Seller Etiquette for Showing a Home

Should Sellers Leave the House When Buyers Arrive?

family walking out front door of house
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When I first toured my present home, led by my real estate agent during an afternoon flurry of home showings, we were met by the sellers at the door. The sellers felt they were being helpful by showing us the home and pointing out features they thought we might otherwise miss, but we hated the experience. To this day, I vividly recall the sellers pulling out the drawers under the closet to show us the depth, a feature that made no difference to us whatsoever.

We kept hoping they would go away and shut up, but they kept talking and continuing to follow us around. I could feel our real estate agent melting into the floor. We blamed the sellers but the person we should have pointed our fingers at was the seller's listing agent. It is the listing agent's responsibility to properly inform sellers of common home showing etiquette and educate sellers on what to expect when buyers show up.

You know what buyer's expect, Mrs. Seller? They expect you to get the heck outta the house. This means don't be home for any home showing event. Sellers should not be in the house for any reason during the following selling home selling occasions:

  • Broker tour and caravans
  • Home showing appointments
  • Open houses
  • Home inspections paid for the buyer
  • Buyer's appraisal

Why do 99 out of 100 real estate agents expect the seller to leave the house? Because they want privacy. They want privacy for themselves, for example, to talk among other agents during a broker tour / caravan.

Agents like to discuss amenities, condition, pricing issues and they won't do it if the seller is within ear-shot. If agents don't feel free to openly discuss your home, they won't share any pertinent information with your agent, which is one of the reasons your agent invited other agents to tour during a caravan.

If you as a seller feel that you are simply bursting at the seams to blurt all to strangers about your home, save it for your listing agent. Your agent needs to know about the defects as well as the upgrades and special features. The reason you probably decided to hire a real estate agent to sell your home is because you expect to rely on your agent's specialized knowledge to advise, market, advertise and produce a buyer.

Your agent knows how to sell your home. If you don't believe that statement, then you have probably hired the wrong agent, which is always a possibility. Not all real estate agents are the same.

Buyer's agents demand privacy for their buyers as well. During the first showing, buyer's agents will help their buyers to envision themselves living in your home. They can't do that job if the seller is underfoot, making a nuisance of herself in an attempt to help. The seller's presence will make a buyer feel uncomfortable and in a hurry to leave, which is the exact opposite goal of most sellers. It will also force buyers to try to be polite and to say only nice things about the home, rather than bring up concerns which, if addressed immediately, might return a favorable impression to the buyer.

In other words, sellers can easily sabotage their own home sales by staying in the home during a showing. It also affords the buyers the opportunity to form judgments and color opinions about the sellers and, in turn the home might lose its initial appeal, a reaction the seller might not desire. People can be very discriminating about the oddest things, there is no reason to hand buyers additional ammunition.

Further, if a seller overhears what might be perceived as a negative comment from the buyer, the seller might form an instant dislike of the buyer. Say, the buyer openly voices displeasure about an orange wall in the dining room, making a snide comment on the color that gets others in the room to laugh but instead makes the seller silently boil inside, how receptive do you think the seller will be to that buyer's potential offer?

Even after hearing advice that sellers should not to talk to buyers or buyer's agents, some sellers will disregard professional direction. It's not always the listing agent's fault if a seller refuses to leave the house when buyers show up at the front door with their agent in tow. Sellers sometimes believe they can help and not hinder the sale, and if they persist in that kind of stubbornness, there may be little that the listing agent can do but let the chips fall where they may. Just don't say you weren't warned.