Selling Soulfully with Jennifer Allan


How to "Just Say No" to Your Seller without Sounding Lazy, Cheap or Disrespectful


God Bless 'em, sellers just want to help. They have lots of opinions on how their homes should be marketed, advertised and promoted to agents and buyers, and they LUV sharing those opinions with us. And of course, they expect us to agree with their opinions and implement their ideas immediately!

And sometimes they're right. Hey, our sellers are intelligent human beings, and at times, they have great ideas we'd never thought of.

But sometimes, um, they don't. No disrespect to homesellers around the world, but we DO (or should) know more about selling houses than they do. We DO (or should) know what works and what doesn't work.

Now, truth be told, there are things we do simply because they make our sellers happy and there's nothing wrong with that. In fact, there's a lot right about it. And many of these things we do primarily promote ourselves more so than the property, and again, that's just fine. Open houses, color brochures, single-domain websites, Craigslist postings and virtual tours might fall under one or both of these categories.

But what about ineffective marketing that is expensive or time-consuming? How can you tell your seller "no" without sounding cheap, lazy or disrespectful?

Before I answer that burning question, here are some examples* of marketing I "refuse" to do:

  • Enhanced listings
  • Broker open houses
  • Magazine advertising
  • Newspaper advertising
  • Talking House sign riders
  • Flyer distribution to neighborhood
  • Flyer distribution to real estate offices
  • .... feel free to add your own

*If, in your market, any of these marketing approaches actually work, please do them - don't accept what I say as gospel. In some markets, broker opens are effective. In resort markets, magazine advertising might be worthwhile. Know your market and adjust my advice accordingly.

So, how do I respectfully say "Just Say No" to a seller's suggestion?


"Well, Joe, here's the thing. I want to sell your house as much as you do, so if I thought a particular marketing venue would work, I'd be all over it."

Very simple. It reminds the seller that you're on the same team, with a common goal of getting the home sold. And it's true! If you believed that having an enhanced profile would sell the house, you'd do it, right? If you thought that advertising the listing in the newspaper would bring in buyers, you'd advertise in the newspaper all day long, wouldn't you?

Of course, you certainly may do any and all advertising suggested by your seller; nothing I'm saying here advises against it. Doing these activities certainly won't hurt the chances of the home selling, but if you want to say "no" and haven't figured out how, give this a try. If said calmly, confidently and non-defensively, the seller will usually understand and agree! 


It's Here!


The More Fun You Have Selling Real Estate, the More Real Estate You Will Sell! 
(True Story)
Order Your Here!









Comment balloon 36 commentsJennifer Allan-Hagedorn • September 04 2010 09:29AM


best blog post of the year! 

Posted by Richard Shuman, Real Estate Broker - Orlando Area - Love Referrals (The Only B.S. I Have is from the University of Massachusetts) over 9 years ago

Hello Jennifer:

I think the success of this live and dies in the execution i.e. delivery of saying no.  I do like the reminder that "we are all on the same team". The only down side I see is if a home isn't selling the home owner instantly gravitates to their overlooked suggestion.

Posted by Brian Rugg, Sun City TX Real Estate - Georgetown, TX Real Est (Rugg Realty LLC Sun City Texas 512-818-6700) over 9 years ago

What I do is in my marketing plan - in writing - I sign it at the listing agreement.  The seller gets what they are getting in writing.  If they want more I will not deny them more - they are more than welcome to do that and pay for it themselves.  I always tell them if they bring a buyer I will do the ENTIRE transaction for 1%..

The reason why I offer the 1% is because I know the other stuff doesn't necessarily work it would be very rare for them to bring me a buyer with the "other" methods.

They have never taken me up on it.

Posted by Renée Donohue~Home Photography, Western Michigan Real Estate Photographer (Savvy Home Pix) over 9 years ago

Well, thank you!

Posted by Jennifer Allan-Hagedorn, Author of Sell with Soul (Sell with Soul) over 9 years ago

Wonderful post, Jennifer (as always). I try to meet sellers half way as a compromise when they have suggestions (that I can afford ;-)  ).  If it isn't working quickly's gone!

