A Fail-Proof System for Estate Sale Listing Success

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About This Episode

Seller emotions tend to run high when listing an estate property. Often years of sentimental belongings must be sorted out, along with a laundry list of repairs to complete in order to get the home market-ready. The process can be overwhelming. This week on The Walkthrough™, one agent who has this process down to a science shares the method that he says gets his clients a 200% ROI on their investment every time.

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Links and Show Notes

Full Transcript

(SPEAKER: Lisa Johnson Smith, Host)

Lisa: Ever walk into a listing appointment in an extremely desirable location? I mean, you already know the views are going to be fantastic, but the second you step inside, you feel like you just went back in time.

[sound effect: sad trumpet]

There is a lifetime of stuff, collections, trinkets, and things of sentimental value. You can’t even see the view.

Well, you already know that, for most clients, the process of selling their home is emotional. But when it’s an estate sale, emotions can run even higher. And you’re faced with the sensitive task of not only helping the homeowner or their loved ones part ways with belongings that have a deep emotional attachment, but bringing that property back to life.

Well, our guest today has dealt with a myriad of challenging circumstances over the past 20 years, from dismantling and removing an enormous, authentic Japanese teahouse in a client’s living room that literally blocked the home’s entire view to a torture chamber in the basement. Yes, you heard me right. He has pretty much seen it all. Well, he’s created a system that he says, “always”–and I stress always–gets his clients a 200% ROI on their investment when he lists their property. And today, he’s gonna share just how he does it. This is The Walkthrough™.


Hey, there. I’m Lisa Johnson Smith. Welcome to The Walkthrough™. This is a weekly show. New episodes come out every Monday. This is the show where you learn what’s working right now from the best real estate agents and industry experts in the country. At HomeLight, we believe in real estate agents. We’re here to explore how great agents grow their business, stand out from the crowd, and become irreplaceable.

Today, I’m talking to Craig Ackerman. He is the broker and owner of Proof Real Estate in San Francisco, California where he specializes in estate sales. And he’s even written a book about it called “Selling Grandma’s House.” You could say real estate is in his blood. As a kid, he worked with his dad flipping properties. And years later, after purchasing a home for himself that happened to be an estate sale, he got the real estate bug again after earning a $300,000 profit when he sold it.

And that was just the beginning.

On today’s episode, we’re gonna talk about Craig’s five-step formula for estate sale listing success. We’ll share why you should be taking about 75 photos of the property and what you should be taking photos of. Also, what things you should consider when assessing properties, how you can cut down on time and money by doing high-end resurfacing rather than renovations, and what should be included in the Google link that gets sent out and who you should send it to. And why always establishing a bid date rather than simply putting a property on the market makes such a difference.

So, listen in as we pick up our conversation when Craig recalls the moment he realized he was onto something after making that huge profit I just mentioned.


Craig: That did very well, and I realized, my gosh, this is really what my dad taught me in New Jersey, in Northern New Jersey. The application here in San Francisco in the Bay Area was enormous.

Lisa: Yeah. So, you flipped that house, you made, what, $300,000 at least on that? Then you bought your next house for around $850,000 and then flipped that and sold that for over $1.3 million. And then you realized this is something…

Craig: Yeah, there’s something here. Yeah, exactly.

Lisa: There’s something here. So, you realized this is a business. Let’s get to the good stuff. You have developed this foolproof system, and you say this gets you 200% ROI for your clients. And you guarantee, I mean, every time. Walk us through this.

You know, as we mentioned earlier, trust estates can be, oh my gosh, horrible. I remember one of my clients whose mom had passed away. I was the listing agent for them. And just getting rid of her personal items, and that’s for her daughter to do, was just such an enormous task. You have a system where you do it all, and these aren’t people that you necessarily know. So, walk us through what is your formula? What’s the first step?

Craig: It’s really meeting people where they are. It’s understanding who’s the seller, who’s in charge, who are the beneficiaries, which attorney or attorneys are representing, and what do they want? And essentially, what I like to do, is go to the home with two things in my hand: a flashlight and a camera. So, I’m not selling anything. And I’ll always review with clients that, “Look, this is probably something that’s… you’ve got a full-time job, plus now you’re in charge of this enormous estate, which has a lot of implied pressure from the family and other family dynamics.

