My wife would be a terrific salesperson. She presents in a logical, intelligent manner and typically arrives at a satisfactory compromise long before others even know one is needed.

It’s simply not in her makeup to knowingly make a false statement, and she has an uncanny way of making complete strangers feel instantly comfortable.

So, when I saw a real estate agent’s checklist to make sure "the seller is not around" when a potential buyer came to tour our home, it made me stop and wonder.


"We always say that every house has only one owner," said Elinor Smith, associate broker for Coldwell Banker. "When the owner is home, the buyer can’t really come and take it all in as an owner would. At some point in the process, the new buyers should absolutely be in the home by themselves."

Smith said when the sellers are home and happen to be gathered in a room (perhaps a sleepy collegian home for the weekend) buyers tend to forget, or discount, that specific space and move on to the next room in the home. The "complete" tour is often curtailed simply by the owner’s presence, a situation that can be easily remedied with better preparation and flexibility.

However, Smith said it’s often best to have the seller meet the buyer, especially if the agent knows a face-to-face experience will be a plus all around. Depending upon personalities, an in-person meeting can make for a less "us versus them" adversarial relationship.

"A few years ago during a hectic market, I had one of five offers on a home," Smith said. "My customers had two little girls and were moving here from out of state. I made a point to show the house when the owners were home and the little girls would be visiting.

"When the owners saw the girls playing in the yard on the toys their grandchildren used, it made a difference. Three of the offers were from investors, but the sellers wanted to sell to a family. They asked about my offer first, knowing I was the agent with the clients who had the girls."

A longtime Re/Max broker said buyers like to be able to open kitchen cabinets and drawers without having to worry about a seller’s watchful eye. However, when it comes to specific issues, it’s often best to have both sides sitting down at the table.

"Some agents may not agree with me because of a potential for loss of control, but it’s often beneficial to get them together so that they can focus on the right pieces," the Re/Max broker said. "Agents can get stuck, too, and sometimes it’s not about numbers. When people see real people, it often can change things for the better."

"Real" people can often answer questions that agents cannot.

For example, we came home from work to a find a very interested couple was still considering our home. We (my wife) were able to quickly answer the buyers’ questions, saving valuable time for everybody involved.

The "real" people idea was repeated by a few agents, but the notion that many sellers simply stay too close for comfort surfaced more. It’s not really the physical presence of the seller, it’s more of a lingering perception of not being able to thoroughly look. There’s a sort of responsible freedom that surfaces when a seller is not around.

A veteran from Windermere Real Estate, one of the Northwest’s largest residential companies, said time is usually tight on her initial tour and prefers the seller not be at home for the first go-round.

"The first time out, I’m operating on a schedule and don’t have a lot of time in between houses, since it takes about four hours to see five or six houses," the Windermere agent said. "When the seller is there, two things happen. First, the buyers tend not to really ‘look’ at the house, as they are somewhat intimidated. And second, the agent ends up visiting with the sellers, trying to be nice."

While some agents say that sellers should never be around for the second showing (revealing the buyer’s genuine interest), others say one private visit — regardless of timing — is imperative.

"But the seller should never sit around or stand around," the Windermere agent said. "I like it when the seller greets the buyer at the front door for introductions and offers to answer questions. I suggest to the seller that they say, ‘You caught me just walking out the door for my walk or to run to the store."’

The Windermere agent said there are sellers who constantly hover, pointing out inane things like lazy susan drawers in the kitchen.

"Buyers know right away whether they like a house, and showing someone how nice the hinges are won’t make them buy the house," she said. "Later, we get a call from the seller saying, ‘Oh you should have shown them my work bench.’"

"Buying a house is so personal. People like to be alone."

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