Posted by Bill Saunders, Realtor®, (Meyers Realty) over 9 years ago

Rugg Realty - That's a great point - however, when a listing isn't selling, it's never about the marketing (assuming you're doing any at all) and I work with my sellers to figure out what the problem is. Sure, every once in awhile, a seller's going to focus on marketing to the exclusion of any other solution, but in almost all cases, they respect my advice because they can tell I really do have their best interest at heart.

Renee - I've done that as well... tell my sellers I will arrange for the extra marketing if they'll pay for it. When said cheerfully, non-defensively and confidently, it usually ends that line of questioning right there without alienating the seller.

Posted by Jennifer Allan-Hagedorn, Author of Sell with Soul (Sell with Soul) over 9 years ago

Interesting topic, I think a lot of what agents do is to  try to make the seller happy during the process.  I listen and sometimes compromise.   A new idea sometimes brings a  much needed fresh approach to the selling process.

Posted by Diane Williams over 9 years ago

Jennifer - in my market, the Sacramento Area and Fair oaks, Broker Opens are very effective.  A few months ago, I popped in a broker open I would not have considered for a client, as it wasn't in the right area.  It was incredible.  I clled them from the house, informing them I wasin "their new home", and 3 days later we were in escrow for $1,022,000.  Pretty effective open house.


Good photos and a thorough filling out of the MLS information is the biggest bang for the buck, added to the shotgun marketing of MLS info to a gazillion diffrent sites.

Posted by Sally Dunbar, Fair Oaks Realtor - Fair Oaks Homes for Sale (Lyon Real Estate, Fair Oaks CA (Sacramento Area)) over 9 years ago

Very good post. I agree totally with the message, and with your suggestion on how to deal with sellers.

The only quibble I have is that sometimes effective methods change. That is, something may not have worked a few months or year ago, but will work now.

I know a lot of real estate investors. And they'll tell you that "bandit signs" (those "We Buy Houses" signs you often see on telephone poles) can be very, very effective. But they'll also tell you that there seem to be unexplained cycles. They can go for months with no leads, then in a few weeks get a bunch of them. Same with direct mail. Same mailing piece to the same category of owner (say out-of-town owners). No apparent variations in the methods, but substantial variations in the results.

And, of course, sometimes certain methods work better (or worse) depending on the economy. Times change, and buyer (and seller) focus changes.

So, while some of the methods you listed may not have worked well in the past, at least recognize that there's a possibility that they may work periodically, or in the future.

Posted by Donald Tepper, DC area investor helping heirs of inherited homes (Long and Foster) over 9 years ago

Donald - I don't disagree with you at all, but I definitely have my opinions on what works and what doesn't. I may not always be right, so I'm perfectly willing to try things that my seller feels strongly about if they don't break the budget or take an unreasonable amount of my time. Again, I WANT TO SELL THE HOUSE, so my decisions are made with that goal in mind, and I'll use my best judgment as to how to do that.

Sally - in markets where previews are frowned on, I imagine broker opens are very effective. And for some types of properties, I can see the value, even in my market. If they work for you, then by all means DO THEM!

Diane - you raise a point in my mind anyway... I once had a client who wanted me to do all kinds of extra marketing because her home wasn't selling. Problem was - she wasn't doing her part - she wasn't vacating the house for showings, she was requiring unreasonable notice and she was a little overpriced. So, I worked up the nerve to tell her that I wouldn't be doing any additional marketing until she did these basic things I'd been asking her to do. She fired me. Oh well. Not my worst day ever for sure!

Posted by Jennifer Allan-Hagedorn, Author of Sell with Soul (Sell with Soul) over 9 years ago

Hi JA.  Nice post.

Always tough getting other ideas from the seller.  Some times I take it personally...

Your response is better.

Thanks for writing,


Posted by Ken Tracy, Helping clients buy and sell since 2005 (Coldwell Banker Residential) over 9 years ago

You have to do what works best for you in your market.  What works best is not only about the local market, but about the skills of the agent and the home itsself.  I generally agree with your list.  I do like to do some open houses.  A lot of it depends on the house, some really draw traffic and others do not.

Posted by Gene Riemenschneider, Turning Houses into Homes (Home Point Real Estate) over 9 years ago

Ditto what Ken said. Sometimes I take it personally and respond defensively. I'm learning to NOT see it as a comment on my knowledgability...but it is hard sometimes.

