What NOT To Say

What NOT to Say

You want to sell your home.  And who knows more about all the great things it has to offer than you, the seller!  It's human nature to want tell the buyers and their agents all the wonderful things you know about the house and area.  Besides, they nearly always look interested and complimentary about the house....so it's easy to think "this could be opportunity knocking!"  You take a deep breath as they approach the house, the doorbell rings, and ...

“Hi!  ... come on in."

Well, pleasantries aside, agents around the country have tales ad-infinitum about sellers who inadvertently squashed potential (and even "in progress") deals because they uttered the wrong thing.  What's more, on many of the deals that were not killed, they literally "gave away the farm" by giving the buyer or his agent great fodder for negotiation  The bottom line is, the very best thing you can say to a buyer or his agent is generally nothing at all!  It's for this reason that the vast majority of agents recommend to their sellers that the sellers vacate the property prior to the showing appointment.  If you're not there, you're not put into the position of having to avoid answering questions.

One caveat I'd like to make here ... none of the discussion here has anything whatsoever to do with any of the required disclosures for your state.  Certainly if you are present during a home showing and the buyer or their agent asks you questions having to do with your area's "Property Disclosure" or any other required disclosures, your best bet is to answer honestly and succinctly!

Now, to give you an idea as to some of the things you should NOT talk about...

  • How many showings you've had (buyer may wonder what's wrong with the house since it's not sold yet)
  • How close the church is (they may be of a different faith)
  • How "quiet" (or how "active") the neighborhood is (you don't know their lifestyle of preference...the quiet neighborhood you love might be a boring neighborhood for them)
  • How many kids are or are not in the area (even if they do have kids, there's no way for you to know how muc  "kid" activity they want)
  • Information about existing warranties on items in your home (unless you know absolutely when they expire and that they are, in fact, transferrable)
  • Itemizing all the "new" items in your home.  "New" is a relative term...what you consider new may be old to someone else.  The air furnace that you replaced two years ago may seem "new' to you because you've had the house for 15 years....but a couple years old is not new to most buyers.
  • That you're selling because you've "outgrown" the house (why plant the seed that you didn't have enough "growing room"?)
  • That the house is too small for you (they may rethink the size as well!)
  • The death of a family member (some folks are uneasy about moving into a home where someone died)
  • Your recent (or pending) divorce.  Not only does this give them cues as to your motivation which would hurt you in negotiations, the buyers may also be having marital difficulties and your comments could give them pause to reconsider buying a home.
  • That you've already bought another home (again, this gives them cues as to your motivation)
  • How much you originally paid for the home (first of all, they'll likely find that out from their agent as that information is likely on public records....but why plant the seed of either "abundant equity" or "low appreciation"...either of which can create problems).
  • How the barking dog next door drives you nuts (it probably will them as well)
  • How excited you are about your next home (again, this goes to "motivation")

Agents, for the most part, are pretty social people.  That's one of the reasons why they got into real estate in the first place.  But being "social" does not mean that a buyer's agent will not listen closely to what you say and guide their buyer clients in using that information to negotiate their best deal with you.  That's why the less said, the better.  You have no idea how something you say might come back to haunt you!!!

If you have your home listed with an agent, your very best course of action is to be scarce when your home is shown ... go for a ride, do your grocery shopping, whatever you can do to stay away from the home.  That way you are not in the position of either answering a question that you shouldn't answer, or appearing like you're "hiding" something if you don't.  If you absolutely must be at home, a suggestion might be to simply tell your visitors to take their time in viewing the home, to make themselves comfortable, that you must excuse yourself (to do whatever), and that if they have any questions about the property, those questions should be directed to your agent.