Cover story: Best way to sell your house? Stay out of the way

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Ms. Scanlon remembered one homeowner who ate lunch in his condo during an open house.

“That was terrible — it made the potential buyers feel as if they were intruding,” she said.

It’s an equally good idea to be out of the picture during home inspections, Ms. Cheezum noted.

“This is a time when the buyer wants to get to know the home, and having the sellers there makes the inspection awkward,” she said. “I had a home inspection last week, and I had to ask the sellers to leave the kitchen so we could inspect that room. The homebuyer can become resentful, and this may be reflected in what they ask for in the home inspection addendum.”

Eddie Berenbaum, a broker-owner at Century 21 Redwood Realty in Arlington, said he also advises his clients to vacate the house for showings and inspections.

“You want to limit the communication because it’s so easy for misunderstandings to happen,” he said. “The homeowners may say to the purchasers: ‘We’ve taken impeccable care of the house — we’ll fix any problem that arises.’

“That may seem like an innocuous comment,” he said, “but it can come back to haunt them because on moving day, the master bed is moved out and it’s left some indentations on the hardwood floors, and now the purchasers want to hold them to their promise and want that entire floor replaced.”

If the homeowners must be present for a showing or inspection, Mr. Berenbaum said they should not be available for questions.

“Real estate agents, Realtors, brokers — that’s our job to answer questions and be the buffer between the two sides,” he said, adding that buying and selling a house is an emotional process. “It’s easy for both sides to get excited and nervous. If the owners appear to be overly excited, that may come off as being desperate to the purchaser. If the purchaser seems overly excited about the house, that’s a bad way to start negotiations.”

Ms. Scanlon agreed that it’s best to remain neutral.

“If you do answer questions, be unemotional and keep it short and to the point,” she said.

Ms. Kott added that it’s helpful to have fact sheets and disclosure documents at the ready.

“How old is the roof? How old is the furnace?” she said. “If the seller can just hand over the paperwork, that stops a lot of the questions.”

Ms. Kott pointed out that the most common question potential buyers ask is: Why are you moving? Here, she said, it’s important to work with the Realtor to finesse the best way to answer that question, especially if it’s for less-than-positive reasons.

“You don’t want the homeowners to stand there like deer in the headlights,” she said. “In the case of a divorce, you could say something like: ‘We’re going our separate ways, but it’s also a good time for us to sell the house.’ “

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