Posted by Tanya Nouwens, Montreal Real Estate Broker & Stager (RE/MAX ROYAL (JORDAN) INC. / Tanya Nouwens Inc. over 9 years ago

HiJennifer - you are correct that if you've built the relationship along the way, you are considered the expert and your suggesstions will carry a strong weight.  I echo the sentiments of the other folks who say the delivery is the key!  Thanks for a great post.


Posted by Peggy Noel, Bouchard, ABR, CDPE, SFR (RE/MAX Commonwealth) over 9 years ago

Selling a home is team effort, but the agent should be the team leader.  Otherwise, we will go crazy trying to meet unrealistic expectations and carrying out too many ineffective marketing ideas. 

Posted by Norma Toering Broker for Palos Verdes and Beach Cities, Palos Verdes Luxury Homes in L.A. (Charlemagne International Properties) over 9 years ago

Great way to phrase it without sounding nasty. 

Posted by Wendy Hayden, Chesterfield, Richmond & Powahatan (Photographer, Home Stager, ePRO) over 9 years ago

Jennifer, thank you for the great idea. I just received an email this morning from a client who wants a ton of extras - now I know how to respond to them!

Posted by Mark Montross, Listing and Buyer Specialist (Catamount Realty Group) over 9 years ago

You have to have YOUR plan and follow it.  When you start changing up for a particular client, it costs you time, money, credibility, and usually doesn't work.  Because you are so RIGHT - if if worked at this point in time in our market, of course we'd do it.

Posted by Alan Bruzee (Long & Foster Real Estate, Inc.) over 9 years ago

That's what I tell my sellers about Open Houses. If they sold houses I'd be sitting there every week. I have done a couple just to make the seller happy. They always seem to be surprised when no one, or maybe 1 person shows up. They never ask for another one.

Have a great weekend. Get to the beach!

Posted by Linda Jandura, Realtor, North Carolina Buyer & Seller Specialist (Raleigh Cary Realty) over 9 years ago

This is so well put and matter of fact.  I quit doing newspaper advertising way too late, last year, and now tell sellers that it is not effective and I focus my marketing budget on the internet vehicles that work (ie virtual tours) or staging items (yes I consider this to be marketing).  I will picture you doing it in a cheerful, soulful way the next time I have to tell them no or that they can do it themselves.

Posted by Coral Gundlach, Real Lives. Not Just Real Estate. (Compass) over 9 years ago

I agree it is all in the way it is presented.  I let my clients know up front what I will and won't be doing, that helps a lot.

Posted by Lesley Wagstaff, For Real Estate and Mortgages (Re/Max Results Realty in Vancouver, BC) over 9 years ago

I actually found a tenant for my seller/landlord by placing an ad in CL. Our area LOVES that site. But I love the way you worded it...being respectful and yes, reminding our sellers that we're on the same team. Our collective goal is to sell the house, and they are paying us for our expertise. Unfortunately, many sellers are listening to their co-workers who might be telling them, "She's not doing an open house?? Fire her!!!"  : )

Posted by Sue Gabriel over 9 years ago

"Well, Joe, here's the thing. I want to sell your house as much as you do, so if I thought a particular marketing venue would work, I'd be all over it."

I will advertise your home and put it on the front page of the newspaper in color if that is what you want....reduce the price by $100,000.00! 

It is never what you do or do not is always the price.....that is what they need to know, and be told gently

Dick Beals

Posted by Dick & Sandy Beals (Wilmington Real Estate 4U Wilmington, NC) over 9 years ago

I love the Sellers that listen to co-workers, friends and relatives, who have never sold a home in their lives!  Of course we want to sell your house, we don't get paid unless we do!  It's funny how their friends don't tell them that their house is overpriced, smells like cat, and needs to be decluttered!

Posted by Kathy Kenney, Realtor - Princeton & Central NJ Homes for Sale (Keller Williams, Princeton, NJ) over 9 years ago

Hi Jennifer,
I do SOME of the things that's on your don't do list.

Enhanced  - I get it at a steep discount through Keller - so why not?

Broker Opens for SOME types of listings - not others.

Postcard distribution to the neighborhoods- advertising open houses and my web site.

NO FLYERS - they are messy and end up on the road and as litter etc.

