Selling a house takes, well, salesmanship. In other words, you have to prep your house so it looks its best. You have to open your door to strangers who’ll traipse through your home, open closets, and ask all kinds of questions. And, you have to do all of this without getting annoyed or overly emotional!
To help clue you in to some moments that might test even the mellowest home seller, here are five home-selling etiquette rules that often trip people up. Keep these in mind to ensure that you don’t annoy or scare off that special buyer.
1. Don’t take offense when your listing agent says your house ‘needs work’
Your listing agent might actually recommend that you make some preliminary fixes or tweaks before you even list the house. Don’t be offended by this advice—your agent isn’t trying to criticize you as a homeowner or a human being; he’s just trying to help you achieve your shared goal of selling the house quickly and for as much profit as possible.
“This is one of the most valuable things I do as a listing agent,” explains Bill Golden, an agent in Atlanta. “You may not be willing to do everything I ask, but know that this is coming from years of experience. You want to create a welcoming environment.”
2. Don’t view lowball offers as insults
If someone makes an offer on your home that you think is so low you feel insulted, you might be tempted to ignore the person altogether—but doing so would be a mistake. Someone who makes a lowball offer might be testing the waters or trying to establish room to negotiate. Or it could be a novice at home buying who doesn’t realize the offer is insulting. At least keep the door open to further negotiations.
“This strategy is one that is always recommended to my sellers,” says Jen Horner, a real estate agent in Salt Lake City. “Take the emotion out of the process, the seller should focus on the numbers at hand and if there may be an opportunity to close the gap between the two parties. You will learn quickly if the buyer is serious if they engage your counter and decide to stay in the purchase discussion.”
Matt Van Winkle, a real estate agent in Seattle, agrees, noting that the lowball buyer might simply be following bad advice.
“Some buyers feel the need to lowball; it makes them think they are ‘negotiating,’ so don’t discount it,” he says. “Always counter to make sure that you can still engage buyers who are getting bad advice.”
3. Do respond quickly to offers
No matter how you decide to respond to an offer—be it to accept, counter, or even decline—do so as quickly as you can. Most offers come with a deadline, but that doesn’t mean you should wait until that deadline to reply. Remember, your potential buyers are just as eager to find their next home as you were when you bought your house. It’s frustrating, from a buyer’s perspective, to have to wait on a response, so be courteous and answer as quickly as you’re able to.
4. Don’t tag along during the home inspection
Once you’ve accepted an offer, the buyer will likely hire a home inspector to check out your house for any problems. Of course you want to follow along. Who wouldn’t? Not only is there a strong curiosity factor at play, but any major problems that are uncovered could put you back into negotiations or give the buyer a reason to back out of the deal. But following along on the inspection is a bad idea for several reasons.
First, any criticisms made during the inspection will likely feel personal—like you’re being accused of not taking good care of your home—and you might get the urge to respond and defend your house (and yourself). A huge no-no! Second, having the homeowner lurking around during the process puts the inspector (and buyer, if present) on edge. Resist the urge, and make yourself scarce.
“Buyers feel strange about having the seller around during an inspection, so it is courteous to respect their privacy and let them take a look on their own,” Van Winkle says.
5. Do agree to reasonable requests for repairs
After the home inspection, there’s a good chance you will be hit with requests for repairs. The buyer has a right to request repairs, or a deduction from the selling price. While you don’t want to get nickel-and-dimed with requests for every little thing, it’s also not in your best interest to reply with a flat no to reasonable requests that are turned up by the inspection, unless you listed the home “as is” or already priced it under market value to reflect significant repairs you anticipated it needing.
Why? Because once the issue is revealed through the inspection, you can’t just ignore it. If it’s a costly issue, the buyer can (and seriously might) back out of the deal altogether if you don’t make a concession. And if that happens, you’ll now be required to disclose that issue to future potential buyers. All in all, don’t let a few repairs keep you from the closing table, because going back and re-listing your house won’t be any better the second time around.
Even better? “Before your listing goes live, your real estate agent should walk through potential scenarios that you may encounter given your current market,” Horner says. “Are closing cost concessions normal? What are typical repair requests that may arise during home inspection? Should you fix or not fix prior to listing? It is always better to shed light on potential scenarios before they arise so that you have the time to think through how you might respond.”