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If you’ve ever watched Breaking Bad, real estate was probably the furthest thing from your mind. That is, unless you’re thinking about the poor agent who hosted an open house with an active meth lab in the basement.
Still, there is much that homeowners can learn from Breaking Bad when it comes to selling a house. Many of the characters in the show make mistakes and missteps not too dissimilar to those made by home sellers. From knowing the market to finding an attorney that knows real estate – here are a few things every seller can learn from Breaking Bad.
Oh, and here is your only warning:
BREAKING BAD SPOILERS BELOW
Learn Your Market
One of the earliest lessons Walter White learned in Breaking Bad was that he didn’t understand his market at all. Walt finds himself in over his head and in trouble in his very first attempt to sell his product because he simply doesn’t appreciate the various influences that define his market.
You can avoid these pitfalls by keeping a constant eye on your local real estate market. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) publishes regularly updated housing statistics on its website, including existing-home sales, median home prices, and pending home sales – all of these are good to know so you can predict how a sale or purchase might be affected.
Beyond direct real estate data, it’s also good to watch outside factors that can impact real estate markets. The U.S. Census Bureau offers free population estimates and projections that can help you monitor growth in your market and the Bureau of Labor Statistics offers regional data on everything from unemployment to wages. These economic indicators are essential in understanding your buyers and sellers.
Use Professionals – Not Amateurs
Much of Walt’s earliest problems come from working with amateurs. Though he was himself an amateur at the time, it’s still no excuse; even a first time home seller should know to hire pros they can trust. This goes for any service you may need before, during, or after a sale, including appraisers, home inspectors, and any professionals you bring in to give a quote or opinion.
When Walter begins working with Gustavo Fring, his operation becomes safer, more reliable, and he ends up making a lot more money. Now while you may hope for a professional with less of a penchant for box cutters, the principle remains the same – professionals make your life easier. Though, to be fair, Badger and Skinny Pete can certainly make your life funnier.
Consult an Experienced Attorney
“When the going gets tough,” Jesse Pinkman told Walt during a seminal moment, ”you want a criminal lawyer.” Similarly, when the going gets tough in the real estate game, it’s good to have a real estate lawyer you can count on. Complex contracts, difficult negotiations, and complications with the property are all good reasons to consult a knowledgeable attorney. Here are a few other reasons you may want a legal expert to weigh in:
- Exploring income tax implications of a profitable sale
- Complications in purchase agreement, like unseen damage discovered by a home inspector
- Title searches to ensure there are no existing liens on the property
A real estate attorney is there not only as a resource, but also as protection. A good lawyer will be looking out for your interests as either a buyer or a seller and can protect you from a slew of potential lawsuits that can emerge from a home sale. And like Saul Goodman, an experienced real estate attorney will know all the ins and outs of the industry – making them a valuable asset to have in your corner.
Set Realistic Deadlines for Selling a House
One of the running themes in early seasons of Breaking Bad is Walt’s commitment to tough deadlines he can’t always meet. This leaves him racing around, trying to both cook and deliver his product while up against the clock. And while this makes for great TV tension, it’s not what you want to experience selling homes.
Before committing to a closing date, make sure you’ve taken every possible factor into account so you don’t find yourself needing an extension, which can potentially compromise a sale. Keep in mind that the due diligence period for buyers is impacted by a variety of factors – appraisals, inspections, bids, and financing all take time and are dependent on things often outside of the seller’s control.
It’s also smart to plan for a number of contingencies (something Walter never really quite masters), such as requisite repairs, financing hiccups, and contract renegotiations. Don’t saddle yourself with unnecessary stress just because you want to close a sale a little bit quicker.
Check Emotions at the Door
One of the biggest mistakes that any character (save, perhaps Gus) makes in Breaking Bad is getting too invested and over emotional in their business. Walt is frequently guilty of this and it eventually leads to his downfall.
When selling a house, emotions can easily complicate a sale. An over-attachment to a home can lead sellers to overestimate its worth and overprice it, which can have serious consequences. Sellers may also want to know who is buying their home, leading to discomfort and undue pressure that can scare buyers away.
The most successful and long-lasting characters on Breaking Bad are those who leave emotional baggage behind when conducting business and this rings true for home sellers.
In the first season of Breaking Bad, an unfortunate real estate agent hosts an open house where a man was melted days prior and meth is currently bubbling away in the basement. Sure, you’ll probably never face something like this in your career, but you can draw a very important lesson from it – prior owners leave smells in their home and buyers rarely appreciate them.
Nothing is worse than seeing prospective buyers like those in the show, walking around with noses sniffing out some mystery stench. Eliminate the most common culprits first and determine later if you’ll need to bring in professionals for a deep clean of the carpets, bathrooms, or even the walls.
Be The One Who Knocks
No, Breaking Bad isn’t the best place to look for solid real estate advice.
Still, many characters in the show make some of the same mistakes that average real estate agents make every day. Learn your market, find reliable professionals, set realistic goals, and keep a clear head and you too just might find yourself in the empire business.