Sometimes selling your home is a breeze. But sometimes a good home sale goes bad. Very bad. And you may not even be sure just why, exactly, your home sits stagnant on the market -- or why you end up losing money on the sale.
To find out how things can go wildly off the rails in a home sale, we asked Realtors for some horror stories. No, you're probably not one of these self-sabotaging nightmare home sellers. But you can learn from their mistakes. Or, if you'd prefer, just revel in their craziness. Enjoy!
1. The 'Soup Nazi' seller
You know that famous "Seinfeld" episode with the "Soup Nazi," where the proprietor of a mouthwateringly delicious soup shop regularly refused service to anyone he didn't like? That's what happened here, but worse. Because even the Soup Nazi didn't take your money first.
Mark Ferguson, a Realtor and property investor in Greeley, CO, says he had a client who simply decided he didn't want to sell to the buyer -- or give back the buyer's earnest money.
After the buyer expressed some qualms about the lack of repairs being done after damage from a hailstorm, the "House Nazi" put his foot down: No house for you!
"The seller's main reason for not wanting to give back the earnest money was they did not like the buyer, even though they did not know them at all," Ferguson explains. It was wrong. It was irrational. And eventually it was litigious.
Eventually the seller agreed to give the money back, but not out of the goodness of his heart. He only did so "once [he] found out going to mediation would cost just as much as the earnest money," Ferguson explains.
Come to the light side: You can't keep someone's earnest money just because you don't like the person. There are specific instances on when you can keep a seller's earnest money and times when you definitely have to give it back. Follow the rules -- you'll be glad you did.
2. The delusional seller
We all know that when you're selling, you should clear your home of personal memorabilia, in order to allow buyers to envision themselves there. One seller in Phoenix apparently didn't get the memo.
Real estate agent Casey Cuppy of The Cuppy Group in Phoenix saw it as soon as she walked into her client's house:
It was "a life-size mural of the Rat Pack painted on the living room wall," Cuppy recalls. "It was a very detailed and creepy painting. It even startled me the first time."
Not only did the seller refuse to remove the painting, but he considered it to be a home upgrade -- and wanted to recoup the cost by tacking on $100,000 to the home price, Cuppy recalls.
Unable to sell the home after 90 days, the owner rented it out but wouldn't even let the tenants cover up the ghastly thing. He went with another Realtor, but the home remains on the market to this day, Cuppy says.
Come to the light side: The owner should have been paying attention to what his agent was telling him -- instead of doing the complete opposite. "The seller should have either offered a credit for the painting or taken the mural down itself," Cuppy says.
3. The interfering seller
Some people can get a little too involved in the home-selling process. That's what happened to Joshua Jarvis, a real estate agent in Atlanta when one of his clients decided to sell the house to the neighbors -- without Jarvis' help.
"Of course I begin to ask questions about qualifications," Jarvis explains. The seller told him: "No, no, this person is legit, they are going to pay cash."
After some back-and-forth, the neighbors decided to get a loan instead, even though they had the cash. That was a little weird, but they still proceeded with the contract. Until a week later, when the neighbors completely stopped responding, backed out of the deal, and put a stop payment on their earnest deposit.
"My sellers had to start over," Jarvis says.
Come to the light side: The sellers could easily have avoided all this frustration and time wasted if they had heeded Jarvis' warning. "If you're going to pay for (the expertise of) a Realtor, then use them," Jarvis says.
His clients are now back in the game and using their agent.
4. The uncompromising seller
For most people, buying and selling a home are the biggest financial transactions of their lifetime. And when you're selling, you can make a whole bunch of cash on the deal -- but you'll have to be willing to make some compromises.
Ferguson had a seller who apparently never heard this truism. He was looking to make $80,000 in the deal, but had a 17-year-old, rusty, leaking water heater that needed to be replaced before the buyers would proceed with the purchase. The total cost of repair? About $800.
But the seller wouldn't budge. "[They] thought the $800 water heater was worth killing the deal over," Ferguson recalls.
Luckily for the seller, the buyer ended up paying for the repairs.
Come to the light side: In this instance, the seller made out like a bandit. And while that can be construed as shrewd business, it's also a pretty big -- and most would say, unreasonable -- gamble. It would have been safer for the seller to use 1% of his profits to ensure the deal went through.
"That was a huge risk for a little bit of money," Ferguson says.
5. The 'cat man' seller
We've all heard of the "cat lady" -- after all, an older woman who lives alone with a few dozen cats qualifies as a bit eccentric. But what about her male counterpart?
"We once had an older gentlemen sell his property through our firm, who was, to put it lightly, a nightmare," says Jamal Asskoumi, co-owner of the online estate agency CastleSmart.com.
Asskoumi said the house itself was very impressive and the man demanded top dollar. Yet he completely refused to cut the grass on his overgrown lawn.
"When questioned about it, he simply answered, 'I don't want to and I won't,'" Asskoumi says. "The visitors of the property were not as nonchalant about the eyesore that was his front lawn, particularly because the house was glorious and the man was asking a lot for it."
That was the first warning sign. And then there were the cats. The seller let the felines roam around the home during showings, which bothered some buyers (especially those who were allergic). Asskoumi suggested he let the cats outside, or otherwise confine them. But again the seller refused and put all of them in the living room during a visitation.
Come to the light side: Clearly, this guy should have listened to his agents. All he had to do was cut his lawn and do something with the cats so they weren't roaming around his property.
"It was a very strange scenario: He seemed to be sabotaging his own sale," Asskoumi notes. He's not sure if the man ever made the sale, but "he definitely didn't sell it with us." And maybe that's just as well.
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