Show Time


By Diane Saatchi

If you’ve listed your home for sale, there’s a good chance you love it.

It’s full of memories, from your child’s first birthday to her college graduation. When you look at it, you remember backyard barbecues and diving contests in the pool. It’s a wonderful place, and whoever buys it will be lucky to have it.

You can’t wait to start showing it, to tell those who come to see it all about those treasured memories, the good care you have taken and all the special things you did to the house and property over the years. But your broker won’t let you.

Illustration Credit: Michael Robertson

Illustration Credit: Michael Robertson

Ever wonder why your real estate agent does not want to you be at home when there is a showing and an open house?

If your agent is a pro, he or she will tell you at the beginning of the listing term no homeowners or residents should be there for any showings. Don’t take it personally; it is not about you. It’s for the benefit of the buyers and other agents, and ultimately it will help you. The most important things you can do to help are to tidy up and not be home.

In order to sell any home, including yours, your broker needs to hear what other agents and prospective buyers think; honest feedback is invaluable. Do you really think they can do that when you, the person who loves every scratch and every stair, are there? Buyers and agents don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, and they’ll nod and smile and say it’s lovely … and then they’ll get in the car with their broker and say they don’t like it at all.

Aside from the inherent awkwardness of making the buyer judge someone else’s home to their face, having the homeowner there during a showing can also present a few other issues.

Sometimes a customer will walk into a house and immediately know it’s not for them. If the owner is home, they can’t turn around and leave. They have to spend time looking like they are interested, which wastes everyone’s time. Or, if they like the house and want to look carefully, the owner may distract them with stories and facts that may not be relevant to the particular shopper. Customers, who typically look at several properties in one trip, don’t have time for an extra 45 minutes of nodding and smiling. The arrangement of a day’s appointments with listing agents and homeowners requires much coordination, as well as an estimate of time at and the travel time between each house. It only takes one over-eager homeowner to throw off the whole day.

The same goes for open houses: The homeowner shouldn’t be there. Open houses draw other brokers, and brokers are forthcoming about price and condition with one another. But they can’t be as open in front of the homeowner. If a homeowner is at an open house for which I’m the listing agent, I’ll wait at the front door and tell the visitors that the owner is home. It’s code for “watch what you say.”  At those times, I won’t get the necessary feedback I need to sell the house, and owners may be misled by polite praise.

Home surveillance systems are nearly as bad — but not quite

In recent years, there’s been another element of awkwardness: home surveillance systems. Nowadays, homeowners can watch and listen remotely.

In some respects, of course, these systems serve a good purpose. The security they provide can be invaluable, yet being watched, heard and evaluated makes both the agents and the customers uncomfortable. If you have such a system or install one during a listing term, please let your listing agent know about it. No one likes to be spied on, especially someone you’ve entrusted with access to your home and the job of selling a major asset.

The chief drawback when it comes to brokers and customers, however, isn’t just the fact that they’re being surveilled (which has all of the downsides I’ve outlined above), but that it complicates the process. Scheduling viewings can be hard, especially in the summer when traffic is thick and cell service is sparse. It’s not unusual to be running late — and getting a call from the homeowner, who’s watching remotely, asking why you aren’t there when you were supposed to arrive 20 minutes ago, doesn’t make things any less stressful or more productive.

So, when a homeowner and I are talking about listing their home, I tell them upfront: When customers come to see the house, you shouldn’t be there. I’ll always call as far in advance as possible. If you’re not comfortable with leaving for showings, you might want to consider selling on your own.

If you are a seller who has been banished from your home during showings, it may put your mind at ease to be reassured that your agent knows all the relevant information and will use it judiciously. She won’t reveal confidential information.

Please don’t take this the wrong way. I know how important a showing is to a homeowner and I am well aware of how much time, effort and anticipation is involved. A quick and seemingly disinterested look is a colossal disappointment. But being there is not going to make someone fall in love, while not being there may offer the comfort and privacy needed for someone to feel at home. After all, feeling at home is what this is all about.

© 2018 Diane Saatchi