Representation of Sellers of Real Estate

"Listers last!" is a popular axiom of real estate, based on the idea that real estate professionals who want to enjoy long and successful careers in the industry would do well to dedicate their time and talents to acquiring listings.

Here are some advantages of a seller-focused career:

  • Time. Per some industry experts, a license holder can service up to four times as many listings as they could active buyer clients.

  • Marketing. Market to buyers, you only get buyers. Market to sellers, you get sellers AND buyers. (Unrepresented buyers checking out your listings might not buy that particular home, but it's likely they'll still use you to show them other properties.)

  • Cooperative Sales Team. Once your listings become public, every license holder in the area is a potential supplier of a buyer. Sure, you'll split commissions, but just think of the massive team you'll have working for you!

Assuming you’ve decided to focus your attention on representing sellers, how do you best accomplish that? Well, a good place to start is to understand the seller’s motivation for selling. 

Seller Motivation: Life Cycle

Whenever we’re talking about the resale of an existing home, we need to understand that today’s seller was yesterday’s buyer. 

So, if the former buyer now wants to sell, what is their motivation for doing so? Is it a signal that there is something wrong with the property? 

Not likely. It could have more to do with where they are in the buyer life cycle. 

Three very different styles of houses.

Goldilocks Syndrome

Often, when buyers purchase a home, it fits their present or immediate future needs. It is, as Goldilocks would say, "just right." Then, as life goes on, the home becomes too big or too small for them.

For a growing family, for example, a home can come to feel like an uncomfortable squeeze. For an empty-nester couple, on the other hand, a home without kids can suddenly feel like a large, cavernous echo chamber. 

In both of these examples, the home no longer fits the occupants. And the motivation to sell comes from the need to right-size the home to the present needs. 

Seller Motivation: Lifestyle

A homeowner can also come to the conclusion that the property no longer fits their lifestyle. This can take time to realize or it hit the buyer shortly after moving in. 

Two-sided Coins

They say that every cloud has a silver lining. That may be true, but it's also true that every silver lining has a cloud:

  • A pool, that looked so inviting to the buyer, becomes a dreaded maintenance chore once the buyer becomes the owner — especially when they don’t use it as often as they anticipated.

  • A small yard, that looked like low-maintenance heaven, turns into a lack of privacy concern — “Quiet, the neighbors can hear us!”

  • A home’s convenient proximity to stores and entertainment brings with it a noise level that wasn’t noticed during buyer walkthroughs and inspections prior to purchase. 


It’s not always that the owner's feelings about the home itself have changed, but that the home's surroundings have changed — sometimes in ways that are not welcomed by the homeowner. 

Whether it’s the new neighbors across the street or the construction of a nearby commercial development, changes that alter the basic character of the neighborhood can prompt a formerly happy homeowner to become a motivated seller. 


Relocation for a new job can necessitate a sale of a home. Even if the job change is somewhat local, a new, longer commute might be enough to motivate the seller to make a change. 

The Lifestyle List Is Endless

Other lifestyle motivations to sell include the desire to be closer (or further) from family or simply a desire for change for change's sake — sometimes manifested in the temptation of, yet, another fixer-upper project.

And, in some instances, people may decide that homeownership in general isn't for them. They want to be less anchored down physically, spiritually, and emotionally — which is what a 30-year mortgage represents to them. 

Whether it comes as immediate buyer's remorse, grows as a gradual realization, or results from a change in priorities, lifestyle concerns can motivate many a seller to move on from their present home.

Seller Motivation: Financial Considerations

There are also a number of financial considerations that can motivate sellers. Some are positive in nature and others… well, not so much. Here are some of the more common ones. 

We're Movin' on Up!

As people's income changes, so do their needs and wants in a home. A raise in pay could mean that the house and family they always wanted is finally within reach. Many see their homes as the ultimate reward for their hard work. But to move into that dream home, they must first sell the one they’re in. 

Cost Cutting

Conversely, a pay cut, a job loss, or a series of medical expenses could prompt an across-the-board savings effort, and a less expensive home (and mortgage) could be a key part of that. 

Cost Avoidance

Home maintenance can be expensive, especially at certain milestone points in a home’s useful life. The looming repair or replacement of the roof, siding, HVAC units, etc, might be just the nudge the inert homeowner needs to become a seller. 

The homeowner may have considered making a change for years, but they put it off because of the hassle factor associated with selling and moving. But, at a certain point, the inconvenience and expense of major maintenance outweigh the hassle of finding and moving into a new home. 

Equity Grab

Depending on the housing market, a homeowner could be tempted to take advantage of current property values and sell while their home has peak demand and appreciation. They might have other uses for that money or they may simply be willing to "sell high and buy low," getting back into the homeowner market when it cools down.

The "Whys" Behind Seller Motivation

It's less important to properly categorize a seller's motivation for selling than it is to understand the whys behind the motivation. That’s because effective representation means truly recognizing the needs of your client and putting those needs first. 

And it affects the strategies you employ in your representation. Things like:

  • How patient can the seller be?

  • How flexible with price is the seller?

  • What buyer incentives can the seller offer?

So, when taking on a seller-client, give consideration to the whys behind their stated motivation. The questions you ask upfront will save you time and make you more effective as you go forward.

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Michael Rhoda

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