What Not to Say When You’re Buying or Selling a Home

What Not to Say When You’re Buying or Selling a Home
Photo: Andy Dean Photography, Shutterstock

While buying or selling a home can bring up a lot of personal feelings, it’s ultimately a business deal, and it’s best to keep your cards close to your chest. Expressing every thought you have or sharing every detail about your situation could backfire, making you less competitive, compromising your leverage, or losing you the sale entirely.

Here are a few things to keep to yourself when buying or selling a home.

You are in a hurry

A sense of urgency tells prospective buyers that you may be willing to take whatever offer comes along in order to close the deal — or it lets sellers know that they can negotiate a counteroffer more in their favour. Don’t tell the other party that things have to happen fast unless you’re prepared to close under potentially less favourable terms.

You may also want to avoid disclosure of personal details that indicate urgency, including that you’re moving due to divorce, major illness, or financial challenges.

You are in absolutely no rush

This applies mostly to sellers: If your listing agent doesn’t consider your sale a priority, your home could stay on the market for a while and lose its competitive edge. In most cases, you want to demand to be high and fast — even if you’re willing to wait for the right offer.

This is your dream home

As a prospective buyer, you may believe that gushing over someone’s home is endearing and likely to improve your chances of having your offer accepted. In some cases, it might. However, it could also communicate to the seller that you’ll do anything to win, including paying higher than list price or overlooking flaws, and cause you to lose leverage in negotiations. Play it cool.

You hate the decor

On the flip side, insulting a seller’s taste probably won’t win you the house. Remember that furniture, artwork, paint colours, cabinets, light fixtures — everything, really — are temporary and can be adjusted to your preferences when you’re the owner. You don’t want to come off as rude or difficult to work with.

You think the listing price is too high

Basically, keep any judgments about the property you’re viewing to yourself. You might think this, but saying it to the seller or their agent is likely to put them on the defensive.

You have a specific dollar amount to spend

If you tell a seller or their listing agent that you have a specific budget, they’re probably going to expect you to spend every last cent of it. Similarly, if you communicate that you only have X number of dollars and it’s less than what other prospective buyers might bid, they could discount your offer right away.

Don’t communicate anything about your finances to anyone who isn’t contracted to work for your interests.

You want a specific type of buyer

As a seller, you may want to hand your home off to a buyer you connect with and who you believe will care for the property. However, having a specific type of person or family in mind is a slippery slope toward discrimination. Many real estate pros are now discouraging more personal connections, such as “love letters” from buyers, that could violate the Fair Housing Act.

Any direct personal questions

While it may seem harmless to ask a seller why they’re moving or to ask the neighbours very pointed questions about the area and their experience living there, this too could lead to defensiveness or gossip or a violation of personal boundaries.

Any hard-and-fast rules

Finally, you probably want to keep any absolutes to yourself. For example, if you tell your listing agent that you won’t accept offers below a certain dollar amount, or that you want “serious” offers only, you could miss out on great opportunities that could be negotiated in your favour. It’s fine to have your own expectations in mind, but staying flexible is likely to leave you with more and better options.

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