Normally, Realtors frown on buyers having any contact with sellers because things can go wrong. And I mean in a hurry. The most innocent comment can quickly spin out of control and jeopardize the entire deal or make it incredibly difficult while negotiating the terms!
Yet despite these risks, buyers and sellers do sometimes meet—whether by chance or intention—and this encounter can have some surprising benefits, that is if it’s done right. Here’s a rundown of the pitfalls to avoid, plus what buyers and sellers could gain.
Homebuyers can benefit from meeting sellers
First and foremost, homebuyers who meet their sellers have an opportunity to get their questions about the home answered.
Most of the time a homebuyer will have the opportunity to review the “property disclosures” for the home they are purchasing. This is provided by the seller which gives a description of any current or past defects they’re aware of so the potential buyer can review the history of the home. Sometimes that just isn’t enough. In some cases, the buyer wants to meet with the seller to ask more specific questions the property disclosures don’t show. It could be about the neighbors, teachers at a certain school, local restaurants, or daycares. I had one recently where the buyer wanted to meet with the seller to discuss the current High School football coach since their kid was also playing for the same team!
Sometimes meeting the seller could sway them to pick your offer over others! In particular, if the home seller has multiple offers, buyers who go out of their way to meet them could gain an edge!
If sellers have not decided yet on whether to sell their house to you, having a face-to-face meet-and-greet can tip the scales in your favor……..or it could do the opposite!
First impressions mean everything, the buyer and seller could meet and they’ll be high-fiving each other at the end of the conversation, or they could be arguing about whose favorite baseball team is better! Who knows where the conversation will lead! This is why it is such a sticky situation! There’s no way to prepare for what may come up!
Risks homebuyers face when they meet sellers
Communication between buyers and sellers can sometimes leave plenty of room for misunderstandings that can ultimately harm the negotiations.
For example, if the buyer is trying to negotiate that the seller pays for their closing cost but upon meeting the buyer mentions how they plan to repaint the whole house and change the floors. This could certainly give the seller the impression that the buyer has the funds to pay his/her own closing cost! Which could rub the seller the wrong way. When in reality the buyer was simply mentioning this as something they wish to do over a long period of time! A harmless comment but the seller took it a different way and decided not to budge on their price or help with closing cost.
If you haven’t yet reached the closing table, even the smallest misunderstanding can cause the deal to fall through.
You may find out something negative about the home
In addition, there’s always the chance that homebuyers could learn something negative about the home. While that could work in your favor if you haven’t yet submitted an offer or closed the deal, it may not be such a good thing if you’re already under contract.
I had a seller who just so happened to cross paths with their buyer while they were passing by to look at the house. The homebuyer got down to introduce himself and the seller inadvertently said something that made the buyer focus on the amount of traffic coming down the street. Ultimately, the buyer backed out! What the seller mentioned was a harmless comment but made the buyer re-evaluate the home!
How home sellers can benefit from meeting buyers
Selling a home is an emotional experience. If selling your home feels bittersweet, meeting the buyers may help to assuage some of your worries by making it clear that your home is in good hands.
One recent experience I had was the sellers wanted to meet any potential buyers because their primary home was across the street. They owned the 2nd home so their daughter could be close to them. But she moved out so they wanted to meet with any potential buyers to simply introduce themselves and get off on the right foot with their new potential neighbor! Thankfully they clicked with a great young couple that fell in love with the house! So much so that the sellers left just about all the furniture for their new neighbors! Last I heard they were having a cookout together with their families!
Risks sellers face when meeting buyers
Under the Fair Housing Act, sellers are not allowed to discriminate against buyers on the basis of race, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, familial status, or disability. Unfortunately, even the most seemingly innocuous comment could unintentionally raise red flags in a high-stress buying situation.
Violating this act has far bigger consequences than just hurting someone’s feelings. As the seller, if your buyers feel that they’ve been discriminated against, you could unintentionally find yourself on the receiving end of a lawsuit.
Even a simple comment one makes that leads the other party involved to believe they don’t have the same political views! Sheeeesh, I’ve seen some barn burners there!!
The less a seller knows about a buyer, aside from them being a willing and able buyer, the less trouble they can get into.
You may not like the buyers
There’s always a chance that you simply may not like the buyers when you meet them. If this happens, it can be extremely hard to stay levelheaded during the rest of the transaction—or you may end up regretting your decision to sell them the house.
When a buyer and seller meet during the transaction, it could make things messier! A great example of this recently was the buyer ended up having mutual friends with the home seller. They were able to meet each other through that contact and the seller promised to leave the buyer the refrigerator in the kitchen and the one on the patio. By doing so, the buyer was able to afford to buy a new couch and TV’s for the bedrooms. But right before closing the buyer realized the seller actually took those items. The buyer nor the seller relayed to their Realtors that they had met and had a “handshake deal” for the two refrigerators staying with the home! Therefore it was never signed and agreed upon so there was really no recourse for the buyer to get those items back. Did the buyer do or say something to the seller to make him renege on their deal? Who knows, but sure does seem like someone got their buttons pushed the wrong way!
How home sellers and buyers can safely meet
Now that you know more about the pros and cons of meeting the other party in your real estate transaction, the next step is to learn how to make this meeting go smoothly. If you do decide to get together before you sit across from each other at the closing table, follow these tips to ensure that your meeting stays on track.
Have both real estate agents present
At its core, a real estate agent’s job is to act as the intermediary in the negotiations. This is one situation where you don’t want to be left without a professional negotiator in your corner. With that in mind, make sure that both parties’ agents are present when you meet and let them be the ones to lead the conversation.
Stick to talking about the house
Although it’s nice to make small talk, having side conversations can increase the risk of a misunderstanding between you. Keeping the conversation limited to negotiations and practical information about the property will help lower the risk of misinterpretation and accidental bias.
Be at your best
It almost goes without saying, but this is a time to be on your best behavior. While you’re in the discussion, keep things as polite and cordial as possible. If you have a problem with something that is said, the best thing to do is to discuss it with your agent after the meeting rather than in front of the other party.
If you do not have a Realtor involved and you have a potential buyer wanting to view your home. Please verify who that person is!!! There are more important things than just making sure they are approved to buy your home! The last thing you want is someone just looking for a vulnerable seller to come back and steal some items from your home or possibly worse!! The same goes for buyers. Do you know whose home you’re entering? Make sure you have someone with you when viewing a property at all times!!