Selling Your House Part 1 : The Real Estate Agent

If you are selling your home, chances are you will need to choose an agent to sell it for you. Being in that position myself, I was surprised to discover that there are numerous varieties of Real Estate Agent. I made a study of them and have summarised my findings below. Some features I have noticed, and anecdotal data supports this, to be common to many varieties, while some features are specific to one or two and are indeed the defining characteristics of those particular cultivars.

I have made a diagrammatic representation of one variety below. I’d have done a diagrammatic representation of the others but want my dinner, and the dog is looking at me so I know she wants hers too.





Other varieties include:

The Young Double-Breasted WhipperSnapper :

Male plumage includes shiny suit and wide subtley coloured tie, chunky gold ring, black leather loafers with those ridiculous long toes they have at the moment, and a white binder with laminated pages creating a manual power-point presentation. The Agent flips the graphs and dot point lists while courting with a soliloquy outlining philosophy of selling property, psychological tactics (playing on the “Fear-Of-Loss” factor) and supporting colour-coded statistics, inserting an occasional question to which there can be only one reply thus allowing one to be involved but without having to actually contribute anything. Defining features : inability to diverge from the script, being taller than you, trying to convince you to take him on because he’s qualified and, hey, qualifications are important because ANYBODY can be an agent. YOU could be an agent, he says...presumably intending to shock and so prove his case...Common Agent features: dresses better than you, car is better than yours, phone is better than yours.


The Ancient Avuncular:

The Ancient Avuncular agent likes a good chat and must, you tell yourself, be skilled at the game if he’s still in it at his age. His receding hairline and age spots invoke a level of empathy (or sympathy depending on how much younger you aren’t or are). His obvious knowledge of building is reassuring until he begins to describe defects such as the spacing between your joists , something which no man has ever complained about before, and you aren’t ashamed to admit that more than a few have had a good look up under them. You’d always assumed that your joists were the same as everybody else’s. But then again, you realise you haven’t actually seen anybody else’s... He leaves you a quivering wreck after pointing out that numerous features which were passed by council at the time would never be passed by council today (what are you supposed to do...rebuild???). Defining features: Is hard of hearing (not what you want when a prospective buyer tentatively whispers an offer in his ear), is hard of driving (ran over your baby olive tree and then parked on your neighbour’s garden), and hard to imagine selling anything, or if he did, realising it. Common Agent features: dresses better than you, car is better than yours, phone is better than yours.


The Over-The-Gate -Friendly

This agent is particularly tricky because there is nothing wrong with him. He is friendly, genuine, has good references, is attentive, has time to chat, has good hearing and driving skills and is not hard sell. His main draw-back may be in suggesting you visit one of his open-for-inspections to see how a house should be presented. You come back from it totally depressed knowing that your house will NEVER sell because it could NEVER look like that. It was so cleared out of regular stuff, had such modern furniture, such futuristic lamps (if they were lamps) you were depressed enough, but you HAD TO TAKE YOUR SHOES OFF to go in because the FLOOR WAS SO SHINY. Your floors are spotted gum friendly maps of memories - dogs, chairs, tables, kids, shoes, dancing practice, clown bike disasters, juggling, rocking chair dents... Defining feature: Really nice. No flaws. Common Agent features: Dresses slightly better than you, car is better than yours, phone is better than yours.


And finally,

The You’re-The-Boss Agent

This agent will generally only be recognised by the experienced observer after some practice. Due to the fact that this agent makes you feel intelligent and important and of higher status than she is, and given that you believe you are intelligent and important and of a goodly height in status, you don’t immediately see that she may not necessarily believe you to be as intelligent, important, and elevated as you do. She outlines her strategy, philosophy and selling plan while constantly glancing up for re-assurance that she hasn’t overstepped any marks, that you don’t mind her going on about all of this, and that she’ll take your advice on any of those points at any time. In fact, You’re the boss. The drawback may be that you don’t want to be the boss, or you would have sold the house yourself. You know very well that you could be an agent (see” Young Double-Breasted WhipperSnapper”) but in fact have elected to pay somebody else to be one, but the allure of status and regard for your intelligence and importance may be deemed worth the fee anyway. Defining features: Tilts head down and looks up at one with humble eyebrows, invites you to be involved at all stages, parks tidily and respectfully without running anything over and in fact re-stakes the baby olive tree (see “Ancient Avuncular”). Common Agent features: Clothing humble and in subdued colours but still better than yours, car better than yours, phone better than yours.

Let me point out that I haven’t exhausted the complete range of agents available because the ones I sampled exhausted me first.
One question I would advise you to ask any prospective agent is how they intend to react if you tell them you have decided to go with somebody else. This can become a very important factor if you have interviewed lots of agents. It can be a very disturbing evening on the phone and you may need a stiff drink. Or two.

