My Helpful Advice
I consider myself a helpful person. If I didn’t, then I’ve certainly chosen the wrong career path. My job is to conduct the three-ring-circus that is selling real estate.
They don’t make ten reality shows a year about shoe salesmen. It’s a tough 24/7/365 job. As a buyer or seller, you enlist my services because you want my help. More likely, you probably need my help to even know where to begin, how to market your property and get the process all the way to the closing table. There are roughly one trillion (*only slight exaggeration) articles floating around on the Internets about “How to Find the Perfect Property”, or “Keys to Selling Your Home”.
This is not one of those. I’m about to be a little harsh. But I’m trying to help.
On a personal level, I have been blessed with some really lovely real estate clients, most of which were excellent about following my advice and taking direction. This is not about you. Experiences highlighted here are summarized from actual showings of property that I have taken buyers to see. It’s an ugly, ugly world out there, folks.
So, if you really, really, REALLY do not want to sell your rural property, here’s how to accomplish that goal:
1. Try To Sell It Yourself
Okay, you know I had to go there. Yes, I’m aware of your brother’s friend’s cousin who put their property on Zillow and got a million dollars for it. I’d be lying if I said these things don’t happen because they certainly do. Someone also wins the lottery every darn week of the year, and unfortunately, it’s never me. Some people really are just lucky. They stick a sign in the yard, and somebody driving by comes up to the front door and buys the place. This could be you. But, more often than not, this just doesn’t happen. You’ll be the one to enjoy a ton of phone calls from people only wanting to know the price, and a complete tire shop worth of kickers.
And getting that “OMG, I LOVE IT!” buyer in the door is only half the battle – the buyer actually has to have the financial means to buy the place (*cough*), and with rural property there is a cornucopia of qualifiers and legal issues that are quite different from a residential property purchase. Raise your hand if you want to end up in court over a legal issue your real estate agent would have, in all likelihood, been able to steer you clear of.
Your rural property likely doesn’t get the drive-by traffic a subdivision home does, and any potential buyer passing by can’t really even see what your property has to offer just from the road. How many acres? How many barns? Is there an arena? Stalls in the barn? If your property was on the MLS, a potential buyer could use any of the 10,000 real estate apps on their phone in order to find this information out immediately, but instead, they’ll be calling you.
Also, 80%+ of buyers still use a buyer’s agent when they’re purchasing a home. Buyer’s agents have zero motivation to recommend or show your property to their clients since no one likes to work for free. So all those buyers working with a buyer’s agent most likely won’t be getting your property in their inbox, partially due to the fact that their agent doesn’t even know it’s for sale, because, oh yeah, it’s not on the MLS.
The stats differ, but something like 87% of FSBOs (For Sale By Owners) end up using a real estate agent in the end. This is the biggest single financial transaction you’ll probably ever do in your life, and the average person only buys or sells a home FIVE times in their lifetime, if that many. A very average real estate agent handles 12 transactions a YEAR.
You wouldn’t try to do surgery on your own foot, right? But, by all means, dive into the deep end of the pool alone.
2. Using An Agent Who Isn’t Regularly Selling Rural Property
If you’re wanting to be buried on your property, then please, use Cathy Condo to market your horse farm. She’ll make sure the buyers know there’s “No HOA!”
Ask any Farm & Ranch agent, and they’ll tell you that we can smell a “city agent” from a mile off. Nothing is more frustrating to me than inquiring about a listing on behalf of my buyer, and the listing agent has NO CLUE what I’m even talking about. I’ve actually had the following conversation with a seller’s agent:
Me: “What are the dimensions of the outdoor arena?”
L.A.: “Well, the seller does that horse dancing thing, sooo…”
L.A.: “It’s on a big black horse.”
Me: “A Friesian?”
L.A.: “Maybe? It’s big and black.”
If your listing agent cannot answer simple questions like “How much of the acreage is floodplain?”, or “What type of soil is it?” (and doesn’t even know why that might be important), you’re pretty much screwed.
Especially if the buyers are from out of town, your listing agent needs to be able to answer these types of questions. They matter to buyers, and the answers will often determine whether or not the buyer ever makes it onto your property. There are some AWESOME Farm & Ranch agents out there – I am a Keller Williams Farm & Ranch division agent, which is comprised entirely of agents who specialize in ranch and land sales. Don’t get a bike mechanic to work on your Mercedes, it’s just not good business.
3. Be Over-Priced
I know this sounds painfully obvious, but it just isn’t. An overpriced home just doesn’t sell, in any market.
Everyone always wants to “try for a higher price, and see if we get it”, and you should totally do that if you are looking forward to longer days-on-market and buyers becoming suspicious as to why your home hasn’t sold. You may even end up getting less money in the end because you priced it so high to start!
Remember, your agent’s commission is based on the price, so we want you to get top dollar, I promise. Keep in mind that when we suggest a price, it’s not a random number – it is based on the closest comps (comparable recent sales) possible and our knowledge of the market (but what do we know!). We’re not just making this number up to disappoint you or make our lives easier. As an agent, I have to do what my client wants (within reason), so I will list it at the price you request (again, within reason), but understand when I come back to you and insist we reduce the price. At every price point, the type of buyers you attract with your price have a certain minimum standard they’re expecting, and instead of being a shining star, your property is disappointing.