So, you deserve the truth. And let me go through the home. Let’s assess the property. Let’s look at the foundation, the fixtures, the faucets, the floors, and let’s really talk about what’s going to be the appropriate approach relative to who is the demographically highest paying buyer demographic. So, we’re not doing this because we’re in Disneyland. We have to be realistic about the market, who is the buyer, and how do we approach that buyer in resurfacing the home or preparing the home for that target market.”

Lisa: So, one of the things that you mentioned to me, which is just unbelievable, you said you take at least 75 pictures every single time. 75 pictures.

Craig: Yeah. That’s about right. You know, when I go to the home, between the heating system, the electrical system, the plumbing system, the foundation, the fixtures, the faucets, I am responsible. Because the estate planning attorney is not gonna go to the home, right? And the trustee might be, or co-trustees, might be out of state or out of the area, and they need somebody to really put eyes on the property.

So, I’ll take closeups of the refrigerator rack, the interior of the refrigerator. Because are we really gonna use that rusty refrigerator again? If so, we’re gonna do so at our own peril. What does the foundation look like? What’s the site line from the front door into the property, etc., etc., etc.?

So, my job is to take those pictures and to give the audience a very clear picture of what are the obstacles to get in this home on the market. Because anybody can sell the home. It’s about getting multiple offers with little to no contingencies and making that trustee look like a hero to the beneficiaries.

Lisa: Right. But you’re taking these pictures… I mean, some of the pictures that you mentioned, I’m sure a lot of agents don’t necessarily think about taking these. I mean, you take close-up pictures of the front of the cabinets in the kitchen. You take pictures of just all kinds of things. What other things that most people wouldn’t think to take photos of?

Craig: Sure. Well, so here’s a question for you, Lisa. You know, what does it tell you when you go to a property and there’s five different floor-covering materials? You know, it’s pretty disjointed, right? And probably those different materials were chosen at different times, and nothing’s consistent. Or, you know, the light fixtures on the exterior of the house are a bronze, what’s inside the house is a mixture of gold and brushed nickel.

You know, what we’re trying to do here is just make the inconsistencies of the property apparent to those that are gonna benefit from some level of improvement. And our goal is to be objective and then to give the estate options.

You know, first, we have to assess that home within the limitations of whether the property has tenants in it, if there’s money limitations, time, people in conflict. Then we have to diagnose the problem or the weak points of that property relative to who we’re trying to sell it to, who’s the demographic, highest paying target market.

And then, we have to prescribe a course of action that everybody agrees to. And that’s always the fun part, right? They can either do all of it, some of it, or none of it. And then we have to fulfill that promise on the bid date by making sure that they’re gonna get a handful of bids and everybody’s gonna be happy.

Lisa: So, what’s your next step after you’ve identified the home, you’ve assessed it, and all of that? What’s your next step?

Craig: Well, generally, I send a Google link with all the photos and my recommendations to the constituents, meaning my client, the attorney, etc. And my general rule is I assess and prescribe as if they were a family member. So, what would I say? What would I say to a family member, as to being honest, what’s really here and what needs to be done?

So, what I’m trying to do is bring everybody’s attention to the condition of the property. And not all the properties are in bad shape. Some of them are in excellent shape: $2 million, $3 million homes that are in very, very good condition. But there’s still some things that can be done to attract a larger buyer audience, and the goal being that the more of the issues we can eliminate, the higher people are gonna pay for that house.

Lisa: You mentioned that you send a Google link. I bet that is extremely helpful for the attorneys that are involved, for all of the family members. So, specifically, what’s on that Google link that you send out?

Craig: Well, it’s the usual plus. So, in other words, it’s the tax records, it’s the CMA or the comparative market analysis, etc., photographs of competing properties. But the photographs of the existing property and the steps that we would propose, and then a room-by-room description of what it would cost, how much time it would take, and what would the ROI be if we were to implement those changes is really where the heart of the matter is.

