Like the helicopter parents who want to chaperone a teenage party, helicopter sellers attending their own open house can be a real buzzkill. But telling your clients the truth in such harsh terms, if they want to be there, risks backlash and unprofessionalism.

  • A seller's presence at an open house can make buyers feel uncomfortable, some agents say.
  • Sellers may want to tell their home's story. Listing agents can help them do so without them having to attend this marketing event.
  • Pick your battles.

Like the helicopter parents who want to chaperone a teenage party, helicopter homesellers attending their own open house can be a real buzzkill.

That’s how many Realtors feel about the matter, as discussed on a group thread in Raise the Bar in Real Estate.

But telling your clients the truth in such harsh terms, if they want to be there, risks backlash and unprofessionalism. Real estate agents are in the business of customer service, after all, and homeowners’ feelings matter — even when you’ve given every reason for them to trust you professionally.

How can you talk to them about their presence at this marketing event with class, creativity and understanding? And in what cases should you grant their wish, if any?

Here are seven ideas or ways to react, as recommended by industry pros who hashed out the matter on Facebook.

1. Give your seller the ability to tell the home’s story — from a distance 

Listen to your sellers’ reasons for wanting to attend. If they feel like they’re best suited to “tell the home’s story,” there’s no reason they can’t do so while they hang out at a coffee shop down the street until the open house ends.

A few options suggested in the group include:

  • Have your seller write up an “all about my house” summary or list “10 things I’ll miss most about this house” on a sheet of paper that might help buyers emotionally bond with the property. (Caveat: “That might also change his mind about selling,” warned Realtor Bob Garagliano. Keep the emotional trip down memory lane in perspective.)
  • Make a video to display at the open house that features snippets about the area, the home’s points of interest and the owner’s thoughts about living there. “Depending on the price point and budget, perhaps even add in some lifestyle content to inspire the imagination of buyers,” suggested agent Rich Shearrow. “Same video can be used for promotion of the property.”
  • Realtor Mitchell Allen recommended playing the video on repeat on an iPad (so that people can choose not to listen) and to keep it short.
  • Put together a photo album of before-and-after home projects, with receipts and a list of upgrades, the dates of completion and total cost. “Some sellers want to show the buyers all of the home improvements they have done or how much they have invested,” Realtor Susan Welsh shared.

2. Appeal to your seller’s empathetic side

Nothing gets you out of a store faster than a nagging sales associate with the refrain “that looks so good on you!”

Similarly, many buyers want their space to peruse. Realtor Norine Higa suggests telling sellers it’s not about their story, rather “it’s about helping the buyers see themselves there creating their new story.”

Others agreed that helping sellers walk a mile in buyers’ shoes (which shouldn’t be hard — many home-hunt while they list) can allow them to understand why browsing a home with the seller doesn’t create a sense of ease.

“Allow the buyer to fall in love with the home!” added Realtor Laura Abramson.

3. Call out notable features with signage

Sellers might worry about potential buyers failing to take note of a property’s most shining elements. To assure them that no detail will be lost, offer to place a “notable features” sign in every room to draw attention to the earmarks.

Realtor Daniel J. Hunter cautioned about going overboard, however, which could distract from the house itself: “I can see handing out a list, suggesting path to take through house and highlights of each room in the house,” he noted.

4. Talk risks in real terms

Realtor Cindy Oliver had a seller make a bargain deal with a buyer once, and it cost him $10,000: “Loose lips sink ships … somehow, sellers always say too much!”

Let sellers know they have the right to remain silent. Dish on past examples to persuade.

“Owners always go overboard one way or another,” owner/broker Liz Lockhart shared. “They either give too much information and hurt their own negotiation or they give misleading information and increase their liability.”

5. Set expectations early — at the listing appointment

Parents set boundaries with their kids — “you can only get three items that aren’t already on the grocery list” — long before their 7-year-old stuffs the cart with Reese’s and Ruffles potato chips. This avoids a public meltdown.

And clear expectations set the stage for the entire real estate transaction.

“When you go to the listing [appointment], it’s the time to have the sellers disengage [themselves] from the home,” advised CEO of Re/Max at Home, Maria Quattrone. “The mindset of the seller should be ‘this is no longer my home, and I am getting it ready for the next family who will live here.'”

6. Be clear about buyer’s agent beefs

Your sellers could be limiting their buyer pool by attending the open house because some buyer’s agents might advise their clients not to stop by.

“…If the [seller’s] present, I don’t bring my clients by the home. I want my clients to be able to talk about what they see freely [instead] of hurting someone’s feelings,” broker Kelly Poynor commented.

7. Roll with it — the customer is always right, and it’s your job

Until escrow closes, the home still belongs to the seller — a point made by Realtor Kj Lange. “As professionals, our job is to help sellers understand the best possible scenario for their home to sell. If a seller can’t get that his absence helps him, then our job is to make sure they don’t hurt themselves by being present.”

Broker Leslie Ebersole added: “It’s really not a big deal if the seller is there. I can’t imagine a buyer not buying a house because the seller was there at the open. Most buyers will come back for a regular showing, I think.” She advised not to “stress over it, just do what you would do if [the seller] wasn’t there.”

Few open houses result in a sale directly, Gene Urban noted, so let sellers attend if they so desire: “In the scheme of things, it is totally unimportant.”

Email Caroline Feeney

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