looking at your cats, thinking about their cats, not your lovely property. Let me show you some simple things we can do to stage your home that might even bring a higher sales price! 

2. ‘Let’s Base the Listing Price on the Zestimate’

meme poking fun at the inaccuracy of Zestimates.
Even Bob Ross gets it (Source: Pinterest)

I’ll be the first to say that Zestimates are getting better, but they still create a lot of confusion and false hope for sellers. We have a whole article explaining what a Zestimate is and how (and why) it’s often wrong. Briefly: a Zestimate is not an appraisal—it’s a number created by a sophisticated algorithm.

If the home needs repairs, sellers might be pondering the question, “What not to tell your realtor when selling,” so ask additional questions about the home’s condition and explain why disclosing all material defects is mandatory. All that you learn—all of these little details—are part of your pricing strategy but not part of the Zestimate. 

But it’s especially challenging for agents listing a home when the seller is married to the Zestimate. Even if you think the Zestimate isn’t that far off, you want to ensure your clients understand your value and that your experience and local market knowledge make you the right person to sell their home. The last thing you want to say is, sure, let’s base the listing price on the Zestimate. 

Say This Instead

Explain how Zillow comes up with its numbers, but use your comparative market analysis to justify your price point. You’re the local expert and the one who can explain why a higher or lower price will get top dollar in your local market. You will win them over with correct data and a persuasive point of view. 

3. ‘Call Me Anytime, 24/7’

a meme that illustrates how busy agents are and how they feel like they have to always answer their phones!
Available and exhausted (Source: Pinterest)

Frankly, you should be open and available to your clients. It’s a big part of what agents do. However, you don’t need to suggest that clients can call you any time of the night or day. Either it’s a false promise, and you’ve set up unrealistic expectations that will lead to frustrations—or it’s a genuine offer, and you haven’t slept in four years. Either way, it’s not great. 

You are a busy agent and a crucial part of one of the most important financial decisions in people’s lives. But you might also have a family, a pet, or other clients, or at least someone who has to eat. You can’t promise to be on call 24/7 and survive. 

Say This Instead

You can commit to top-tier customer service. You can promise to return all emails and texts within one business day. You can pledge to monitor messages and respond promptly and regularly. You can also introduce your clients to a fellow team member or assistant who can step in if you are unavailable. You can deliver the best customer service in your area in many ways without sleeping with your phone. 

4. ‘I Only Make Money if You Buy a House’

meme showing we love real estate but we still have to get paid: but be careful how you say it to clients.
It might be our one true love, but we still need to get paid. (Source: FitSmallBusiness)

This is a hidden thing you should never say as a real estate agent. While you might love real estate, you still have to get paid, and it can be tricky how to explain it to clients. When you say you get paid if and when they buy a house, your buyers will feel all kinds of pressure. 

Sure, it’s true, but as the recent commission lawsuits demonstrate, there is a lot of confusion about how agents are paid and what they’re worth. Agents have a real opportunity to explain their value. As an agent, you serve many roles in helping someone find their dream home, and this is your chance to lay them all out.

Say This Instead 

If asked how you make money, be careful not to answer by assigning any responsibility to your clients. Rather, point to the many services you provide. Make sure they understand commission but do so in a way that ensures they never feel like they are responsible for you keeping your lights on at home. Even if they are.

5. ‘Your Dream Home Doesn’t Exist’

a meme illustrating how people on house hunters discount a house because of wall color.
If it’s not the right paint color, some buyers reject the house. (Source: InboundREM)

Generally, everyone compromises when buying property. But don’t just say outright to your clients—your dream home doesn’t exist. Don’t dash their hopes and dreams on the sharp rocks of your dozens of years of cynicism experience. 

Buyers are confused by the current market, afraid of interest rates, and generally set up to have out-sized expectations. These folks have been out there for years watching HGTV, with buyers rejecting homes with ugly not-granite countertops on House Hunters and remodeling $130,000 homes into farmhouse-style palaces. It’s not their fault. 

Say This Instead

I understand that these not-granite countertops make you want to gouge your eyes out with pruning shears, but countertops are replaceable and are easier and cheaper than you think. Let’s look at some cosmetic changes that can make this house (the one that checks every other box) your dream home. 

6. ‘You’re Delusional’

meme that illustrates how buyers can be completely delusional with their low ball offers.
You know the kind (Source: realtorkrissy)

I’m guessing you may have said this in your head many times to different clients about different issues. After all, any time you work with people, there will be a time when there’s a difference of opinion. For example, agents might want to call a client delusional when they submit a low-ball offer.

They say, “I know it’s listed at $380,000,” they say, “but let’s go in at $290,000 and just see what happens.” You’ll be tempted to respond, “You’re delusional.”

Say This Instead

Instead of questioning their ability to reason, you’ve got to lean on your numbers and their emotions. Explain how the comps make the listing price pretty accurate. While there might be room for negotiation, a basement-level low offer will sour the relationship from the outset. The sellers might not even counter, cutting off further opportunities for negotiation. In a seller’s market, those lowballs aren’t going to get it done (highest and best should be the order of the day). Try to suss out if they really want the home, and if so, how badly. And is it worth making a realistic offer to get it? 

Bringing It All Together

Unfortunately (fortunately?), there are things you should not say as an agent when working with clients to sell or buy a house. Imagine a home viewing with all the stuffed cats. That’s the exact time you might want to tell a client that they have horrible taste (the “you’re delusional” also works). But you can’t. And you don’t. Because you know what to say instead. The result is an exercise in diplomacy and persuasion—and potentially, a decluttered, staged home ready to sell. That’s why you’re the best in the business, and at The Close, we’re here to help you along the way.

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