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Cover story: Best way to sell your house? Stay out of the way
The location, the time of year, the economy — these are just some of the factors that can impede the sale of a property. But talk to Realtors, and they say one of the biggest impediments to successful sales often is the homeowners themselves — particularly the ones who are trying the most to be helpful.
“The number one thing that sellers can do to really torpedo a sale is following the buyer and agent around the house and trying to be helpful by giving a running commentary on each room,” said Dana Scanlon, a Realtor with Keller Williams Capital Properties in Bethesda, explaining that they say things like: “This is where my husband hung the wallpaper.”
“Of course, the buyer thinks it’s ghastly and has to come out.”
A hovering homeowner makes it difficult for potential buyers to talk freely about how they would live in the house or changes they would make, Ms. Scanlon said.
“Anyone would be loath to talk about gutting the kitchen where the homeowner has just announced she spent 25 years baking cookies,” she said. “You need to let the house speak to the buyers and let them think about how they would fit in that house.”
Other Realtors agreed, pointing out that overly helpful homeowners can give off a sense of desperation and raise suspicions among buyers. Virginia Cheezum, an associate broker with Re/Max Allegiance in Fairfax, said the homeowners who talk about every nook and cranny come off as trying to “sell” the house.
“Any favorable impression the buyer may have had can be diminished by instead having to wonder why he is getting the ‘hard sell,’ ” she said. “Sellers think they are offering helpful information, but what happens all too often is they say something inadvertently that kills the deal for the buyers.”
Elley Kott, a member of the board of directors with the Greater Capital Area Association of Realtors and a Realtor with Long & Foster in Bethesda, said it’s not uncommon for homeowners to gossip about the neighbors — another no-no.
“I was showing a house, and the homeowner said, ‘The dogs next door bark all the time,’ and I thought, ‘Great — I’m going to have to sell this house to a deaf person,’ but in the end, that’s exactly what happened.”
“It hadn’t rained in nearly a month, but we were walking in the backyard, and the owner was off from work and lingering close by,” she said. “We all noticed that the ground was wet and our feet were sinking into the ground.
“I wondered why, and he volunteered, ‘Oh yeah, that used to be an in-ground pool, and we didn’t want it, so we filled it with old car parts, trash and fill dirt.’ There’s a proper way to get rid of a pool, and creating a dump and a cesspool is not that way.”
While the Realtors agreed it’s best if homeowners make themselves scarce during showings and open houses, they acknowledged there are circumstances in which it’s hard for the homeowners to leave.
“If you have a homeowner for whatever reason who is not very mobile — even a stay-at-home mom with a baby and it’s pouring outside — open the door and say, ‘Take your time, I’ll be here if you have any questions,’ ” Ms. Scanlon said, adding that at that point, it’s best for the seller to be as unobtrusive as possible and remain out of earshot of any conversations.
“When the client goes upstairs, you stay on the main level; when the client is on the main level, you go upstairs. You keep your kids and yourself out of the buyer’s way.”
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