Never Discuss These Things When Showing a Home

How Sellers Can Sabotage Their Own Sale

Realtor giving man keys to new house
••• Paul Bradbury / Getty Images

At first glance, you might wonder why a seller would be showing a home, especially when that seller is represented by a real estate agent. However, situations in which the sellers are showing a home can happen in many instances that are all fairly common. In many parts of the country, agents routinely call sellers to make an appointment to show a home.

For example, a seller might be living in the home and there when the buyer and the buyer's agent show up to see the home. Of course, everybody knows the seller should immediately leave the home when a buyer appears on the doorstep with an agent in tow, but it's the comments from the seller on the way out that can cause problems. A seller doesn't have to be present for the entire home tour to say the wrong thing.

There are also times when a tenant might be uncooperative, which could require that the seller be present during showings. Tenants might not respond to a listing agent or a buyer's agent's requests for showings and prefer to open the door only for the owner. A seller might not allow an agent to secure a lockbox to the home and insist on showing themselves. Sometimes, sellers like to be involved in every step of the home showing process, and it's such a bad idea from all sides of the fence.

When I first toured a home that my husband and I bought years ago, I was appalled at the way the sellers hovered over us every step of the way. They thought they were helping to sell the home, but they had the opposite effect. They wanted to show us how deep the closets were, and the fact that drawers under the raised closets, which looked exactly like drawers, actually opened, just like drawers would open.

I am amazed to this day that we even bought that house after the claustrophobic feeling we had when the seller was showing it to us. The seller closed every door after we passed through. The house had a ton of doors, more than an ordinary home needed. As a result, I couldn't even remember what much of the home layout was like. But I did recall coming away knowing that the sellers would take a lot less for the house based on things the sellers said.

Things a Home Seller Should Never Discuss

The Code of Ethics put out by the National Association of Realtors, to which all REALTORS® agree to abide, say that a buyer's agent is not to interfere in an agent's listing. The Code also says an agent is supposed to treat all parties fairly, but the Code of Ethics doesn't stop a buyer's agent from pulling personal information out of a seller when the seller is willing to provide it.

All too often, sellers answer questions put to them by other agents because they don't think they are doing anything wrong. They don't see it as a mistake to provide what they feel is just information. But what they can say to an agent or the buyer can have big implications.

Here are some things a seller should never talk about with a buyer, regardless of how innocent the topic might seem:

  1. The present sales price.
  2. The length of time the home has been for sale.
  3. Why the seller has decided to sell.
  4. The comparable sales prices of other homes.
  5. Any price reduction considerations.
  6. Things that might be wrong with the home.
  7. How many offers the seller has received.
  8. How quickly the seller would like to close.

You know the drill for personal rights: Anything a seller says can and will be used against the seller when the buyer enters negotiations to buy that home. If a seller, for example, mentions that they hope the home sells soon because they're under contract to buy another home, the buyer might not offer as much as the buyer might offer without this information.

The best response a seller can have to these questions is a) Do not answer the question at all or b) Say, "Repeat after me: You will have to ask my agent that question."


But I just want to know if you've had any offers yet or if you know of any buyers who might be writing an offer? Answer: You will have to ask my agent that question.

Can't you tell me if your home has been on the market for seven days or seven months? Come on; this is not a hard question! Answer: You will have to ask my agent that question.

If we wrote an offer today, would you be willing to reduce the price by $10,000? Answer: You will have to ask my agent that question.

It is one of the reasons a seller hires a real estate agent to sell a home. A listing agent is a buffer between the seller and the buyer, including the buyer's agent. Let your agent earn their commission and protect your investment.


At the time of writing, Elizabeth Weintraub, CalBRE # 00697006, is a Broker-Associate at Lyon Real Estate in Sacramento, California.