Everyone has their “thing.” My seller happened to be an enthusiast of Egyptian culture—who lived in a custom-built 3,200-square-foot pyramid home complete with a replica of a sphinx and genuine hieroglyphic artifacts. The seller, an Arizona widow, needed to sell because she was moving in with her boyfriend. You can imagine how difficult selling such a novel property would be, even one with ancient Egyptian-style art built into the wall.
When I listed the three-bedroom, two-bath home in 2012, the seller had already worked with five other agents over four years but received no offers. The home had originally been listed for $1.1 million—a long shot for a highly customized property in a remote and conventionally undesirable location an hour outside of Phoenix. The price was lowered dramatically to $499,000 before I got the listing. This history told me that either the seller was being unrealistic about her home’s value, the previous agents didn’t do their due diligence, or both.
Despite her growing frustrations, my client asked me to list her home at $495,000. I agreed but requested she get an appraisal, which she hadn’t done before. Five months later, it was still on the market and we were having trouble getting an appraisal. Because of a lack of adequate comps, no one was willing to take the job. Finally, we found an appraiser who valued the home under $300,000. So we lowered the price to $295,000.
Fearing the reduction alone wouldn’t drive the sale, I played up the property’s positives in my marketing—the privacy of the secluded lot, 360-degree views of surrounding mountains, and no homeowners association—to balance the drawbacks of the unusual architecture and inconvenient location. But that’s not what drew the eventual buyer, who came to us because she happened to be visiting her parents nearby and saw my real estate sign.
As luck would have it, the buyer was an artsy person who loved distinctive architecture. The master bedroom, which sits about 25 feet above the floor of the home and looks directly up to the top of the pyramid, was particularly appealing to the buyer. However, financing was an issue. As a traveling military nurse, the buyer had access to full VA benefits, but no lender would offer a loan for the unusual home. Fortunately, the buyer had a substantial amount of cash to put down, and my client and I devised a seller financing plan to cover the rest. The seller offered a loan with 30-year amortization and a five-year balloon. At last, we closed for the asking price on New Year’s Eve 2013—410 days after I listed it.
This deal reminded me of the old real estate adage: “A home properly priced is half sold.” Now, when I sense that sellers are being unrealistic about price, I ask them to get an appraisal before going to market. Serious sellers will take this advice. Those who refuse are showing me they’re not willing to trust my expertise, and it’s a sign that I should rethink representing them until they’re more prepared to sell. It makes life for my clients and me much easier.—Paul Pastore, CRS, GRI, RE/MAX Infinity, Chandler, Ariz.