Seller Etiquette for Showing a Home

Should sellers leave the house when buyers arrive?

Real estate agent showing a home

 andresr / Getty Images

It's not uncommon for someone selling a house to sometimes be home when a prospective buyer, led by a real estate agent, arrives for a scheduled showing. Sellers might believe they are being helpful by pointing out features, but buyers are just as likely to be annoyed. Even though sellers likely mean well, they are unlikely to know what is important to potential buyers during a tour. A seller's presence also can turn what should be a relaxing and informative tour into an awkward encounter.

The Listing Agent's Responsibility

It's easy to blame the sellers when such situations arise, but the person responsible is the seller's listing agent. He should inform sellers of common etiquette and educate them on what prospective buyers expect when they show up.

In short, they expect sellers to be out of the house. This means they should not be home for any home showing event for any reason, including these occasions:

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

Sellers enthusiastic to talk about their homes should save it for their listing agents. It's their job to know about the defects as well as the upgrades and special features. Sellers hire real estate agents to sell their homes so they can rely on their specialized knowledge to advise, market, advertise, and produce a buyer.

Giving Buyers Space

Buyer's agents also demand privacy for their clients. During a first showing, they help clients envision living in a home, and they can't do that job if the seller is underfoot. The seller's presence can make buyers feel uncomfortable and in a hurry to leave or force them to try to be polite and to say only nice things about the home rather than bringing up necessary questions or concerns.

Sellers easily can sabotage their own home sales by staying in the home during a showing, and the negative experience affords buyers an opportunity to form judgments about the sellers, negatively impacting the home's appeal. Further, if a seller overhears what might be perceived as a negative comment from a buyer, the seller might form an instant dislike of the buyer. For example, sellers might form negative opinions—even if subconsciously—about buyers who voice displeasure about certain elements of a home. This can negatively interfere with a seller's ability to be objective about any potential offers from buyers they decided they did not like.

Other Tips for Sellers

Leaving the house before a showing might be the best advice those selling a home can follow, but there are other pieces of advice worth heeding. First on the list is to clean and declutter. If sellers are still living in a home they are trying to sell, it's expected that it will looked lived in, but a dirty house is a turn off, and excess clutter can make it more difficult for potential buyers to envision how they would utilize the space in a room.

Pets also require planning on the part of sellers. The best option is to have someplace else where the pets can go during showings, such as the home of a pet-friendly friend or neighbor. Leaving them home can be distracting to potential buyers and their agents, even if the pets are locked in another room. Dogs might bark, for example, and whichever room they are occupying likely will be inaccessible to visitors.

Making snacks or refreshments available during open houses always is a good idea. A buyer isn't likely to make an offer because she liked your chocolate chip cookies, but it's still a friendly gesture that leaves a positive impression. Along with refreshments, make available any relevant literature or other documents about the home or the neighborhood. Ideally, these should be items interested parties can take with them.