Advice few agents will ever give you.
by Neil Jenman
READING TIME: APX 11 mins
This happened years ago. But the message still applies today – maybe more so.
I came bounding into my real estate office. There was a man at our reception desk. His face was familiar.
“G’day Neil,” he said. “You don’t remember me, do you?”
I did what most agents do – and what I often tell agents not to do.
I looked at him and said, “Lavinia Street.”
Shamefully, I remembered his street name not his surname.
His name was Dan Dickens. He told me his story – and why he had come to see me on this day.
“Seven years ago,” Dan said, “You came to see my wife and me. We decided to sell our home in Merrylands and move to Coffs Harbour. Out mind was made up – or at least mine was. We were set to go. We were just looking for the best agent to handle our sale.
“You started to ask us questions. But vastly different questions compared with other agents. You quizzed us about Coffs Harbour. I said we’d holidayed there for 25 years. Now that our children were grown-up, we were free to retire to Coffs. I told you how I loved fishing. Especially on the Bellinger River.”
You asked us if we had any grandchildren. Our first had just been born. My wife was rapt. I was chuffed too. Three of our four children had married in the past three years – and the fourth had just got engaged. You told us that we’d soon be grandparents to many little-uns.
When you talked about our own children giving us grandchildren, my wife’s face lit up. You then asked a very personal question. Do you remember?”
“Well,” I said, “I probably asked: What’s more important – fishing or grandchildren?”
“You got it,” Dan said. “That’s exactly what you asked. You then talked us out of selling our home. You told us that we could still go fishing in the holidays, but if we kept our home, we could have our children and our grandchildren full-time. You may remember my wife gave you a hug.
“Well Mr Jenman, for the last seven years my wife has mentioned you constantly. I can’t tell you how many mornings she got up and thanked God you talked us out of selling our home.”
He then said: “My wife passed away last month. Two of our children are now in Queensland. I want to move there. So, this time, Mr Jenman, you must sell my home. I won’t be interviewing any other agents. You are it.”
‘STAY PUT’ IF YOU’LL BE LESS HAPPY
Dan and his wife were not the only home-owners I talked out of selling. I often told people to stay put. Especially if they were going to be less happy if they sold.
The most common reaction I got was: “But you are an agent. You only get paid if we sell. You get nothing if we don’t sell. Why would you tell us not to sell?”
I gave each home-owner the same answer: When I got into real estate, I made two strong promises – like vows. The first was to work very hard. And the second promise was to always do what’s in the best interests of the home-owners.
From my experience in real estate, I can confidently state the following: Most people who sell their homes – especially family homes – feel sad. In some of those cases – a surprisingly high number, actually – the home-owners would be happier, much happier, if they stayed put.
This particularly applies to elderly people, many of whom are pressured into selling by relatives. They are constantly told they are “getting old” – which they know. They are then told that the home is “too much for them”.
In what way? And in whose opinion?
Many times, when I appraised homes of elderly people, my gentle questioning would lead to them almost breaking down with sadness at the mere thought of selling.
In some cases, I would call their children – or grandchildren – and ask if they could help their parents or grandparents with maintenance. After all, the beneficiaries are going to inherit the home when their elderly relatives pass away.
And, as the saying goes, “Where there’s a will, there’s a relative.”
Many relatives are eager to line-up and pocket the proceeds of a home sale when old folk pass away. But those same relatives are not so keen to line-up and mow lawns or clear gutters when the old folk are still living – and battling to keep their home.
Recently, a man in his late 70s told me what many men of his vintage state: “Every time I use the whipper-snipper, my back aches for days.”
Back pain from the strain of gardening was his main reason for selling his home.
Now, please understand: Selling a home is not cheap – especially commission these days. It’s common for elderly folk to pay more than $50,000 to an agent for “selling” their home. Plus a few thousand dollars in needless advertising costs which benefit agents more than sellers.
And then, if the sellers will be buying again after they sell (they must live somewhere), they will be up for tens of thousands of dollars in stamp duty. In addition to legal fees.
I did some specific calculations for the man with the aching back. I then said: “For what it will cost you to sell your lovely home on its landscaped block and move to a smaller home, you could hire a gardener three days a week until you are 135 years of age.”
He laughed and kept his home.
RETIREMENT HOMES ARE NOT FOR EVERYONE
Moving into a retirement home – or, sadly, a nursing home – can have a devastating psychological effect on some people. Even if they think they will “be okay”, to be surrounded by scores of other elderly folk, many of whom are ill and, inevitably, passing away, is not good for anyone’s mental health.
