The ‘Art of War’ for Homesellers

Oregon Real Estate Podcast

‘Peace through Strength’ Can Apply to Real Estate Transactions, Too

“The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.”
Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Click here or on the ‘play’ button below to hear the audio podcast of this presentation.

The ‘Home Front’
Without being overly dramatic, it’s helpful to realize that as a homeseller, you are in a ‘war’ of sorts. Outright battle? Definitely not. And for anyone selling a home, it clearly helps to maintain a sense of politeness and grace when dealing with potential homebuyers. But we’re about to look at the process of homeselling using the metaphor of homeselling as ‘war.’

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Why would the concept of ‘war’ be appropriate for homeselling? To start, homesellers and homebuyers do not have identical goals. In fact, similar to armed conflict, they frequently have goals at direct odds with one another. You can call such business interaction ‘give and take,’ or ‘financial combat,’ or real estate ‘tug-o-war.’ Rather than use swords or heavy artillery, the tools used can be more subtle. Here, metaphorical weapons might include home inspectors, attorneys and a ‘take no prisoners’ attitude. The point is that there is sometimes conflict in a home sale. But as with any good book or movie, sometimes it’s conflict that keeps things interesting and moves the plot forward, while underscoring the value of what is being contested.

So on many levels, the process of homeselling includes engagement with buyers who are naturally at odds with some of your desires as a homeseller. Acknowledging this fact will help you to maintain reasonable expectations throughout the transaction. If that becomes difficult, then simply remember that you were once a homebuyer, too.

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Agility, Leverage and Balance Matter

A Martial Arts Comparison
One such metaphoric view of homeselling is akin to defensive forms of Judo, a time-tested martial art where an opponent’s weight can be used to advantage. A comparison of Judo with homeselling suggests deftness on the part of a homeseller doesn’t have to mean abrasive confrontation, or offensive aggressiveness. Instead, it’s primarily defensive. So we’re therefore talking agility, leverage and balance in order to yield a winning result. Namely, if not to vanquish an attacker, then to simply remain financially safe. 

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The Tedious Work of Minesweeping is Worthwhile

“When you surround an army, leave an outlet free. Do not press a desperate foe too hard.”
Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Make War No More
In the ‘heat of battle,’ there are some practical real estate applications for homesellers to ‘sue for peace,’ de-escalate tensions and maximize results of ‘peace talks.’ Let’s look at a specific real estate situation. For example, in the heat of an ‘offer-counteroffer’ scenario where a buyer and/or seller becomes testy or emotional over a key issue, a constructive approach might involve tactics of (1). taking a ‘time-out’ of sorts by mutually agreeing to longer response timeframes for time-sensitive documents, (2). deflecting an argumentative conversation to other, more fruitful forms, (3). working on other more readily resolvable issues first, and/or (4). ultimately and simply agreeing to disagree.

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Secret Agents Specialize in Spy Tactics

Spy vs. Spy
The metaphor of ‘armed conflict’ in the real estate environment is also relevant in a ‘Cold War’ sense, where parties warily share information as necessary, especially when it suits their own best interests. This might be illustrated as ‘spy’ tactics between two less-than-trusting powers, similar to ‘Cold War’ political terms of entente’ (a French term meaning a diplomatic “understanding”)  or detente’ (“the easing of hostility or strained relations”). For example, homesellers may not enjoy completing a multi-page property disclosure statement to highlight their home’s flaws, yet they realize the significant downsides if they don’t accurately complete the document, so they comply. Such less-than-enthusiastic engagements definitely don’t resemble a ‘hot’ or ‘shooting war’ which could otherwise usher in the military acronym of MAD (mutual assured destruction), where ‘the plug is pulled’ on a home transaction and ostensibly everyone loses. “Scorched earth” is rarely good policy.  Such alternative approaches incorporate thoughtful caution imbued with hope, which seems to describe most real estate transactions.

“The greatest victory is that which requires no battle.”
― Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Trust, but Verify
What the term ‘trust, but verify’ can mean is that given often high financial stakes, buyers and sellers are sometimes wary as they ‘size each other up.’ From there, it’s largely up to each party involved to determine whether they attempt to maneuver and take tactical advantage, or ‘play nice’ and get along well throughout a home sale. Practical application of this in a real estate context may include finding common ground wherever possible, but for example, hiring your own home inspector or licensed contractor if a buyer’s inspector seems ‘heavy handed.’

