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The “Price” Dilemma

October 28, 2020
Mark Harman Ranch Photos-0285

We just got forced to do something uncomfortable, and it’s started an incredible conversation.

The Harman Ranches “way” is all about connecting high-character people with high-character land. That means unique folks and unique situations on unique properties. Most recently, this manifested as a long-time friend and client wanted Harman Ranches to list his place, off MLS, with no published price. That’s called a Private Treaty deal, and for most land and ranch brokers, that’s like being asked to ride a bronco with both hands tied behind your back and a blindfold on. But we’re here to make a case for it.

Dealing with Discomfort

This immediately creates discomfort. Our friends in the industry were confused, calls came pouring in asking for the price, the typical questions flowed in fast and furious. There was skepticism and doubt in abundance. So we paused, stopped, re-framed a little. Are all those questions the right ones? Is “what’s the price?” really the most important lead-in?

And then there’s the question of marketing something that you don’t want people to see. That’s an oxymoron. But we’ve worked on this idea for a while, and it’s not so much about the quantity of eyes that matter. It’s the right eyes. Having 2,000 people interested is meaningless if not one of them is a good fit. But still, there’s a fine balance that needs to be achieved between quiet promotion and outright spray and pray marketing.

Better Questions

Price. Yes, it’s important, there’s no denying that dollars and cents matter, but we don’t think they matter first. What is most relevant is finding a fit. What is the buyer looking for? Do they know what they want? What kind of experience are they looking for? There are lots of pieces of land we could afford, but that wouldn’t be right for us, so the alignment of real needs and expectations is the only place to start. If you’re going to talk money, then let it be around “Would this fit in the budget range” and then leave it there. Qualified, but still vague. We want to know just enough about whether it’s a stretch or not for a prospective buyer, then we can leave it right there and focus on the better questions on the list. 

And then there’s the seller. In our history, we have met very few sellers who only care about getting the highest price possible and have absolutely no other conditions. This dismays most modern economic theories of capitalism, but let’s talk it out. Every seller we have represented has some kind of list of criteria, some are shorter, some are longer, but there are other things that matter to them beyond just price. For many, they just don’t want to be dragged through a brutal negotiating process, others have deep relationships with their neighbors and want to find a buyer who will “fit the neighborhood” so to speak. Many sellers would never consider a developer as a buyer, wanting to preserve the integrity of the land they’ve worked hard to improve. So we’re back to alignment. A potential buyer needs to be well-vetted before we waste anyone’s time, and the quickest way to pause the conversation is by taking price off the menu. It’s harsh, but it sets us up with a new and improved conversation from the get-go. A conversation that aligns with the real priorities list.

Better Transactions

It’s imperative that we all get off on the right foot. We’ve never seen a relationship that began with confrontation and posturing ever right itself and smooth out. Choppy waters turn into storms. Many of the high net worth folks we spend time with would say that they’d be willing to leave money on the table if it meant doing a deal with people they liked and enjoyed doing business with. And when a property changes hands, you’re certainly doing business with someone. We’ve operated too long on the assumption that we’ve got to squeeze every penny out of every deal, that’s how you make good commissions right? Wrong! Leave money on the table if it means you can have a peaceful, high character, no bullshit deal. What goes around comes around and people with this kind of experience locked in their memory aren’t sure to forget it. That’s the longer, “relationships first” view. We put ourselves third in line, after a buyer and after a seller, even if we only represent one of them. High character people want and deserve to have an experience that’s peaceful and satisfying. And anyone who knows anything about making and spending money knows that peace is worth something. 

So let’s drop our assumptions for a second, and really think about the main goal. Price ain’t everything. Relationships, High Character, and Peace are the priority. So let’s slow down a second and see where the right things get all of us in the long run.

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