Now, to be sure, some elderly folk – my mother-in-law (at 89) is one – are okay moving out of their former family home into a retirement home. But my wife was so sentimentally attached to the home in which she spent her childhood, that, when it was time for her mother to move, she and I bought the home. It stayed in the family.
Most elderly folk want to hang on to their family homes if humanly possible. Often, however, their relatives are the ones to announce that “it’s time”. The trauma of the moving can literally kill some elderly folk.
Therefore, I say: Before you instantly acquiesce and sell your beloved family home, see if you can find a way to keep it. Can you find a relative to help you with gardening and maintenance? If they will inherit the home, pressure them to help you keep your home. Don’t allow them to pressure you to go.
Indeed, don’t let anyone – especially agents – pressure you into selling a home you love. One of the saddest cases I have ever encountered is a delightful lady in the gorgeous Sydney suburb of Bronte. About four years ago, her husband – together with a local agent who was clearly hungry for commission – bullied this lady into selling her beloved family home.
It is no exaggeration to say that this lady has been severely depressed every day since selling her home. She is consumed with regret, anger, and heartbreak. It’s awful. If only she had waited. If only she had thought it over. If only she had resisted the high-pressure.
If you are being pressured by any agent, tell them to go away. I love it when I hear an elderly person say, “I’ll be carried out of here in a box.” That’s how I’m going with my home.
Selling a home is not just expensive financially, it’s also one of the most psychologically stressful events in any person’s life. Indeed, the word ‘home’ is the second most emotive word in the English language (after “mother”).
Many people who sell their homes, don’t feel as if they have sold their home. They feel like they have lost their homes.
Queensland has always been a popular destination for home-sellers. Now it’s more popular than ever. Since the pandemic people are leaving Sydney and Melbourne in droves. Indeed, twice as many people are leaving these two cities as are migrating to them.
Brisbane is their favoured destination.
But what happens when someone sells their family home in Sydney or Melbourne, moves to Brisbane, and doesn’t like it? Maybe they miss their families. Or their friends. They long to be back in the community they lived-in and loved for decades. It happens – surprisingly often. And many of these northern migrants can’t afford to buy back into their former home-city of Sydney or Melbourne. They are then locked-out of their true home.
Here’s what I used to tell people when I had my real estate office and they wanted to pack-up in Sydney and move to Queensland. I still tell them today. Everything looks good on paper. The glossy brochures of the Sunshine State are enticing.
But how do you know, for sure, that you are going to be delighted with your decision to move north?
No one knows for sure, until they make the move, whether they are going to be glad or sad.
So, here’s what to do.
TRY BEFORE YOU BUY
Instead of taking the often-irreversible step (cost-wise) of selling your home down south and buying up north, you should rent out your home down south. Then rent a home up north.
It’s a darned sight cheaper – and less final – to rent out your own home, then rent another home. And see if you like living in the Sunshine State.
Here’s what I have found: In nearly half the cases where people “try before they buy”, they return to their roots. They miss their former life down south – whether it be family or friends or footy at the MCG – and can’t wait to return.
Few agents will advise people who are “thinking of selling” to do anything other than sell. So, be careful who you ask. Some agents are skilled at almost ejecting home-owners from their homes. They will come at them with a ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ huge offer.
But the reason someone offers a great price for your home is because you own a great home.
Swap the home you love for cash in the bank – or another (lesser) home in another area – and you may feel about as miserable as you’ve ever felt in your life.
Ask most people who sold a family home they once loved, and they will tell you they wish they had kept it. So, if possible, always see if you can find an alternative to selling. And certainly, don’t rush. The agent will still be hovering (circling) whenever you want to sell.
And so will high-paying buyers.
So, here’s the message for anyone thinking of selling a family home they love: Don’t sell your home. Unless you have thought it over at great length – preferably with people who are not going to pocket thousand of dollars if you sell. Be sure that you are going to be happier in your new home than you are in your beloved old home.
We’ve all heard the saying: “Home is where the heart is.”
So, here’s a question for you to consider before you decide whether to sell or not: How much is your heart worth?
So, unless you really must: Don’t sell your home.
IMPORTANT: If you absolutely must sell your property, be sure you do what many sellers are doing: Contact Jenman Support on 1800 1800 18 or firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll help you find an agent that gets you the best result and charges nothing until you’re happily sold.
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