Why Do Homebuyers and Sellers Rarely Meet? Here’s What Can Go Wrong
The link to the article written by Tara Mastroeni can be found here.
In real estate transactions, homebuyers rarely meet home sellers before reaching the closing table. So have you ever wondered why?
As a general rule, real estate agents frown on buyers having face time with sellers because things can go wrong. A whole lot of things, in fact. Even seemingly innocent comments could land buyers or sellers in hot water—and jeopardize the entire real estate deal.
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.
How homebuyers can benefit from meeting sellers
You can ask questions
First and foremost, homebuyers who meet their sellers have an opportunity to get their questions about the home answered.
“This is a great opportunity for buyers to directly ask the sellers their burning questions, like ‘Does the property have any quirks I should know about?'” says Dan Duval, principal broker/partner of the Elevated Companies in Boston. “It’s an especially great time to ask questions that your real estate agent may not be able to answer easily.”
Buyers might also benefit from hearing some insider tips about their new neighborhood. Sellers can provide homebuyers with key resources that will make settling in easier.
“The seller can sometimes offer valuable information to the buyer,” says Trey Van Tuyl, an agent with Discover Homes Miami. “For instance, they can share recommendations for their favorite nearby restaurants or talk about how great the neighbors are.”
You can convince the sellers that you’re the right fit for their home
Selling a home can be an emotional experience and sometimes sellers get cold feet, too. If that’s the case in your transaction, a face-to-face meeting can help assuage any concerns the seller may have about leaving the home they’ve come to know and love.
“In the ideal situation, the sellers could walk away from the meeting feeling like the right people will be moving into their home,” explains Jim Armstrong, an agent with JG Real Estate in Philadelphia. “You may help them feel like they’ve found someone who will enjoy their home as much as they have.”
All that said, he warns, “I think it depends on the personalities of the particular set of buyers and sellers and that, if necessary, the meeting should take place after all contingencies have been met.” In other words, try to make sure both parties enter this meeting with the best of intentions and that any contractual obligations have been met first.
Risks homebuyers face when they meet sellers
You leave room for misunderstandings
Communication between buyers and sellers can sometimes leave plenty of room for misunderstandings that can ultimately harm the negotiations.
“One side could unintentionally say something to offend the other,” Armstrong warns. “For example, a prospective buyer could blurt out something that they want to change in the home. If the seller put a lot of hard work into that feature, this innocent comment may not go over well.”
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 happened to cross paths with their buyer at the home inspection,” says Jason Gelios with Community Choice Realty in Birmingham, MI. “The seller inadvertently said something that made the buyer focus on the amount of traffic coming down the street.”
This seller slip-up caused the buyer to walk away from the property. Fortunately, that buyer was still in the contingency period and could take back the earnest money deposit; but in many cases, a buyer could end up forfeiting that money.
How home sellers can benefit from meeting buyers
You feel better about leaving your home behind
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.
“For sellers, having the opportunity to meet buyers face to face may make the process feel more personal and comforting, especially if they feel a connection with the new buyers,” explains Duval.
Louise Phillips Forbes, a New York city broker with Brown Harris Stevens, adds that when there is a connection between the buyer and the seller, both parties can go out of their way to make the transaction a pleasant experience.
“I once worked with owners who left behind an expensive painting for the purchasers because they had connected over a shared loved of a place where they both like to vacation,” she says.
Risks sellers face when meeting buyers
A Fair Housing Act violation
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.
“Even a comment about the local churches, synagogues, or neighborhood’s diversity can be misconstrued as looking for a certain type of person,” warns Hillary Landau, a real estate agent with Compass in Westchester, NY.
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.
“The less a seller knows about a buyer, aside from their financials, the less trouble they can get into,” Landau advises.
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 makes things messier,” admits Michele Harrington, the chief operating officer of First Team Real Estate in Irvine, CA. “If they don’t get along, the negotiations become much more difficult. Both parties may start digging their heels in over little details.”
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.