Be priced to where the property will meet or exceed the buyer’s expectations. Exceeding expectations = SOLD.
4. Don’t Prep Your Property for Showings
If you really just don’t want to sell your property, go ahead, leave those dishes in the sink. Better yet, leave some underwear on the floor. Make sure the carpet is dirty and has a faint odor of wet dog. If you have an indoor litter box, by all means, leave it out in the kitchen. Landscaping? Don’t be silly! It’s a horse farm!
The absolute biggest mistake rural property sellers make is thinking that, because it’s a farm, the buyers won’t care what it looks like. This couldn’t be any further from the truth. If anything, a farm property buyer is looking for their childhood dream. If I had a nickel for every time a buyer told me “I just want to look out my kitchen window and see my horses grazing”, I’d have an indoor arena.
Let me ask you this, horse people: If you’re going to go look at a horse to buy, are you at all influenced by the way the horse is presented to you?
Let’s say, for illustration purposes, we’re looking at two 16.2hh eight-year-old dark bay geldings, both sound, both competed through Novice in Eventing, both quiet, and both priced at $10,000. One is at a clean, orderly-but-not-fancy, uncluttered barn, standing in the cross ties waiting for you, with a well-groomed shiny coat, freshly pulled mane, and polished hooves.
The other is out in a 10-acre field, covered in mud, missing a shoe, and needs 100 lbs to be at a proper weight.
While they both might be great horses, which horse would you pay the full asking price for? Sure, the second gelding just needs a bath, a farrier, and a sandwich, but are you going to pay top dollar for him? No.
The same goes for a property. Clean up. Put your personal items away – you’re moving anyway, right? Go ahead and pre-pack. No one wants to see your creepy South American prayer doll collection. Have a garage sale. Leave the buyer feeling like they could see themselves living in your home, not that they’re breaking and entering. Have the carpets cleaned, and touch up the paint. Plant fresh flowers in the garden, or if you have a brown thumb like me, fakies look just as good and the buyer will never notice the flowers in the pot by the door looked just a little too cheerful.
De-cluttering your home will also make last-minute preparations for individual showings easier because you’ll just have to quickly dust and vacuum. Keep it simple. I always tell my clients to “THR” aka “Think Hotel Room” … it’s decorated, but not personal. You know, in your head, a 1,000 people have stayed in that room, but it feels like yours, even for just a moment.
And for god’s sake, mow. A freshly mowed and weed-whacked property just looks like a million dollars, even if it’s listed for $150,000. If your buyers have to trek across the waist-high grass to see the property lines, silently praying they don’t step on a snake… they’re only thinking about what other “snakes in the grass” they’d have to deal with if they bought this property. It just makes the property feel unloved and unkempt, which ups the pain-in-the-arse factor to the buyer.
Drag your arena, if there is one, and set it up with the tools you use for whatever discipline – if you’re a jumper, set up your jumps as a course. Dressage? Put out your letters. Barrels? Set your barrels up in the cloverleaf pattern. Have you won ribbons or trophies horse showing? Display them in the barn aisle or tack room (or in your office space in the house). Buyers love to see that someone has had success with their horses on this property, and it makes them feel like maybe they could find success here too. Remember, we’re sellin’ the dream here, people.
5. Be Present For Showings
The best way to keep your property from selling is to be present for showings. Better yet, follow the buyers around while they’re looking. That works super.
If you’re genuinely just trying to make the buyers feel really awkward and uncomfortable, this is the way. They will want to bolt off your property faster than if you just came clean and told them that it’s infested with a colony of Africanized bees. Add one, or three, loose, snarling 90 lb. dogs and you are in business. You might as well mention that the neighbor had “a little meth problem, but he’s doing better now.”
Y’all, buyers hate this. The owner of a property being present is just deal-killing poison. I completely understand that with horses and farms, especially if operating as a business, there is a certain amount of liability in allowing strangers to just wander around. If this is your concern, have your seller’s agent show the property. Again, use a knowledgeable farm agent that knows to close gates behind them, and won’t let clients in stalls or paddocks with horses.
The idea is to have the buyer envision their own future here, and having the owner follow them around not only keeps them from openly discussing the property, it also serves as a reminder that they’re on someone else’s property, not their future dream farm. The buyer’s feel obligated to get the grand tour even if they hate it, which also just wastes everyone’s time. It’s a total bummer. Just don’t do it.
My best advice is to remember that your real estate agent is on your side. They want you to sell your property. They want you to have a fast, fun, and as-stress-free-as-selling-a-ranch-can-be experience. Your agent is not the enemy. I have so many conversations with seller’s agents prior to a showing that consists of the listing agent apologizing for the circumstances of the property or the condition because despite begging the seller to follow these rules, the seller just isn’t. As a seller, you are only hurting yourself.
Remember, the goal is to sell the property for a good price, help us out here a little.
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