Land Battles of Different Sorts Can Cause the Fog of War

‘Land Battles’ Can Cause the ‘Fog of War’

The Fog of War

“In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity”
― Sun Tzu

Military veterans have long talked about the ‘fog of war,’ which is defined as  the uncertainty in ‘situational awareness’ (what is going on around you) experienced by soldiers in the heat of battle. The word “fog” in reference to uncertainty in war was introduced by the Prussian military analyst Carl von Clausewitz (1780-1831).  If the ‘fog’ of war is defined as uncertainty in what’s going on around you, this certainly applies to real estate transactions. For example, people you don’t know are walking through your home, viewing your possessions, all the while assessing an opinion of value. 

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Don’t Let This Happen to Your Next Real Estate Transaction

‘Fog’ is an apt description of some home selling processes, which can be both confusing and uncertain. Think about it. Interest rates fluctuate. Loan underwriters, home inspectors and appraisers all need to come together in agreement that the buyer and property both ‘pass muster.’ Unless and until they do, uncertainty. Some home sales fail because the buyer made a major purchase before the home sale closes. Or their credit score dropped.  Or the appraisal came in low. You get the idea. In the end, more than a few home sales are just one ‘thumbs down’ from someone in the property transaction ‘chain’ blowing it sky high.

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Opposing  Civil War Generals, U.S. Grant & Robert E. Lee

Wars of the Roses
Interestingly, the historic ‘War of Roses’ was a different kind of ‘real estate battle’ between two royal ‘houses,’ the White Rose of York and the Red Rose of Lancaster. But thankfully as a homeseller, you aren’t marshaling troops to wound and destroy. Instead, we’re talking in essence about a ‘civil’ war between parties who can do business. As a homeseller, your ‘battle’ includes navigating a minefield of easily avoided homeselling missteps, while engaging  homebuyers who might be alternatively friendly, hostile or ‘hard-to-read,’ yet always potentially adversarial.

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An Impossible Mission?
A major goal of homebuyers may at first seem like “Mission Impossible.” Namely, getting you, the homeseller, to accept the lowest possible price for a prized possession, your home. This doesn’t mean you have to be fearful, intimidated or worried. With an experienced Realtor at your side, you’re a ‘well-armed’ team ready to ‘do battle.’ It also helps to know that the more buyers want your house, often the nicer they will be.

War Games
Given these dynamics and with tongue planted firmly in cheek, it makes sense to modify a few homeselling cues from successful battle strategists. You might consider this approach as a ‘tip sheet’ to lay your ‘battle plan’ for what lies ahead.

  1. Declare War. Franklin Delano Roosevelt
  2. Never Surrender. Winston Churchill
  3. Declare Victory. Harry S. Truman
  4. Win the Peace. George C. Marshall
  5. Go home. To your new home, that is

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1. Declare War
This step mainly involves understanding that buyers generally have opposing interests than sellers, but you can usually do business with most of them. Such realistic expectations will help you to understand, for example, why it’s usually a good idea to let your Realtor do much of the talking and not share many specifics about your motivations for selling. Otherwise, opportunistic buyers may sense desperation and take advantage by offering you significantly less than your asking price.

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2. Never Surrender
When the going gets tough, stick with your plan. This includes following through on your thoughtful, well-defined strategies. ‘Keep your powder dry’ by not obsessing over factors you can’t change and ‘choose your shots wisely’ by considering those factors you can change. Conserving firepower is fundamental to strategic homeselling.

For example, adjustments in the home-selling process are sometimes necessary. It’s entirely possible that if your home hasn’t sold for some time, a case can be made for a price adjustment. That’s not a defeat, unless you stop moving thoughtfully forward. But before making substantial ‘course corrections,’ first make sure to review the situation and your options.

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3. Declare Victory
Realize when you’ve won. This doesn’t mean chest beating. Just make sure to remind yourself of your goals once you’ve reached them. For example, your home selling goals may have included receiving a timely offer at full selling price and/or retaining a few extra days of delayed possession after the closing date to more comfortably move out along with other factors important to you. Cherish the win.

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4. Win the Peace
Remain as gracious as possible throughout the transaction. Be charitable to your buyers. For example, this could include your being flexible if they ask about allowing contractors to visit your home before closing in order to provide bids for later remodeling. Leaving a vase of flowers in the house with a note for when the buyers move in is a nice touch, too.

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5. Go Home: To Your New Home, That Is
Mission Accomplished!

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Thinking about selling your Oregon home? Contact experienced Realtor Roy Widing using the convenient form below for a free consultation. And please thank a veteran today for their service.

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