You know, recently, I was asked to go to Bodega Bay to go look at a property, and there was a competing agent, and the competing agent sent out, oh gosh, something like 50 pages of his or her past records of sales and just a lot of braggadocious. My report was about seven pages, but it pointed out that there was a pretty substantial foundational crack and two or three pictures of the crack. And it was a pretty considerable crack and other insights that things needed to be considered.

You know, what I try to do is give people enough information that they don’t have to necessarily go to the property to feel comfortable about the course of action.

Recently I had a healthcare company out of state that had a donation of a duplex in Sausalito. That property: After taking 60 pictures of the entire interior, exterior, the head of the institution and his right-hand man decided that they didn’t need to fly to Sausalito to see the property because they felt comfortable enough having seen the photographs, understood what we were projecting to be the course of action and what the cost and timeline associated with that would be.

Lisa: I can imagine that this probably gets people coming back to you, get your clients coming back with more properties.

Craig: It does. It gives people the sense that we really do that first step right. Because if you’ve got only $20,000 to spend and you start painting the interior and refinishing the floors, but then you find out that the sewer lateral needs a $25,000 replacement, we didn’t necessarily allocate correctly.

Lisa: So, do you also have an inspector come in alongside of you? Is that a part of your team, too? Or are you so experienced at this?

Craig: [crosstalk]

Lisa: Oh, okay.

Craig: No, what I do is I’ll do the first assessment and then lay out the plan. And then, if we are given the opportunity to sign a listening agreement, then I will bring in all the inspectors, including the elective inspectors.

So, elective inspections are typically things like the roof, sewer lateral, WDO or wood-destroying organisms, and the contractor inspection. A contractor inspection we’ll save until the very end, until after we’ve remedied, and painted, and cleaned, and what have you. But the other inspection results will then give us a sense for how much money needs to be spent, in which areas, in which sequence to reach the best result.

It also serves to kind of help the sellers be more realistic about the sales price. You know, how marketable is that property with the back porch’s got some rot and deterioration, or there’s a roof leak? And generally, that helps them to become more engaged and onboard into how do we spend and allocate the budget to best yield the estate the most money.

Lisa: Well, what if the client doesn’t have the money? What do you do in that case?

Craig: Well, that used to be a problem, but now there’s so much money floating around out there, we’ll source the money for them. It used to be that we were here to sell a home. It used to be that we would take the order and we go find the buyer. And today, it’s so different from that. The seller is very busy. They’re expecting you to take the reins.

They’re expecting you to assess the property, bring in all of the vendors, and provide the funding to not only get them the property in market-ready condition, might even include them to have some expenses to get to their new destination. Money is no object. There’s no fees. There’s no payment during the time the home is on the market. Everything is collected at the close of escrow. And that’s just a seamless part of what we do. Yeah.

So, it’s a rule of thumb that I use when I’m talking to sellers is to ask, “How much have you allocated for getting a home ready?” And when they balk at that, I’ll sort of quietly whisper to them that the best results are typically when we spend 2% to 3%, prior to going on the market, on the sales price.

Lisa: And how do you come up with that particular percentage number? Would it be across the board, pretty much?

Craig: Pretty much across the board. Now, especially the true if you have children, you have pets, the property has been rented, you’ve had somebody living with you, it’s been a while since the roof has been replaced, especially true when there’s a landlord-tenant matter, when there’s a partition action. These disputes tend to bring out the worst behavior in people. And during the time that they’re living there or have ownership, they generally don’t take care of the property.

Now, if I were to say there’s one thing that I’ve seen in San Francisco real estate in the last 20 years that has dictated everything we do, it is simply all the new construction. Everybody is expecting clean surfaces, stone countertops, center islands, under-mount lighting, recess lighting, large windows, wide plank floors. That is consistent. Everybody wants new, shiny, etc.

I mean, I remember when I was a kid, not to give away my age: you know, we would help dad fix up and repair older cars. Today, everybody wants brand new, and they want it right off the showroom. We have to make the house look that way, or the condo look that way because buyers are…this is an emotional process. They are comparatively shopping, and they want that reward. They want that lifestyle.


