Thursday, September 01, 2005

Meeting the Seller Could Affect Deal

Realtors must take care how they approach the buyer and seller client of another real estate professional. To contact a seller directly, for instance, when the seller has listed his or her house with another agent, could be construed as "going behind the sign," as it's called in the industry and violates the National Association of Realtors' Code of Ethics.

On the other hand, it's not uncommon for buyers and sellers to meet each other and talk real estate, the transaction, moving plans, remodeling -- er -- be careful about that last one. It's true -- all the topics above may or may not cause a hubbub between a buyer and seller, but when you start discussing remodeling plans -- buyers beware.

Let's put it this way -- talk about what you love about the house: "The new carpet is exactly what I wanted." "The kitchen is so large. I can't wait to have a party." "Oh, I loooove your garden in the back. We've always wanted to eat our own gourmet vegetables."

When you start discussing remodeling -- you've instantly told the seller you don't like what they've done to the house and, in fact, you're going to change it. Before you may think, "What does it matter? It's going to be my house in a few days." It's not your house until settlement has occurred and keys exchanged.

Many buyers and sellers have met and it sealed the deal. "They were such nice buyers -- let's sell it to them." You never know what can make a seller like one buyer over another when comparing offers. If you have two close offers, it could come down to which buyer was friendlier.

One buyer agent told me of how her buyers wrote a letter about how the sellers had decorated the dining room -- just the way they wanted it. But to really make the letter have merit, the buyer had flowers matching the d├ęcor right when the listing agent was arriving to present all the offers to the seller. Obviously, the seller knew the buyers wanted the house -- but they really appreciated the sellers' efforts to make the house a home for themselves and this buyer demonstrated she was going to continue the tradition.

But the meet and greet isn't always the best thing. A colleague told me about a buyer couple in California was so excited that his sellers had accepted their offer in a competitive bid. On a weekend before settlement, the buyers were driving by and noticed the sellers in the yard.

After introducing themselves, the sellers were excited to see how they loved the house. "So what are you going to do when you move in?" the sellers asked. The buyers replied without hesitation -- "Well, we're going to redo the landscape and take out all those rose bushes."

Unbeknownst to the buyers -- the sellers were champion rose growers. Rose growers who then called their agent and called off the deal.

If you don't like something -- keep it to yourself. I'm not condoning lying to the sellers, but a "don't ask, don't tell" policy could be a good bit of advice if you happen to run into your sellers before settlement. Instead, rave about what you like about the house -- location, lot, style, established neighborhood, pet friendliness, friendly neighbors -- something other than the fact that you're about to rip out the gazebo in the backyard. You know, the gazebo where their three daughters all got married over the last 4 years? Yeah, that gazebo.

In a competitive market, meeting the sellers could be a good strategic move that puts your contract on the top of the pile. If played right. Otherwise, your remarks could send it straight to the circular file.

Mr. Carr has covered real estate since 1989. He is the author of "Real Estate Investing Made Simple." Got a personal real estate issue? Questions can be posted at Anthony's blog.

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