Once you have interviewed and classified your various agents it is then possible to make an educated decision which one you feel would best represent your home. Each vendor is different, which is jolly lucky for agents as they all seem to get enough work to buy better clothing, cars and phones than you...which they employ to show how successful they are as agents thus gaining your confidence, and to make you aware of their superiority thus gaining your respect.

Or maybe your clothes, car and phone are just crap.



Opening night

This morning my little blue house was open for its first Open For Inspection. It finished several hours ago and I spent the 45 minutes at the Dog Beach with Susie, something I’ve been looking forward to.
Exactly like a big trip away, there’s frantic preparation for months getting more and more frantic in the final weeks and days and minutes...then finally you’re on the plane and it’s all done. I’m totally exhausted and have been standing in the living room just now with absolutely no idea what to do. There’s nothing to paint or repair or scrape off of anything else. I spent Mothers Day up a ladder and under desks with paintbrush and hammer in hand...my knees are bruised but my house is “sparkling” as we say in the real estate trade.

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At one stage I wondered how I was managing to get water in my rubber glove all the time.



Now I wait for the be-skirted dynamic agent to ring and give me some feedback. I can’t quite imagine how feedback will be useful- if the house is too small for somebody I won’t be extending, nor re-painting the skirting board under the desk for somebody else. I guess I’ll find out.

Having done so much physical work to get it ready is actually very satisfying. I’ll really feel I’ve earned whatever it sells for. The flowers I’ve put around rooms are the potted ones I have anyway, or are out of the garden just as if someone were coming to stay.
It feels good to be presenting the house as I’ve lived in it rather than pretending it’s something else.

...As I’ve lived in it except with certain things painted and repaired and scraped off of one another. At the same time it feels like I’m some bird in my male plumage, primping, bowing and fluttering to catch the eye of a potential partner. Maybe if I move that vase a tad to the left...You have no idea how carefully I chose the nasturtiums.


I felt a thump of depression on Thursday - the day the sign went up: For Sale. It made the whole thing real. I’m really selling. It’s actually happening. And if I’m feeling depressed, maybe that means I’m doing the wrong thing.
Then it hit me that after 22 years living here, having raised my kids here, of course it’s an emotional move and sad and scary, but I mustn’t attach that feeling to what I’m wanting to do next. Just because it feels sad to leave doesn’t mean what I’m moving on to is wrong. It means it’s sad to leave. But I have to leave to make room for the next chapter.




Speaking of which, the first copies of “My Sister Has A Big Black Beard” by Duncan Ball arrived last week. It’s always exciting to see my illustrations turned into a real book, and I’m chuffed with it! It even has embossing on the cover! Now, how can I place it so everybody will see it but it looks unintentional...???
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The plot thickens...

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In a week and a half the house is open for inspection, and on June 17th it goes to auction if somebody hasn’t bought it before then.
I went with the last of five agents interviewed - a true whirlwind, jangling with jewellery, swirling in skirts, and as an economics graduate and former teacher, her papers quickly spread across the table and her explanations were scribbled on a battered pad of paper with arrows and triangles and important bits circled. I worked for me.

...The brush turkey came back to see what all the fuss was about.

Since then I’ve been madly gardening and cleaning and sorting and booking better gardeners, better cleaners, and a carpentering type person in preparation for the open for inspection. It has actually been fun. Rather than feeling invaded I feel like I want to make people really welcome. I put in a wee vegetable and herb patch the other day...something I’d normally do at this time of year and something made a lot easier by not having hens who dig everything up as soon as my back is turned. I just gaze at it. Baby celery is so cute.
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Autumn is a lovely time in Sydney because plants pluck up enough courage to put out the odd flower without so much fear that they will end up cooked in the sun. I used to buy something flowering from nurseries at all stages of the year so there’s always some colour. Then I was away for a bit and neglected everything so tied bits of pink surveyors tape here and there instead.

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I remember one time my grandmother admiring the spring tulips in my childhood garden in Ottawa and musing how unusual it was that they were out in the fall. I told her they were plastic. My mother said I needn’t have told her. Somehow surveyors tape feels more honest.

I cut the “grass” today. My little electric lawnmower lurched over the hillocks created by the chooks scratching around each clump as if in some kind of 4 wheel drive rally. The engineer who designed the lawnmower cleverly made it so you screw on the wheels on one side in a clockwise direction, and the wheels on the other side counterclockwise, so that as you push it forward they don’t unscrew. Which means if you pull it backwards the wheels fall off. Which means you have to keep going forward and the extension cord gets wound around the magnolia tree. Hence I’m now searching for a new house on a property about 30 cm wide.