To Know or Not to Know

Whew. Do I feel better. The pressure is off.  I don’t have to pretend to be perfect anymore.

For a long time, I’ve been inching my way forward. Cautiously beating around the bush. Discretely spinning my one-sided conversation in these columns towards just the right place in time. The moment when I could remove the gag order and finally blurt out the truth.

Well, it’s come to Jesus time and I’m here to tell you that we real estate agents – whatever we say, no matter how many years we’ve been in the business or how much we fluff up the auras of our own sales personas  –  don’t really know exactly how much your home is worth.

At least not before you agree to put it on the market and steel yourselves for that purgatory of a process otherwise known as listing your home. That’s the one and only way you are ever going to find out.

There can’t be anyone out there actually masochistic enough to enjoy opening their home up to the great washed and unwashed masses of the marketplace.  The game of “show and sell” may ostensibly be an impersonal one but it sure feels like an intensely personal experience when all those prospective buyers and a revolving door of nosey neighbors, lookie loos and curiosity-seekers come trooping through your lives and your dinner times without a lot of grace or prevailing sensitivity.

Sometimes it feels like you are under perpetual siege by the lifestyle police. Sometimes it feels like every showing that goes unrewarded by an offer is a rejection slip handed out to one of the things you have grown to cherish most in your life.

Yes, we Agents all come to visit and perform some version of the old comparative market analysis trick, just before we whip out our bulging brag books and tell you all the incredible things we plan to do to bring more of those prospective buyers and nosey neighbors through your front door.

Somehow we are able to snatch a proposed value out of thin air for that geodesic dome you’ve lovingly remodeled. Even when there isn’t another one remotely like it  between here and Timbuktu. To compare apples and oranges to comparing real estate comps in a place as diverse and eclectic as Santa Cruz,  is a fruitless task.  Specially in this market. Try to find all the similarities between apples and kangaroos and you’ll have a lot more success divining our local market’s secret handshakes and esoteric passwords.

What Agents don’t always tell you is: In the end, it doesn’t matter what we think your home is worth. (We aren’t buying it.) And it doesn’t matter what you think your home is worth. (Most of you wouldn’t or couldn’t buy your own homes in today’s market anyway.)

What matters is what those buyers out there think your home is worth. If you really want to sell your home, that’s just about all that matters. In the end, the truth always emerges out of the grand inquisition of the marketplace, resolved by trial and error and trial by ordeal.

I know you want us to be perfect. And we would dearly love to be perfect. Yes, sometimes, we get lucky and we get it exactly right. (Even a blind agent finds an acorn now and again.) Sometimes we read the auguries well and we get pretty close.

I always figured that if an Agent could predict home values consistently within 5% of their eventual sales prices then that Agent was right up there with Nostradamus, Edgar Cayce and the Oracle of Delphi in terms of his/her prophetic acumen.

A whole lot of other people figured that with the advent of Zillow.com  all the muss and fuss and the great mystery of home valuation would disappear forever.  They were hoping against hype that they could just type in an address, hit the return button and … Voila! –  that great big braniac algorithm in the sky would spit out God’s honest truth and tell us all exactly what every home was worth. Heck, no one would ever be stuck again having to offer anyone coffee or pretend to smile while listening to a sales pitch extolling the virtues of one real estate company over the next.

Well, Zillow’s been around long enough now, along with a slew of sibling-spawn like Redfin and Trulia.  Their results have been even less impressive than those of us real, realty people.  Zillow  has gone through enough accusations and lawsuits to remind us all once again, what we should already know and keep knowing.  No one and no thing has the answer ahead of time. You just have to hitch up your doors and your drawers and make that leap of faith into the unknown.

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