Lisa: Hey, this is Lisa Johnson Smith. You know, I get emails every week asking me, “How can I be a guest on The Walkthrough™?” Well, my answer begins with a couple questions. What’s your superpower, and what are you great at that you can teach other agents? The other thing I say is you have to be willing to go deep and share the secrets of your success. You have to come from an abundance mindset. Well, if you know someone who would be a great fit, send an email to walkthrough[at]homelight.com. Again, that’s walkthrough[at]homelight.com.

Lisa: Let’s get back to the conversation. Here, Craig is breaking down some of the cost-effective ways he’s able to achieve that high-end modern look for his clients while saving the money and getting a greater ROI in the long run.

Craig: This is the deciding point between where we’re really successful and where we’re moderately successful. So, when we get our designer involved very early on, the question is always, “First of all, who’s the target market? Let’s stage to that target market. Let’s resurface the home to the target market.”

I’ll never forget this, I just called recently into a home, and they wanted me to take over the listing and I looked at the staging, and it looked like Liberace lived there. I mean, everything was over the top. It was actually uncomfortable. It was neat, it was interesting to see, but I thought to myself, “My God, this is kind of alienating.”

And so, the result was that we immediately took the staging out. We re-staged it so it was more elegant, comfortable living. And we did some adjustments in color, etc., and the home sold right away. But the point that I’m making is by getting our designer in early, we want them to help us influence the color, the choices, the contrast, the materials, and the silhouettes of what we’re using to draw in and attract that demographic target market so that we’re getting more offers at less expense for the seller.

Lisa: Could you be more specific? So, when you say resurface, give example of what would you do, say, for a tiled counter that has, you know, maybe dirty grout or a vinyl floor or something like that.

Craig: Sure. So, there’s like 25 things that we come into contact every time we’re in a home, to varying degrees. The lower kitchen cabinets, for instance, always have some level of water damage to them. And that presents a problem because it makes such a big visual impact. The large grout lines used to be a quarter inch, even larger. And they used to be a contrasting color when you had the 9-inch tiles, ceramic tiles, on the countertops. Multiple types of flooring material throughout the house.

So, as an example, one of the things we’ll do is we’ll recommend that wide plank vinyl flooring go in the entire home, right into the bathrooms, pull the toilets into the bathrooms, up against the cabinetry, etc. And it just gives the home a more luxurious, consistent, comfortable, elevated feel.

Lisa: Are you ripping up what’s underneath, or are you just going right on top of that?

Craig: Many times, we don’t have to. We might just go right on top. For instance, in some of the bathrooms that we deal with, there’s oftentimes some pretty ugly floors in those bathrooms, right? And they’re worn, and they’re scratched. And while others wanna chisel it all out, create all this dust, have to, you know, five-gallon pails we’re bringing things out to the dump, etc., releveling the floor, we might just take a nice vinyl and go right over the existing.

Two new transition strips, we’re done. And it’s a fraction of the cost. It’s a fraction of the time.

The other thing that we do a lot of times is because, as you can imagine, personal property is still at the home or in the building. So, we’ll have our mover, hauler, recycler take out everything that needs to go, including the flooring, the tack strips, the padding, including some of the lights. Because the minute our contractor walks in the home, we want them to go to work, painting, patching, repairing, getting it beautified rather than spending time going to the dump and disassembling things where they could have done a better job by communicating with the mover what would benefit the timeline and the contractor’s timeline.

Lisa: And when you say you move things, I was so impressed by this. You not only move things, but you have a team that takes total inventory, and you ship it to three locations?

Craig: Now, I won’t mention names or properties, but oftentimes, unfortunately, what we spend four or five days, parts of days, many hours assessing, ends up coming back that essentially there’s $3,000 worth of personal property holding hostage a $3 million home.

Lisa: Goodness gracious. Wow.

Craig: People don’t want the old stuff. So, there’s a process there. Everyone has to go through it. We can’t rush them. And the estate needs that, the attorney needs that, and the trustee needs that for self-preservation but also to appease the beneficiaries. Yeah, that’s a very important step. People are mourning, they’re dealing with a lot of family issues and dynamics, and we have to be empathetic and thoughtful about that approach.

Lisa: Just for clarification: so you have a person who comes there, goes through everything, places somewhat of a value on it, and then you box it up, and then what do you do with it?

