I’ve said it before, but selling a house is as complicated a maneuver as a Viennese waltz or a foxtrot. There’s prescribed etiquette, you have no control over how fast (or slow) the dance takes, and you have to avoid stepping on your partner’s toes. The process can be confusing and frustrating if you don’t know the rules of the game. The thing about the prescribed etiquette is that everyone is expected to follow it, but it’s not exactly written down anywhere. If you have a great agent, hopefully they will help you navigate the curves. Otherwise, you risk a faux pas that could tank your home sale. A home sale might be a business transaction, but it is also a personal one. You will get to know the buyers, and they will get to know you – so it pays to show off your best side. The following are some rules you should keep in mind when it comes to selling a house. Ignore them at your own peril.
If your agent has informed you that there are areas of your home that really need polishing before you can sell, don’t take it as an insult. The fact is that many homes are not in perfect saleable condition right when the owners want to plant a sign on the lawn, and that’s okay. And don’t shoot the messenger – it’s your agent’s job to help you sell your house and get as much money for it as possible. Don’t shoot yourself in the foot by being non-receptive to constructive criticism. Your agent isn’t trying to insult you personally or judge you. They have a better handle on the trends and comps in the area, and they know if, say, your popcorn ceilings are going to majorly torpedo your selling price. Be a good client and listen.
Almost every buyer is going to try to get you to compromise on the selling price of the house, but some of them will come at you with offers so low that you feel personally insulted. It can be VERY tempting to ignore them altogether or even to tell them off, agent to agent, but this would be a bad strategy. The thing is, you simply don’t know if the lowballer is an asshole who wants the bargain of the century or is merely someone who has gotten bad advice – or no advice – on how to negotiate a home sale. Even if the gap between their price and yours seems enormous, always counter every offer, even the lousy ones. Doing so shows that you are willing to play the game, and it will show you whether the prospective buyer is serious or not. If they continue to counter with you, you may eventually come to an understanding.
Try to answer an offer – whether it’s accepting, countering, or rejecting – as quickly as possible. It’s just common courtesy. Just as much as you want to sell your home, your prospective buyers also want to find a home. Letting them know where they stand allows them to either reconsider their offer (for a counter), celebrate an accepted offer, or take their rejection and move along. All offers come with a deadline, but that shouldn’t be your actual deadline. The prompter, the better.
Yay, you’ve accepted an offer! Next comes another tricky stage of the game – the home inspection. It’s an event that is fraught with anxiety for both the buyer and seller, but you should do everyone (including yourself) a favor and vamoose before the inspector shows up. Once again, it can be easy to feel insulted by any areas that the inspector criticizes, and that simply is not fair. Not to mention the fact that hovering around can make the inspector and the buyers, if they are present, nervous. The polite thing to do is not be around, even if it means prolonging the anticipation of knowing the results. The home inspection can end up changing the offer or leading to requests for repairs before the sale. I know it’s a big deal, but sit on your hands and let the pro handle this one.