Alienate a Seller in 5 Easy Steps

Etiquette… in our fast paced, paperless, I-saw-it-online-in-real-time world, a “Post-Emily-Post” world, if you will, some people believe manners are a lost art. That the nuances of behavior we once treasured: thank you notes, the opening of doors, good old fashioned common courtesy – are a thing of the past. Call me old fashioned, but I want to believe that in an industry like Real Estate, where the commodity is property of all types but the parties to every transaction are feeling, thinking human beings, manners still matter.

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In an effort to encourage a state of civility among the patrons of this industry, I’d like to point out a few behaviors you can avoid as a home purchaser when dealing with a home seller. None of what I’m about to share is revolutionary; most of it is, in fact, the commonest of common sense. But sometimes, in the midst of one of the biggest potential purchases people can make, emotions get the better of us and we say or do things we’d never utter or enact under cooler circumstances. This information is designed to help you avoid being “that guy.”

Without further adieu, here are 5 of my favorite ways Home Buyers can Alienate Sellers:

  1. Insult the Seller’s decor or personal property. It’s one thing to ask your agent to point out, tactfully, to the Seller’s agent that the decor is dated and you’ll be investing in updates to the home, and to make an offer reflecting this investment. It is quite another thing to point out the embarrassing proliferation of cat posters, grandma’s doilies or an egregious over-use of animal print fabrics. You aren’t buying the doilies – you’re buying the house. And if you make snarky comments about the decor that get back to the Seller – you might not be buying the house, after all.
  2. Assume your offer will be accepted because it’s all cash. A colleague of mine has a saying, “If it ain’t in writing – it ain’t.” I’ve had Sellers who accepted a lower offer on their property because a personal letter from the potential Buyer appealed to them and this extra tug on their heartstrings sealed the deal. No matter the terms of your offer or even the state of the market, don’t kid yourself. No offer is guaranteed to be accepted, and the posture you have when bringing an offer should be one of humility. Walking in with a big head and the belief you can bully a Seller into accepting your terms won’t bring you a win. It’ll just turn them off.
  3. Point out the competition in an effort to cast shade on the Seller’s property. Your agent should definitely point out comparable properties in the neighborhood that have sold for less than the Seller is asking when submitting your offer. That’s part of our job as your representative. It is not cool, however, to talk down the Seller’s property in a negative way. One house has a finished basement and one does not? A fair comparable to bring up. One house has stainless appliances and one house has a kitchen you, the potential Buyer, deem “disgusting” and unworthy of your high style? Keep it to yourself. There are ways to compare and contrast property listings without insulting the Seller.
  4. Move things around or leave messy footprints while on your Showing. Just ugh. You’d never track mud into a friend’s house if you were a guest – don’t do it in a Seller’s home. And if you do – clean up after yourself. Don’t move anything around, don’t open dresser drawers or medicine cabinets – this is not your house yet, and these are not your things. Side note – it is okay to use a Seller’s bathroom if you must – especially if you have small children in tow who simply can’t hold it – but make sure you leave the space tidy and looking like it did when you arrive.
  5. Show up at the Open House – with or without your Realtor – and talk smack. When you are in the market to buy a home, there IS such a thing as bad publicity – and spouting off a string of criticisms at an Open House will leave a bad taste in the agents mouth, and maybe even the Seller’s. Sometimes Sellers are present at the Open House – something I don’t recommend, but it happens. Some Sellers place a Nanny Cam on a bookshelf to record the action. A home owner may work from home or be home with a sick child and could be sequestered in a room where you don’t see them, but they may be able to hear every word you say. You are entitled to your opinions, but discussing your distaste about a particular property should wait until you are outside of the home – like in the car. Talking smack in the driveway while the neighbors listen in is not a good alternative.

You’ll come across many items worthy of comment while searching for your next home: avocado wallpaper circle 1971; stained carpets that appear to have played host to a Sasquatch; curb appeal that makes you want to head for the hills. These things and more will give you something to talk about in the car, back at the office or at home. Just don’t talk about them in the Seller’s house, in your offer or anywhere else in writing that will be presented to the Seller. Kindness and courtesy will contribute to successful negotiation over the course of your Real Estate transaction, and when you get to the closing table, you’ll be glad you played it fair and friendly.

Jack Meyers

The Meyers Group
Twitter: @jackestate


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