Craig: Sure. So, independent assessors will come in and appraise the property, take photographs of everything, and then the estate can decide, “Gee, we’re gonna sell Dad’s tools independently, or we’re gonna have all of these items sent to Nebraska, where one of the beneficiary lives, or the stamp collection will be sent off to auction,” etc., etc. So, there’s a systematic approach to that personal property that frees up the house and gives everybody the confidence and the comfort that it’s being handled with a fiduciary role, something that’s financially sound.

Lisa: I would imagine that that’s not always so easy. Like you said, you have to be empathetic to the people who are mourning the loss of their loved one. Do you set a certain timeframe on, “Okay, they’ve gotta make a decision in two weeks, or, you know…” Because how do you keep the ball rolling?

Craig: Yeah, that’s a great question, Lisa. You know, we can’t set really any timeframes at all because the minute we are perceived as putting limitations on the elder or the trustee, whomever they are, we look like we’re a little greedy and after ourselves. We can’t.

So, we just have to perpetuate and move the process along at their pace. Oftentimes, you know, they’ve been spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on expenses to maintain the property, the mortgage, the taxes, the insurance for years, and they just haven’t gotten around to solving these problems. So, we have to be really patient and kind. Frankly, it helps when you’ve got six or seven of these going at a time. So, you know, when they’re ready, they’re ready. It’s never our timeline. It’s always the client.

Lisa: Yeah. And also you talk about all these different contractors. I imagine having to have a wonderful team on hand or on standby is paramount to getting this work. How do you get the right team members, and are they a part of your staff? Or how does that all work?

Craig: That’s a great question because a lot of listing agents will take listings and will run them out of business, literally run them out of business. I’m very specific about who works for us and then the outside resources that we train as satellites or extensions of our service.

So, I have two full-time assistants. They’re both MBAs. They’re both really sharp. They both understand the business and understand our clients’ needs. But the vast majority of the people that we do the 40, 45 homes a year with, they’re bringing retail service levels with wholesale pricing to our clients. And they’re doing so, both with us and our assistants but with a direct communication and approval by the seller and the attorney. There’s no intrusive inspectors. There’s no inspections. It’s simply: resurfacing look and feel, creating a nicer environment for the buyer.

Lisa: And that’s huge, too, because when you don’t renovate, instead you resurface, that gets rid of the need for permits, right?

Craig: For the most part, yes. We have to be very careful. We don’t make that determination. But the contractor does. Absolutely. And what we’ve seen recently with material costs, backlogs, supply chain, contractors being less than reputable at times, it’s become a very, very important part of our execution.

Lisa: What about your stager? Like, is that an additional cost for the seller?

Craig: The seller always pays for the staging. We always give them choices. But my rule with staging is, I’ll often ask, “Are you more interested in saving, say, $5,500…to stage the house? Or do you want us to show you how we’re gonna help you make an additional $30,000?”

Because the point here is we don’t wanna allow us to look at expenses when they really should be investments. When a home is staged, I want that home staged where everything is staged. Textiles, artwork, the front porch, the spa area, the wine closet, the roof deck, everything should be staged.

We like to have a multimedia campaign, of course, 360 Matterport design, interior floor plans, site maps electronically created. The more interesting the property can relate- is, and more that it relates to people, the more vignettes I can create and take pictures.

And, you know, we know that our marketing is working when someone walks in that home downtown San Francisco, they walk in the door, and they say, “Gee, how do I get to the yard in that beautiful fountain I saw online?” You know, we know that they’ve seen it because they’ve looked at the website, and they’re looking for that destination within the house, and they want us to direct them there.

Lisa: So, you’re putting 3% of the asking price, which you’re determining. Can you tell me, and I just wanted to go back to this because… What does that conversation actually sound like? Convincing them that they need to put X amount of dollars in, especially if it was above something that the seller wanted to spend? What’s your conversation?

Craig: Yeah, so a $2 million home, generally, we’re looking for them to make a $50,000, $60,000 investment in resurfacing, which will take seven to 10 days. What the seller doesn’t understand is that they don’t have to be involved in any of this. They just have to approve and step out of the way and get back to their busy life. They don’t have to make any decisions if they don’t want to. They just have to approve the plan.

