Seller Etiquette for Showing a Home

Should sellers leave the house when buyers arrive?

Real estate agent showing a home
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It's common for someone selling a house to be home when a prospective buyer is touring, along with their real estate agent. While many sellers might believe they are being helpful by pointing out features of their home, house shoppers are likely to feel uncomfortable or annoyed.

Of course, the sellers likely mean well, but they likely don't know what is most important to the potential buyers during a tour. A seller's presence during the showing can make the buyers feel awkward, which won't help the sellers when it comes to selling their home.

Learn more about whether sellers should stay in the home or leave during a scheduled showing.

The Listing Agent's Responsibility

The person who is most responsible is the seller's listing agent, who should inform the sellers of etiquette and explain to them what prospective buyers expect when they show up for their tour.

In short, buyers expect sellers to be out of the house. That means the sellers 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

Note

Sellers who are enthusiastic to talk about their homes should save it for their listing agents, whose job is to know about the home's special features, upgrades, and defects.

Sellers hire real estate agents to sell their homes so they can rely on their knowledge to advise, market, advertise, and produce a buyer. The seller does not need to be home in order for the listing agent to do their job.

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 in the other room. The seller's presence in the home can make potential buyers feel uncomfortable.

The visitors may be in a hurry to leave, or they may feel that they must be overly polite. They may say only nice things about the home, rather than bringing up any of their real questions or concerns.

Sellers can easily ruin their own chances at making a home sale by staying in the house during a showing. This negative experience can cause buyers to form judgments about the sellers, negatively impacting the home's appeal.

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. That can 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 also other suggestions worth heeding.

First on the list: clean and declutter. If sellers are still living in a home they are trying to sell, it's expected that it will look as if someone lives there. On the other hand, a dirty house is a total turnoff. Excess clutter can make it more difficult for potential buyers to envision how they would use 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.

Note

Leaving pets at home can be distracting to potential buyers and their agents, even if the pets are locked in another room. Dogs might bark, for instance, and whichever room they are in will likely 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 simply because they liked your sugar cookies, but it's still a friendly gesture that makes a positive impact.

Along with snacks and drinks, provide any brochures or magazines about your home or the neighborhood. Ideally, these should be items that potential buyers can take with them.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can a seller refuse a showing?

Sellers and their agents can refuse to show a home for a variety of reasons, as long as those reasons aren't discriminatory or otherwise in violation of the law. For instance, a seller could refuse to show at a time that's inconvenient for them and their young children, but they couldn't refuse a showing based on someone's race.

How long does a house showing take?

House showings can typically take anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour, depending on the buyer's level of interest and any questions they have about the property. A longer showing usually indicates a more interested buyer.

How do you prepare your house for a showing?

A home showing is your chance to show off your house to potential buyers, and you should take time to prepare. Make sure the house is clean and clutter-free, set the A/C at a comfortable temperature, turn on all the lights, and try to create a pleasant mood in the house. Laying out some treats and any pictures with further information about the house and improvements is a good way to make a strong impression.