Should the sellers be present when a prospect is looking at a house?

I would like to hear from not only Realtors[sup]TM[/sup] but also home buyers and sellers, past, present and future.

It’s conventional Realtor wisdom in my area that the seller(s) should vacate the premises when a property is being shown to a potential buyer. The reasoning is the buyer(s) and agents can converse and investigate anything they want without worrying about being overheard or giving away something like “Oh, isn’t this lovely!” that might affect price negotiations. And the sellers might have an emotional tie to the property that could cause problems.

But, in house showings, there are often questions raised by the buyers that the owners can answer better than the data sheets or the agent, who is often uninformed. Thus, the sellers’ presence can be valuable and could lead to a sale. And I rarely find sellers “hovering” around buyers anyway; they usually hang around discretely in the background, available if needed.

So what’s the best policy? Banish sellers during showings or encourage them to be present?

Banished. The seller can answer any questions later and I don’t have to bite my tongue on paint color, furniture, pictures of children, etc.


Just so I know which pile to sort your reply into, are you speaking as a Realtor, buyer, seller? Present, past, future?

I’d say banished. I hated it when the current owners were in the house I was looking at. You couldn’t talk freely about what you did or didn’t like.
Also, you don’t feel as comfortable throughly investigating the closets and such with them around. I know I didn’t look around as much as I should have when we bought our house for just that reason. The wife and five of the eight children were home at the time.

I’ve only been on the buying end, and that only once. I sold my Dad’s house, but he was deceased so it wasn’t an issue.

I’ve only been a home-buyer, never a seller, but I found it extremely uncomfortable to look at a house with the owners around. Even if they stayed in the background, it was just weird. Had I found a home I really loved the owners being present wouldn’t have stopped me from making an offer, exactly, but I was never comfortable enough to really look in those cases, I just said thanks and got out quick.

A second or third showing might be different, though, that’s where your point about being around to answer questions might make sense. The owners were home when I came for a second look at the house I eventually bought, I’d brought my Dad along to check out all the mechanical stuff and the husband was quite helpful explaining various remods that had been done.

Speaking as someone who is to meet the potential buyers for my house today at 1:00 at my house, I can say that it’s best for you not to be present at the first showing (although I was, not because I planned it). Give them a chance to really look through it and to express freely to their realtor any concerns. Many people aren’t good about confrontation, and if they have concerns wouldn’t be able to address them directly. That’s why they have a realtor. Sometimes it would seem easier if the buyer and I could just sit down and hash all these thongs out between us without having to write up offers and counter-offers and addendums, but all those things have their purpose.

Wish me luck!


StGermain, good luck! :slight_smile:

FWIW, I have had [nonsexual] roommates before,and gotten ripped off when I wasnt home, so NOBODY comes into my home if I am not there. The only exception is emergency services - police, fire, ambulance.

My current roomies and mrAru and I have pretty much the same pool of friends. so we all tend to hang out together so there is no problem.

Left Hand of Dorkness and I bought our first house last October. When we were looking, I definitely preferred it if the sellers weren’t at home while we were there. It’s definitely awkward to coldbloodedly size up someone’s home while they’re in the house. If a potential buyer has questions, the realtor can always found out the answers from the sellers later. Banish the sellers, I say!

Not only was the seller present while we were looking at our current house, but the kids and grandkids were there. And it was very annoying. When they’r there you can’t make the normal comments to the realtor. And it’s creepy opening the closests and stuff while the owners are looking over your shoulder.

At another house we looked at. It was around 6:00 p.m., and the owner was just getting up to work the night shift. His wife was fixing him something to eat, and he stumbles into the kitchen with his hair sticking up and his jammies on. Imagine his suprise when he saw me, my husband, and the realtor admiring the new cabinets he had installed.

I had several people look at our house while me and my baby son were there. But that was only because I didn’t have a car.

If I’m the buyer and the sellers are in the house, I’m going to try to bypass the realtor and directly ask the sellers’ about the house’s condition (any leaks in the roof, sewage backup in the basement, serial killer’s victims buried in the backyard, etc.). A good realtor is there to answer those questions and to keep the seller from blurting out something that it would be in the seller’s interest to keep quiet about. Therefore it is in the seller’s own self-interest to get the heck out of there during the first walkthrough.

In other words, you want a very special relationship. :smiley:

I’d say banish them.

Some advice though: have some friends go undercover as potential buyers to make sure that the seller-guy (or gal) is actually doing a good job of showing the house. My aunt and I did this for a neighbor and found that the seller-guy was trying actively to undercut his price! And being very derogatory about him/the property at the same time. Ugh…

Buyer here, just finished a contract last Thursday, and closing date is next month. In total we looked at about 10-15 houses. I generally didn’t like it when the sellers were home, for pretty much the same reasons above (don’t feel comfortable going through closets, bathrooms, storage areas, etc.) Our realtor pretty much knew everything that needed to be known about a house, and extra questions could always be asked of the sellers later if he didn’t. Since he basically told us to get a home inspection anyway, we didn’t ask too many questions about stuff that we might not know about (electric, foundation, furnace/AC, etc.).

The first house we did look at though, the owners were home, and they were extremely nice and we were strongly considering buying it, except the price ended up being slightly too high and we would have to wait a few months to close.

So, in general, sellers being home = bad idea IMO. Usually we made appointments for showings so the owners could vacate. A couple of times they were home however, and they stayed in the background (not as bad, but still not preferable).


Real Estate salesperson here…internet connection is bad today, so excuse me if I seem short.

In Illinois, the seller is required by law to disclose any material defects that they know about (which would not include a murder). Your realtor should be acting in your best interest, and if there are specific issues you are concerned about, should be on top of finding out that information for you. Also, if there are serious issues (or even not serious issues), they would probably be found out by a reputable inspector.

The realtor isn’t there to keep the seller from blurting out…in most cases (here in Illinois), the seller’s realtor isn’t going to be present at a showing, and in fact probably less likely to be there than the seller. And to clear up a common misconception (although I’m not sure if this is what you were getting at), YOUR realtor is to represent you and your interests. Any scrupulous realtor (and yes, most of them are) will not encourage you to buy a house without your best interests in mind.

Lastly, for those who are nervous about their property being stolen when showing the home…you shouldn’t have anything in the house that means anything to you when showing the home anyway. If you must have that stuff in house, then obviously you’ll want to be there.

I think mostly the seller not being there is out of respect for the buyer so they will feel comfortable. Buyer will likely be inhibited and not linger to talk about the possibilities of the place if they’re worried the seller will be offended.

Obviously, I’m in favor of the seller being absent.

Just to clarify, there are some areas in Illinois (such as Chicago) where the seller’s agent does accompany the showing. But they still have to disclose any material defects if asked AND if they are a good realtor they may present the house but not pressure the buyer.

As a seller, I’d rather not be there. I’m trying to sell a used motorhome right now and it’s really no different. Made the mistake of going over to the consignment lot to meet a prospective buyer. The woman spent a half-hour in and around the thing proclaiming what a piece of crap it is, trying to drive the price down.

I finally told her that I wouldn’t sell it to her for twice the price; that I’d rather park it on the side of the road and walk away from it than sell it to her. Yeah, it didn’t go well. The owner of the lot told me he’d always wanted to do that to someone.