Let’s say that we’re looking at a $2 million home, and it’s a $55,000 budget. It’s gonna take us seven to nine business days to complete that project. We project that if we do the investing and the work upfront, we might get $2.3 million for the property and receive six or seven offers on the bid date. If we don’t do the work, it’s gonna be a little harder to sell. We’ll probably price the property and end up just a little over $2 million.

Now, is the delta really $250,000, potentially for the $55,000 work? Yes, because people comparison shop. And when they come into a home that they just can’t relate to, or they’ve got this long checklist, that’s a real bummer for them. They want turnkey, move-in ready, where money isn’t quite the object.

Remember, it’s emotion. And the thing that changed last year in 2022 is things became more expensive overnight, inflation. It’s more difficult to get personal loans. It’s more difficult at higher rates to, after closing, have to do that work yourself. You know, it’s interesting. You’ll hear people say, “Well, you know, that used to work when the market was great.” This past December, three days before Christmas, we looked at 20, sorry, 35 offers on a home. The day before, we had 12 offers on another home.

Lisa: Wow.

Craig: The things that I’m talking about have been proven. And every market’s different. Every agent has to figure out what they wanna do, and how their passions, and what their client needs, how they mesh. In our market, we find that during the holiday seasons, there’s much less supply and still a very high demand for people that want property. So, actually, we do really, really well during holiday seasons in sales, measured by the number of offers and the amount that people are willing to pay over the asking price.

Lisa: You’re saying that every single property that you have listed, you have gotten for your clients over 200% of the ROI?

Craig: On average, if they follow our directions, yes. In over 500 home sales, about 250 of those we have resurfaced pretty extensively. And most of them in seven to nine business days.

And if they have followed our recommendations, because I’m recommending this as if they’re a family member of mine, what would I do? And I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but I do have the people between the stager, the designer, our contractor, etc., that do have the right answers. Generally, they’re gonna end up getting double what they put into it. If they put $55,000 in, they’re gonna end up with another $110,000. But generally, it’s much, much higher.

Lisa: That’s incredible. One thing, okay. So, you always have these type of clients. What if you have a client who’s like, “Well, you know, my cousin is a plumber, and I know he can get us really cheap plumbing supplies. And I think I can get the floorboards cheaper.” What do you do with those clients?

Craig: Well, you know, I understand because I probably relate well to that, to be frank. But what I explain to people is you can either do all of the work and let us know when it’s ready for market, and we’ll be happy to market it then. Or you can jump on this bus, and this bus is going to Destination Profitability.

But today, bottom line is, sellers want to be able to hand you the keys and know that you’re going to do what you said you’re gonna do. And that brand promise is gonna come through. Nobody likes to be cheated. Nobody likes to be misled. And that’s really what it boils down to.

Lisa: I thought this was hilarious. You do not allow your clients back into the property until you are finished.

Craig: Well, of course, it’s their house. I can’t prevent them from doing what they want to do. I mean, they don’t wake you up from dental surgery halfway through so that your spouse can come in and look at your mouth, right?

Lisa: Right.

Craig: So, yeah, I generally ask people to get on with their lives and know that our contractor has this. We’re not gonna let you down. Of course, they ultimately have control. It’s their house, right? But it’s the long list of clients. It’s the reputation. It’s the honesty. And people often ask me, as a part of this, “Well, I assume if you say it’s 40, it’s really gonna end up being $55,000, right? Everything’s gonna have a cost overrun.” And the answer is, generally, “No.”

Lisa: You stay within budget?

Craig: Absolutely, 99.9% of the time.

Lisa: That’s impressive.

Craig: And one way that eliminates all of that is to say, “Look, let’s pick a number, and then we’ll just work within that number 100%.” “Oh, you know, $50,000 is all we’re gonna do.” “$25,000 is all we’re gonna do.” Great. We will apply with the highest ROI projects to the top and work our way down until we can’t do anymore. And then we’ll honor that request.

Lisa: Wow. That’s awesome. And then, finally, once all the work is done, you always have a bid date. And, of course, most importantly, you price it to sell. But talk about why you decide to do that every time. You don’t just put it on the market.

