By Daniel Bortz
“Why are you selling your house?” might seem like a perfectly innocent question from home buyers, but watch out—if you're the home seller they're asking, this is one of the diciest questions you can answer. The reason: Pretty much any
explanation you give is bound to contain revealing info that these home buyers could use against you, thereby compromising your negotiating power.
“Home buyers are looking for any indication that you’d be willing to accept an offer that’s below list price,” says Annapolis, MD, real estate agent Greg Beckman. “If you say the wrong thing to a buyer, the person might make you a lowball offer.”
To prevent that from happening, Beckman recommends sellers let their listing agent handle communication with prospective buyers. “Let your agent do all the talking,” he says, adding that sellers shouldn’t be present for showings or open houses.
That said, there are times when you might still interact with home buyers—say, if they arrive early for a showing or linger until you return. If that happens, and if the seller asks why you're selling, you want to have a short, neutral response prepared in advance, says San Francisco real estate agent Allison Fortini Crawford. Such as: “We love the home, but we’re ready for a change.”
So, what’s a bad answer? Well, there are many, actually, like these doozies below.
‘I got transferred for my job’
This is one of the most common reasons why people sell their house. In fact, 17% of people surveyed by the moving company Allied Van Lines said they’ve been relocated for a job. Nonetheless, revealing this to home buyers could make them think that you’re desperate to sell fast and, in turn, lead them to make a lowball offer.
‘Our family needs a bigger house’
Trading up? Don’t relay that to home buyers. The reason is pretty simple: “You don’t want to give buyers the idea that the house may not be enough room for them, either,” says Crawford. Similarly…
‘Now that our children have left the nest, we’re ready to downsize’
Downsizing makes total sense for empty nesters and retirees, but likewise, you don’t want home buyers to think that your house is too large and difficult to maintain.
‘We need a smaller mortgage payment’
There are a couple of reasons why this response is a bad idea. First, you don’t want to give the impression that the house is too expensive or overpriced. Second, you don’t want home buyers to presume that your finances are in such poor shape that you’d accept a lowball offer. Put simply, “Never discuss your financial situation,” says Beckman.
‘We’ve already bought our next house’
If you want to fetch top dollar for your house, don’t divulge that you’ve already purchased your next home. “It makes the home buyer think that there’s a sense of urgency and that you have to sell quickly,” says Crawford—which is a valid assumption, considering that a lot of people can’t afford to carry two mortgages at once.
‘We want a quieter neighborhood’
Steer clear of saying anything that could paint the neighborhood in a negative light. Even saying that the area is quiet could backfire. “You don’t know what a home buyer wants,” says Beckman. For instance, some people are drawn to areas with a hopping night life (and the noise that entails), or at least a place where the streets aren't barren by 8 p.m.
‘We need to move closer to our parents to help care for them’
Many people move to be closer to family—and in some cases, it's out of necessity. However, there’s no need to share that information with home buyers, since this suggests you have to sell your home pronto.
‘My back problems make it too difficult for me to climb the stairs’
A number of home sellers move out of two- or three-story houses for health reasons. However, you don’t want to draw attention to the fact that there are a lot of stairs throughout the home, since it could scare off older home buyers or home buyers with young children.
‘Our utility bills are through the roof’
Energy-efficient home features are all the rage nowadays, which makes sense when you consider that home owners spend on average $1,945 a year on their energy bills. But some home buyers still overlook utility costs when they go house hunting. So, the very last thing you want to do is draw attention to the fact that your gas or electric bills are expensive.
‘The house is too difficult for us to maintain’
No one wants to buy a money pit. So, even if you’re selling a clear fixer-upper, don’t mention maintenance costs to a home buyer. Also avoid talking about repairs that you just never got around to making, like repairing the bathtub caulking, as well as big projects like replacing the 20-year-old water heater—all reasons for home buyers to think twice about making an offer.
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