Houses Don’t Sell Themselves – Ever!

I like the Raise the Bar Group on Facebook most of the time.

Its a place where opinions fly freely at the speed of light, some well informed, some not so much. Michael McClure, the group’s admin does his best to ask provocative questions to keep the conversation going, and he recently asked this one:

do houses sell themselves


My first thought was – ” Houses are inanimate objects. Of course they don’t sell themselves. If you don’t think you sell anything, perhaps you should be looking for a different line of work.” But as I typed that, I reflected that even though the statement is completely true , perhaps it was a little harsh as a response to Michael’s efforts to move the conversation along – and my position might need a deeper explanation.

I began my career in real estate as a job hating salesperson. I didn’t think much of salespeople in general. I felt that they were,  for the most part,  fast talking, manipulative and only focused on making the sale. In short, I had the same view most non-salespeople (and many salespeople) have of the profession.  I knew that I would be different, and that I would show them homes until they found the one they wanted, and they would then buy the house without my needing to sell them anything. I would never be pushy or agressive, and my buyers would make their own minds up. As a result I was an unsuccessful salesperson.  And when I say I was unsuccessful, I mean that I neither earned a good living nor effectively or efficiently helped buyers to find their dream homes.

Luckily, I became a professional salesperson and learned to be extremely successful in both earning a living and helping others.  In fact, learning to be a salesperson required my learning a number of skills that helped me grow both professionally and personally.  Most people don’t understand what a salesperson is or what they do.  I was recently in a conversation about sales with a group of people who that included a large number of non-salespeople, one of whom said during the conversation “Aren’t we all salespeople?” – No, we are not all salespeople, and the only person who would ever say that is someone who doesn’t sell for a living and really doesn’t understand the depth of statement.

For us to understand it, we need to start by defining what a salesperson’s job is.

The job of a salesperson is not to manipulate, persuade, or induce anyone to do anything that they do not want. The job of a salesperson is to help the customer make a decision in their best interest that they would not have made if the salesperson was not present.

We do that job  by helping buyers accomplish their objectives because they often don’t know how to do that themselves. For example, in most cases buyers shop for features when they really need benefits, and as salespeople we should have greater product knowledge that enables us to help them receive the desired benefits , especially when they are mistaken in the feature set they chose.

We do that job by assisting them in understanding financing and negotiations, often by making them more comfortable with the costs involved, the amount they need to spend to achieve their objectives, and by explaining to them how others have coped with the challenges they face.

We do that job by helping them to move outside the box they created for themselves when they were thinking about buying a home with little or no real information about how the process works. We help them to see alternatives and options that they wouldn’t think about for themselves. We even help them face the uncomfortable truths that they need to face to make the best choices possible. While we don’t need to be pushy or aggressive, sometimes we do need to be assertive to help people make the best possible decisions.

We do that job by helping them to negotiate better when they finally find a home, helping them to understand how to reach their objectives, by providing objective advice when they are emotionally involved in the transaction. And when the over react, or under react, we are there to help them through the process, and to do what is in their best interest. The simple fact is that people who buy residential re-sales are working with a finite number of properties for sale, and an existing inventory of properties, which may not contain the house the built for themselves in their minds at the price they decided would be the right price for them to pay.

People don’t,  by themselves, always do what is in their best interests. If they did, no one would eat too much , exercise too little, drink to excess or abuse the environment, Coaches wouldn’t exist, and no one would ever need to write or read a self-help book. Left to our own devices we often make choices that seem to be good, but are actually not. Sometimes people make choices because they’re easy, or popular, or because they fit some preconception we have. Home buyers are no different. They need the services a good salesperson provides to help them make the best choice for their needs, which may not be the choice they would make by themselves.

Simply put, we do sell houses, they don’t sell themselves. Ever. And our buyers are far better off because we do.

Think I’m wrong or think I’m right? I would love to hear from you.


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4 comments for “Houses Don’t Sell Themselves – Ever!

  1. January 20, 2013 at 10:59 pm


  2. January 21, 2013 at 8:57 am

    I totally agree that houses don’t sell themselves . . not ever.  I am not so sure I am comfortable with your definition of what a sales person does. I agree it isn’t about manipulation and getting people to do things they don’t want to do and we help them reach their objective. I think you can leave the part off about helping people act in their own best interests. I know what you are trying to say and mostly agree and I think you believe it totally. Me I take a more zen approach.  Who am I to say that home ownership is in anyones best interest. My goal is to help them find the best darn home and make sure they don’t pay a dime more for it than they have to. 🙂 

  3. January 21, 2013 at 9:29 am

    Teresa – thanks so much for your thoughts. The “best interest” part is a little tricky, and sometimes it means that I need to tell them that buying a house isn’t in their best interest because they need to save more, repair their credit, come to clarity about what they’re willing to do to own a home. But I completely agree with that in the final analysis that is often “to help them find the best darn home and make sure they don’t pay a dime more for it than they have to” 🙂

  4. Coral Gundlach
    January 21, 2013 at 9:44 am

    Agree completely.  If we go with the “traditional” aka negative definition of salesperson, we imagine a Realtor shoving properties down their clients’ throats, pushing them aggressively to buy, regardless of if it fits their needs.  I think most good agents don’t do that, but to say the houses sell themselves is just wrong.  I wrote on his post that we provide context, perspective and knowledge for that house, so that the buyer can decide themselves if it is the right fit.  For example, buyers sometimes fixate on one small negative of a house, but an agent can point out, well that negative is common in most homes in your price and geo range, but did you notice that it has this other positive feature, which is harder to find?   That is the kind of “selling” I do, and I think many of the posters on RTB were describing in themselves.  I certainly don’t do it for every house and only if I think the buyer is making a mistake by walking away. If a house is bad, overpriced etc.  I will call it out.   I just give them tools, info and perspective to make the best decision.  If you don’t want to call it selling, fine, I don’t really like it either.  But the house certainly does not do whatever it is.  I do.  

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