By  Michelle Lieberman

A recent poll asked 1000 real estate agents to rate the top three mistakes made by home sellers:

  • 77% said, “overpriced home.”
  • 32% said, “cluttered space.”
  • 34% said, “showing availability.”


The other results included, 21% “unwilling to negotiate,” 20% “won’t make repairs,” and 28% said, “unpleasant odors,” (presumably pet odors). In other words, according to the 1,000 real estate agents asked, “It’s all your fault,” you—being the home seller. The client.

My question is, if agents know these are the mistakes that home sellers make, why do they not step in and instruct clients on ways to avoid these mistakes? And second, if the client refuses, why does the agent accept that homeowner as a client? I mean, isn’t that the whole purpose of retaining a real estate agent in the first place, to make use of her experience and expertise? Why would any agent work with someone who ignores her best advice?

I was watching an episode of Botched the other day on the E! Network, a TV series about two plastic surgeons, Dr. Terry Dubrow and Dr. Paul Nassif, that fix the cosmetic surgery blunders of other plastic surgeons.

To start, each new prospective patient undergoes a rigorous consultation. This is where the investigative work is done. After the consultation, if the two surgeons don’t agree that they can help the patient, or if they get the impression that the patient isn’t going to follow their strict instructions, when it comes to recovery and post-op procedures, they refuse acceptance of that patient as a client.

Here is something I have learned about those at the top of their respective fields. The true professional values his reputation more than anything else—even money or fame, or any kind of award or peer recognition.

If the Botched plastic surgeons accepted a patient as a client that they knew was going to be worse off because they couldn’t help him, or knew would end up with a horrible result because they refused to follow post-op instructions, ultimately, who does it reflect poorly on? The doctor or the patient? Of course, it tarnishes the reputation of the cosmetic surgeon. After all, he is the authority, the professional.

And when asked, “Who did your surgery?” The patient is going to say what? “Dr. Terry Dubrow and Dr. Paul Nassif.” You got it. That’s exactly what they’re going to say.

This is why we refuse to accept just any homeowner as a client. We don’t do long, drawn out listing presentations or give sales pitches, because we are not in the convincing business. Our business is “getting clients the best result.” This means, there is a checklist of agreements we must come to. First on that list, we must agree to work as a team. Too many agents and homeowners work in opposition. But beyond that, un-willingness to address any of those items above is no different than a defiant patient, refusing to follow important post-op instructions.

Unlike most agents, why would I ever accept a “patient,” who is determined to sabotage the success of his “procedure” i.e. his home sale? I wouldn’t.

I don’t want that “botched” outcome on my record, any more than Dr. Dubrow or Dr. Nassif wants it on theirs.

Besides. There are solutions to each one of those mistakes.”

For starters, by replacing the inferior price-driven approach most agents utilize, when pricing clients’ homes, with the more sophisticated Value-Driven Approach, the sales price of a home can quite easily be increased by as much as $30,000 (and in some cases, by even more than that).

This is something our team has written about many times and, has documented is our book.

But the skinny of it is this, value dictates price and there are at least a dozen different ways, depending on the “starting position” of the property, to manipulate a home’s value to elevate price. This, by the way, is something I learned from studying Warren Buffett’s proven investment philosophy. Turns out, Buffett’s brilliance applies to pretty much every aspect of selling real estate. Something my clients have been benefitting from.

Second, if a homeowner won’t make “time” to show their home to a prospective buyer, I would re-think working with that client because let’s face it, they will get a sub-standard result.

And, for the record, this is not a “mistake” on their part. It can be explained as something much simpler. The homeowner is not serious about achieving the best outcome. So why would any agent want to work with that homeowner? Any agent who cares about his or her reputation, certainly wouldn’t.

Of course, I suppose some agents reason that a poorly sold home, even if at a much lower sales price, is still a commission check. And any commission check is better than none. But, I can only speculate what goes through these agents’ heads. I can’t really understand it. and I certainly cannot relate to it.

Third, a process known as scientific-staging—something required to be done, by almost every home seller before they are accepted as a client—is the solution to that “cluttered space” mistake. And because scientific-staging is quite different than traditional staging, which typically amounts to no more than the rearranging of furniture, the ROI, return on investment, tends to be much higher.

At this point, if a prospective client hesitates or indicates an unwillingness to execute these first items, then we sit down, I run them through the investment numbers, and I ask, “How many times would you like to exchange $X, for $10X?”

I have found the reason most home sellers are unwilling to do certain things, is because they don’t understand how it is going to make them more money. Once they understand, though, by looking at the case studies, almost always we are off to the races.

If our unique approach that we adhere to like a religion, no different than Warren Buffett does his investment philosophy, didn’t deliver clients a better result, you can bet clients wouldn’t refer our services to their friends or family members. The fact that they do, though—in high numbers, might I add—explains why we refuse to budge or deviate from the methodology we have worked hard to test and perfect.

The real secret, though (and this is something we talk about in Chapter 8 of our book) is getting an accurate and comprehensive Real Estate Diagnosis™ first, before ever thinking about putting your home on the market. I know this sounds like common sense. But rarely is it actually done.

How can you do “surgery” and get the best result, if there’s no diagnostic consultation to investigate the best course of action?

You can’t.

This is why so many homeowners end up with Botched home sales. It is also the reason why so many real estate agents, like those surveyed in the above ActiveRain study, blame clients for the “mistakes” they make. Sorry, but if you’re the professional – and the agent is supposed to be – then any sub-standard outcome is that agent’s fault. Not the homeowners. The agent should own up to it.

Furthermore, no rule states that any real estate agent must accept every client. On the TV show Botched, Dr. Dubrow and Nassif turn away just as many, if not more patients than they actually accept.

If a homeowner indicates he is unwilling to do what is necessary to obtain the best result, the agent need not work with that client. You both are just setting up the other for failure. And by all means if an agent does accept the client, and gets the inferior results she knew she’d get, don’t then blame the homeowner for those results – that is just poor etiquette. The home sale was Botched from the get go!

The professional will always accept responsibility, and the client should always be adhering to the professional’s tested and proven approach. And, if the professional doesn’t have a tested and proven approach, then the question you must ask is, “Is this person really a professional?”



ABOUT THEM – Jay & Michelle Lieberman have been called “provocative and entertaining,” but also “committed philanthropists”. Entrepreneurs and relentless innovators of the real estate industry, creators of the “Value-Driven Approach to Sell Real Estate”, founders of the Conejo Valley Teacher Only Program, hosts of the Conejo Valley Advice Givers Podcast Show, and attorneys and real estate brokers at Keller Williams World Class in Southern California. They feel honored and blessed every day they are able to serve their clients, their family, friends and their community. You can reach them at

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