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VOL. 37 | NO. 16 | Friday, April 19, 2013

Ghosts of owners past haunt potential buyers

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In the movie “Terms of Endearment,” Shirley MacLaine played the mother of a character played by Debra Winger, who is diagnosed with cancer.

In a moving-yet-comedic moment, the MacLaine character loses it after being asked a number of times in a normal voice “Does she have …” followed by an almost inaudible whisper “… cancer?”

“Why does everyone whisper the word?” she asked. She noted that the word can be said aloud, even shouted.

At open houses, Realtors often are met with the same delivery on one question in particular. It is not unusual for an open house attendee to summon the Realtor to a private place and ask in a faint whisper, “Um. Um. Why are they selling?”

The inquirer, clearly shaken, looks fearfully at the Realtor awaiting the answer that might rob her of her dream home.

In most cases, the Realtor knows but is not required to disclose, and should only disclose if the seller gives the Realtor permission.

Usually, the answer isn’t good enough and leads to cross examination.

“They are downsizing.”

“Downsizing? To what? This is pretty small!”


“Their children are ready for school now, and they want a different school zone as all of the children’s friends from church go to schools in that zone.”

“So it’s not safe for children here?


“Did someone die here?”

“No, he is quite alive. As a matter of fact, he is running the 5.8 course at Percy Warner right now.”

“But his wife is dead, right?”

“No she’s running with him.”

“Well it looks like dead people live here. Smells like it, too. They must have a cat, or something dead.”

Then there are those that like to play “The Age is Right”

“How old’s the roof?”

“I’m not sure.”

“Looks to be12 to mebbe 15 years. She’s got some age on her.”

“I’ll check and let you know. How can I reach you?”

“No need. Just curious. How old is the HVAC. Looks to be older than Methuselah.”

“It’s 9 years old”

“Thought so. Bout gone. Reckon bout that warsher?’

‘It does not convey.”

“I don’t care. Reckon how old that rascal is?”

Sales of the Week

While this week’s sales are in two distinctively different areas, their listing agents may have inadvertently cracked the code on how to properly price and list homes in this frenzied, chaotic real estate market.

That code being to price the property slightly lower than it is worth and have the market respond in auction-like flurry. After the dust settles, the property is sold for its current market value, a slippery and evasive number that defies all logic and comparable sales data.

Both of these properties were listed by venerable veterans who have sold hundreds of houses during the past three-plus decades, Terry DeSelms who has actually sold thousands, and Ken Oakes, who has been around all the blocks.

Ken Oakes listed a home at 1016 Glendale Lane, an unassuming ranch-style home that had been in the same family for more than 20 years and had carpet protecting the hardwood floors.

Situated on a .44-acre lot, the home has 1,837 square feet in the desirable Glendale Park area. Built in 1950, the home had two bedrooms and two baths.

In the comment section, normally reserved for descriptive, hyperbolic language detailing the house’s finer qualities, Oakes simply stated: “No more offers being accepted after 12 NOON Friday March 1, 2013.”

He listed the house for $265,000 and it sold for $298,000.

There can be little question of its worth as it was exposed to the market, a bidding war ensued and it sold in one day. Mission accomplished.

Terry DeSelms of Dave Ramsey fame pulled the same stunt, albeit unaware of Oakes antics, as he listed 7948 Stallion Drive in Bellevue’s Stacy Square for $84,948. He always does that – the weird pricing thing – but it’s hard to argue with his success.

The Stallion Drive home needed some work, and DeSelms disclosed that as he described the home as follows: “Welcome to popular Stacy Square - all brick ranch style home - fixer upper-ready for rehab-family bought new in 1970-needs a little work-hardwoods under carpet.”

The house has three bedrooms and one and one-half baths, and brandishes 1,400 square feet on about a quarter acre.

Within 24 hours of listing the house, Kenny Stephens, a member of the DeSelms team himself, delivered a buyer who paid an even $100,000 for the property $15,052 more than list price.

Price low. Sell high.

Richard Courtney is a partner at Christianson, Patterson, Courtney, and Associates and can be reached Richard@richardcourtney.com or followed on twitter @movetonashville.