While Your Home is on the Market - Protecting Your Privacy
What Does Your Home Disclose About You?
Are your secrets safe? Before a home goes on the market and home buyers start to traipse through, savvy sellers will relocate confidential information. Even so, you might be astonished to learn what home buyers can figure out about you.
- Is it snooping to open a drawer?
Not if the drawer is part of a built-in such as a kitchen cabinet or a dining room china cabinet. Buyers can innocently tug on a drawer to inspect its construction or depth and find important documents that you might not intend for anyone to see.
I once opened a drawer and discovered the seller's net sheet sitting on top of her comparative market analysis, in plain view. It clearly indicated a lower price was expected, so you can guess what my buyer offered.
- Don't leave mail where anybody can find it.
Lots of sellers leave piles of opened mail neatly stacked on the kitchen counter. Buyers could find out how much you owe department stores or other credit cards. They can tell if you're late on your mortgage payments or if the I.R.S. is after you. Heaven forbid should you file bankruptcy or be sued and leave those documents on the table, but sellers do it. They must believe that buyers will not read someone else's personal mail, even when that mail is taped to the refrigerator door, begging to be read.
I've also shown vacant homes where the mail was tossed all over the floor in the entryway. Neither the seller nor his listing agent bothered to stop by and pick up the mail. It wasn't hard to figure out that much of the mail contained collection notices. If a buyer was armed with that information, guess what price the buyer would be thinking about. It wouldn't be list price.
Notwithstanding that all personal items should be removed, sometimes sellers overlook the obvious and leave diplomas on the wall. People form biases and can carry a bias too far. For example, the seller might be a lawyer, and there are buyers who might not feel comfortable buying a home from a lawyer.
Wedding photos might give away the seller's religion, as do certain religious artifacts left in the home. Buyers can be prejudiced. Don't give buyers a way to form any opinion about you at all. Don't let buyers form ideas about you from the type of music you like or the literature you read.
Contents of Closets
Often sellers who are separating or getting divorced feel a lot of pressure to sell quickly, especially if the partner who remains in the home cannot afford to continue to maintain it. But that is not information most sellers want to share with buyers. Yet they do. They may as well toss their wallet out the car window doing 80 on the freeway.
They do this by hanging either all men's or all women's clothing in the closet. Was it a heterosexual or bisexual involvement? Who cares? It's nobody's business, really, if a seller is dissolving a relationship. But once a buyer finds out a seller desperately needs to sell, the buyer won't make an offer anywhere near list price.
So don't leave any telltale clues around that could give away your motivation to sell.
Before you put your home in the market, please, prep it; empty out drawers, stage closets and pack up anything remotely personal. If your house speaks to a buyer about you, it's probably saying the wrong thing.
At the time of writing, Elizabeth Weintraub, DRE # 00697006, is a Broker-Associate at Lyon Real Estate in Sacramento, California.