Craig: The establishment of a bid date really comes from working for so many years for attorneys. They wanna see…and banks, they wanna see two weekends of open houses. Do weekend open houses really matter, Lisa? The perception is that they do. But it’s the broker tours. It’s the twilight tours. It’s the private tours. It’s the open houses. And generally, we’ll launch a home on a Wednesday or a Thursday, set a bid date two weeks out the following Wednesday. And this is what keeps us sane because, otherwise, it’s 24/7 and it’s nonstop with the public.

But more importantly, when you give a bid date, the minute you go live, all of the open house or in-property activities are listed by time. And when the bid date is, you’re really communicating to the buyer’s agents, and you’re being more fair to the buyer’s agents because that gives them the confidence to inform their client of what to expect. And I just think that that’s what we owe the buyer’s agents who do a tremendous amount of work.

Lisa: And, in general, you found that this is bringing you a higher commission and, more obviously, a higher price for the sellers by doing it this way.

Craig: I don’t know of a single case, a sane seller when we’ve brought them three, six, eight offers on the bid date, and they told us that we didn’t do our job. You know, the market has spoken.


Lisa: Well, there you have it, everything you need to know for estate sale listing success. And if you’d like to connect with Craig Ackerman, you can go and follow him on social media. I’ll leave links to that in the show notes. Also, if you’d like to get a copy of Craig’s book, “Selling Grandma’s House,” I’ll also be sure to leave a link to that as well.

Now, it’s time for our takeaways segment. Here’s what stood out to me from Episode 110, “A Fail-Proof System for Estate Sale Listing Success.”

Takeaway number one: When you visit the estate property, do a comprehensive elective inspection, which will virtually eliminate the need for a buyer inspection contingency. And Craig takes a minimum of 60 to 75 photos to get as much detailed information about what needs to be done on the property for the seller and trustees of the state. Include things like close-ups of the fronts of kitchen and bath cabinetry, rusted fixtures, worn-out grout, things that aren’t noticeable in wide shots but will cost money and need to be fixed. This way, you can establish the repair budget early on, so you don’t end up with any unforeseen issues that require additional funds. And this also helps the seller understand the marketability of the property and its likely value.

Takeaway number two: Get the stager involved early on in the process before you begin to lay out a plan for the property. Craig makes sure to use a stager who is also an interior designer who can add their expertise to the overall vision of the project now rather than later. So, you can end up with the finished product that is design-savvy and magazine ready.

Takeaway number three: Once you gather all of the information needed to begin working on the project, put it all together in a Google link. Craig includes a number of things: comps, photographs, CMA, and a list of things the seller can choose to do or not to do, as well as the budget. He sends this to the attorney, seller, trustees, contractor, designer, and anyone else who is involved in the project, whether they are local or out of town.

Takeaway number four: You don’t always need to renovate by ripping out everything unless, of course, there’s damage. Craig calls this resurfacing. It cuts down on time and money and will allow you to achieve a fresh new look using the same footprint of the house without the need for permits or intrusive inspectors. And some examples of this are changing out cabinets and countertops or light fixtures and even removing sliding glass shower doors.

Takeaway number five: Always establish a bid date. This projects seller confidence and sets the “Ground game in advance.” It also underscores your commitment to marketing and exposure for the seller’s benefit. And make sure you price the property to draw attention to it. Craig said he has never had a sane seller who received multiple offers tell him that he got it wrong. And those are your takeaways for this week.

Well, that about does it. If you have any questions or feedback, you can send an email to walkthrough[at]homelight.com. You can also find me in our Facebook Mastermind Group. Just search “HomeLight Walkthrough™.” And one last thing, just a quick favor. Please rate and review us on Apple Podcast or wherever you listen, and hit that follow button, so you get all of our future shows automatically.

That’s all for this week. Thanks to Craig Ackerman for joining me. And thank you for listening. My name’s Lisa Johnson Smith, and you’ve been listening to The Walkthrough™. At HomeLight, we believe in real estate agents. We’re here to explore how great agents grow their business, stand out from the crowd and become irreplaceable. Now go out there and make some moves. I’ll talk to you next week.

Header Image Source: Source: (Alec Krum / Unsplash)