The rest  I won't do either.  I may do ONE newspaper ad for an open house if the home isn't selling and we've had a big price reduction.

Talking riders?  You gotta be kidding me!

The post-cards seem to work at some level - the do drive up traffic. - if it weren't dirt cheap for me I would NEVER use it.

All areas are different. What works for some doesn't work for others.

Posted by Ruthmarie Hicks (Keller Williams NY Realty - 120 Bloomingdale Road #101, White Plains NY 10605) over 9 years ago

well said and I like your approach to the seller.

Posted by Stanley Stepak, Realtor - Avon Lake, Avon, Bay Village, Westlake, (Howard Hanna - Avon Lake, OH) over 9 years ago

I think this is good language for handling this problem.  Sellers often hear something or believe that things work that don't.

Posted by Christine Donovan, Broker/Attorney 714-319-9751 DRE01267479 - Costa M (Donovan Blatt Realty) over 9 years ago

You hit the nail on the head.  I will NOT do print advertising.  It doesn't draw buyers and wastes money.  I will put print ads for open houses but that's with the brokerage so it doesn't cost me or my client anything.

I will do high quality flyers but that's expected for homes in this area.  However, I don't send them to other agents or neighbors in hardcopy form.  I always send them out as eflyers.

Sellers just don't get it these days about marketing.  In most markets it comes down to online presence and networking - knowing other agents.  Do those two things and the rest is just fluff.

Posted by Bryan Robertson over 9 years ago

Another good one Miss Jen!  Even my own kids have asked me why people think they can do my job better then me sometimes.  I tell them, everyone wants to be an armchair real estate agent.

Posted by Christine Pappas - REALTOR®, eXp Realty - Because Experience Matters (eXp Realty) over 9 years ago

Ken & Tanya - Oh, don't I know it! I figured out this solution totally by the seat of my pants with a difficult client a few years ago. He was second-guessing everything I did and providing all kinds of "helpful" advice. I found myself on the defensive every day, several times a day, and it was eating me up. I finally took a deep breath and asked myself WHY I wasn't doing everything he wanted me to and BAM! The answer was so obvious! He wanted me to do stuff that I was certain wouldn't work, but if I thought it would, I'd do it - I mean, duh!

What actually helped me come to this epiphany was that, at the time, I owned a discount brokerage firm, so it was easier to "blame" my hesitance to spend money frivolously on that. But once the words left my mouth, I realized they were true regardless of the compensation involved.

Oh, by the way - PLEASE don't take my list of stuff I won't do literally - if something has worked for you in the past - DO IT!

Posted by Jennifer Allan-Hagedorn, Author of Sell with Soul (Sell with Soul) over 9 years ago

I feel a little better looking at your don't list as it mirrors mine. i would like to see your do list as any help is appreciated

Posted by Charlie Ragonesi, Homes - Big Canoe, Jasper, North Georgia Pros ( over 9 years ago

Great post! In my area it's open houses that don't work, and I often have to explain to my clients why I don't do them.  No one even questions me on not doing print advertising anymore.  I am surprised that enhanced listings are on your list, as I get quite a bit of online traffic from that route.

Posted by Ken Gramley over 9 years ago

Well, I just wrote a long response to Charlie's question, hit SUBMIT and poof. It was gone. Darnit.

I'll be back later to recreate it!

Posted by Jennifer Allan-Hagedorn, Author of Sell with Soul (Sell with Soul) over 9 years ago

Sometimes frustrated sellers cling to unrealistic modes of advertising and showings. Thinking that only if.... Great No answer back! I will commit that one to memory !

Posted by Dick and Dixie Sells, Realtors, Tampa Bay Florida Homes For Sale (Sells Real Estate, LLC) over 9 years ago

I am reminded of the seller that wanted me to go down and door-knock his listing (that was rented for the weekend) and be certain to remind the tenants that it was for sale. UH...they were on...a...honeymoon...   Yeah, right...good luck with THAT tactic... :)

Posted by Bill Saunders, Realtor®, (Meyers Realty) over 9 years ago

I love the comment " I want to sell your home as much as you do"

Very well written as always,  thank you

Posted by Kim Boekholder Utah Real Estate, Broker, Results Real Estate (Results Real Estate 801.580.5624) over 9 years ago

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