On the House: Sellers who are overly involved

Posted: March 25, 2012

It's been almost 11 years since we sold our last house, and my memory tends to be cloudy on some of the details.

Apparently, however, I was not the easiest home seller to work for. At least, that's what my wife and our last listing agent have told me.

I find this difficult to understand. I'm too easygoing, and I choose compromise over confrontation every time. That's the reason why, whenever our listing agent called to suggest something to make the house more marketable, I would hand the telephone to my wife.

Over the years, many contractors have turned down the chance to work for me, again because I am perceived to be a difficult taskmaster.

That, too, is not true. If it were, I would not be on the verge of hiring my fourth electrician in eight years to fix the light switch in our television room.

I don't even rank at the top of the list of professional cranks, real estate agents and home inspectors confirmed in discussions for my March 9 "Home Economics" column in the Business section.

Diane Williams, of Weichert Realtors in Blue Bell, was at a brokers' open house - a gathering of agents to check out a new listing - a few hours after I'd posed a question to her about seller involvement.

"We were discussing the young sellers [30 to 45 years old] who really do believe they know way more than the agents," Williams said. "They seem to want to be in control of the transaction and don't really pay too much attention to the agent's advice."

One was dealing with a seller in this age group who spent no less than 20 minutes on every aspect of the sale, offering his point of view.

"Perhaps this age group is among the 'entitled' generation whose parents never said 'no' to them," she said - parents who tagged along with their college-student children when they talked with professors about grades.

"Sellers are a real mixed lot these days," ranging from informed about the current market "to harboring beliefs rooted in the Stone Ages of the early 2000s," said Cheryl Miller, of Long & Foster Real Estate in Blue Bell.

The sellers who missed the market and didn't sell high when their neighbors did "think they know it all, and they are wrong," Miller said.

The really funny stuff came from Harris Gross, of Engineers for Home Inspections in Cherry Hill, and Kris Keller, of Key Building Inspections of Kimberton.

A lot of sellers are hanging around during inspections these days, they said, trying to "explain" some deferred-maintenance issues or justify decisions to do repairs or renovations the way were done.

"Last month, we were in a recently remodeled home and couldn't find the interior opening to the flue in the chimney," Keller said. "The seller said, 'It's not a problem, it's right behind this new wall,' with the kitchen range sitting in front of it."

Keller said she wasn't sure how the buyer would ever have known that.

"It is not uncommon to hear sellers' comments like, 'I probably shouldn't tell you this, but,' or 'Oh, are you going to put this into the report?' " she said.

"It's amazing how often the really creative fixes are done by people you would think would know better," Keller added.

Though they understand sellers' angst, she and Gross said, they see some homeowners behaving badly.

"A couple of days ago, the seller followed the buyer and me around, placing himself between me and the buyer," Gross said. He suggested to the seller that "following us around was not in anyone's best interest, and that my inspection is objective."

Keller said she has stories, too, about sellers' animals "who feel they are the rightful owners and try to interpose themselves with our inspection process."

For another day, perhaps.

On the House:

Inquirer real estate writer Alan J. Heavens' home improvement column appears Fridays in Home & Design. See instructional videos at Al's Place. Go to philly.com/yourplace

Contact Alan J. Heavens at 215-854-2472, aheavens@phillynews.com or @alheavens at Twitter.

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