Honesty is the best policy, but come on, it’s often tempting to fudge the truth a bit—even when selling a home. In fact, in certain situations, spilling too many beans could cost you a sale, so being vague may be the best policy.
To be clear, we’re not condoning lying to deceive potential buyers. As a seller, it’s your duty to be 100% upfront about things that could be harmful or expensive to fix, like the presence of lead paint in your home or the astronomical cost of maintaining the pool. But often a seller is dealing with a personal situation that doesn’t actually concern the buyer. So according to our expert sources, there are certain tidbits you can keep on the down low without causing any harm.
While the facts that follow are all innocuous to buyers, blurting them out could jeopardize the sale. Here’s how you can gloss over these tough situations while still being respectful to all parties involved.
Hard truth No.1: You’re selling due to money problems
Little white lie: ‘We felt it was time to downsize’
The state of your savings account isn’t anyone else’s business but yours. But hinting that you’re having money problems could make you look desperate to sell, and buyers could use it to their advantage.
“If a buyer senses a seller’s vulnerability, your negotiating stance will be compromised and may generate lowball offers,” says Laura E. Usher, a real estate agent for Kinlin Grover Real Estate and president of Cape Cod & Islands Association of Realtors.
Hard truth No. 2: Your relationship is in trouble
Little white lie: ‘We decided it was time for a change of scenery’
Marriage ending? You may want to keep that to yourself, says Paul Silverman, a broker associate for Martha Turner Sotheby’s International Realty in Houston.
“It could show desperation and isn’t a material fact of the home condition,” he says.
However, the rules on disclosing a divorce vary depending on where you live.
“In Texas, the seller’s disclosure asks if there are any legal proceedings that could affect the property, and divorce could be one of them,” says Silverman. Defer to your real estate agent’s advice for how much to disclose about your rocky relationship.
Hard truth No. 3: You’re down in the dumps about everything right now
Little white lie: ‘Everything’s fine’
Sometimes, a move isn’t due to a happy occasion, but out of necessity. Maybe you lost your job, went through bankruptcy, had a death in your family, or are grappling with a serious illness. All these reasons should evoke sympathy, but that doesn’t mean you should share them with a possible buyer.
As harsh as it sounds, “some buyers will attempt to take undue advantage of the situation,” says Kyle Alfriend, managing partner for Alfriend Real Estate Group Re/Max Achievers in Dublin, OH.
Hard truth No. 4: You made an offer on a new home—and must close ASAP
Little white lie: ‘We’re looking’
Perhaps you’ve already found the next home of your dreams, but your offer for it is contingent on your selling your house. That’s all fine—and very common—but don’t announce it.
“If I was to tell a buyer that my seller was already in escrow on a property, then [they] know that my seller needs to sell quickly,” says Tracey Hampson, a real estate agent for Century 21 Real Estate in Santa Clarita, CA. “The buyer could come in with a lowball offer or ask for the world because they know the seller has to sell.”
Hard truth No. 5: You haven’t gotten any serious offers yet
Little white lie: ‘We’re expecting an offer soon’
There’s no need to confess that your house hasn’t seen much traffic during open houses or that you haven’t entertained a single serious buyer.
“When I’m asked if we have any offers, I usually respond with, ‘We’ve had a lot of interest and are expecting an offer soon,’” says Hampson. “I didn’t lie, and I’ve stayed loyal to my seller.”
Regardless of how many offers you have or haven’t received, you should “communicate that you love your home, are sad to leave, and the price is fair,” Alfriend says.
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