Strange Rites of Passage

When you work in real estate inexplicable things come up that often boggle the mind. Things that throw you off kilter for weeks, trying to figure out the answer to the age-old question: “What were they thinking?”

Sometimes it’s best to avoid going there.  Practice good mental hygiene.  Don’t over-think whatever it is “they” might be thinking.  Stop trying to make sense out of things that don’t make sense.

But…of course…this is Real Estate of Mind.  Dedicated to the exploration of both the sacred and the profane. The undiscovered country where brains suffering the post-traumatic effects of real estate regularly unravel to sort themselves out.

We keep some of them in specimen jars on the shelf.  Someday we’ll open up the secret vault for public viewing.  But in the meantime…what should we mull over today?  What odd bone of contention has real estate tossed up for us to chew on?

How about this?   In a market where it is incredibly hard to sell a house, why are so many places so incredibly hard to get in to see?  Why so many stumbling blocks? Strange rites of passage buyers have to go through just to earn a peek?

Maybe I haven’t plumbed the full depths of my dog-eared copy of Real Estate for Dummies yet, but isn’t there a relationship between offering something for sale and actually letting prospective buyers examine the goods?  Don’t they have to get to first base first, before you can expect them to make it home?  Why so many blatant cases of Seller IDD (Intention Deficit Disorder?)

In the good old days, the frequent phrase on the MLS was:   “Offers Subject to Inspection.”   It meant certain properties couldn’t be viewed until you wrote an offer.  That’s right! The dubious opportunity for Buyers to write blind offers on places they hadn’t seen.

Not a particularly appealing sales m.o. in the here and now.  Better suited for markets like 2004/05 when frenzied buyers were willing to offer almost anything for any place under any circumstances, just to get their big toes in the door.

Nowadays, there’s a more insidious version of “subject to” rising up from the quicksand. For lack of a better name, I call it:  ” Showings Secretly Subject to Offer.”

Tough to describe. One of those things that makes one say:  “I’m not sure I smell what the Rock is cooking  here.”   There are way too many places, ostensibly for sale, that when push comes to shove and prospective buyers come to town, it turns out they really don’t want to show themselves after all.

So what’s up? Why are increasing numbers of people putting houses on the market without committing to the basic notion showing them?

Most obvious scenario?  Tenant Occupied. Why would any self-respecting tenant cooperate fully in a process that could result in a 30 day notice?  That’s not Human Nature 101.  Any agent who has shown houses occupied by renters understands 1001 ways they can subtly vibe buyers and ruin the mood.

What else? Short sales. If a Seller knows that there’s nothing coming out of it other than another chapter in a long tale of woe, there’s not a lot of incentive to roll out the red carpet.

Then there’s the fishbowl effect. Not a single soul likes living in a house that people come tromping through, poking heads into closets.  It’s an uncomfortable experience. Some sellers start out with the best of intentions, but wilt quickly along the way.

Perhaps in some cases it’s deeper.  A factitious disorder of the mind similar to Munchhausen’s Syndrome.  People exhibit symptoms of selling.  Hire an agent to create a lot of attention.  If the house sells, they’ll stop getting the attention they desire. So they make up excuses not to show it.

For some, resistance to showing is a form of passive/aggressive behavior.  Sellers are angry that the market is lousy.  It feels personal.  All those looky-loos not stepping up to buy are stealing their equity.  What better way to punish them than the “Ole” trick? Hold it out in front of their noses and then pull it back as soon as they show interest.  They’ll see who’s boss!

And finally,  maybe its all part of  the elaborate wish-fulfillment fantasy many Sellers have ingrained. There’s always one imaginary buyer out there.  Willing to step up. Pay cash. No questions asked.  The logical extension of this one-in-a-million chance at the lottery is:  you only have to suffer the inconvenience of showing your house once – to this same exact right buyer.  You can edit out all the other unwashed tire-kickers before you even have to make the bed or do last night’s dirty dishes.   One showing. One perfect offer. Priceless!


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