“For Sale” or “For Rent” — But not Both

A small — but growing — percentage of single-family homes on the market locally now have a second sign in their front lawns: one that says, “For Rent.”

I have no statistics backing me up — I doubt any exist — but I’d estimate the number is 5%, up from maybe 1% a few years ago. Clearly, many frustrated (desperate?) Sellers are exploring their options, including anything that helps defray their monthly holding costs.

Unfortunately, sporting dual “For Sale” and “For Rent” signs may deter both prospective Buyers and renters.

Rental Stigma?

For Buyers, a “For Rent” sign is a turn-off because, frankly, rental properties are seldom in the same condition as owner-occupied homes. Just as nobody ever washes a rental car, few renters invest the kind of TLC that owners do.

That’s why, on the Multiple Listing Service (“MLS“) database, owner-occupied duplexes call attention to that fact, or, if the property is in especially good condition, tout their potential for owner-occupancy. (Truth be told, many not-so-great duplexes also claim to be perfect for owner-occupants.)

In the conservative, apple pie Midwest, owners simply occupy a higher place in the social pecking order than renters. So it’s usually a mistake for Sellers to associate their single-family home with renting.

As a realtor, I have a second association with dual “For Sale/Rent” signs: they usually indicate an overpriced property that has been on the market awhile.

Motivated Sellers don’t use language like “Must Sell!,” “Make an Offer,” etc. Rather, they get their home in the best possible condition, stage it well, and hire a good realtor to position it in the marketplace. A key part of market positioning is choosing an appropriate list price.

In my experience, when Sellers do all of those things, their homes invariably . . . sell, regardless of market circumstances.

When you see two signs in the lawn instead of one, it’s a good bet that one — or more — of the foregoing steps has been skipped.

Renter Turn-off’s

Meanwhile, prospective renters can’t help but notice the “For Sale” sign. Even though leases survive a title transfer, renters seldom know that. At the very least, they may reasonably wonder how a prospective change in ownership will affect them.

Exiting owners have little incentive to invest serious money in a property they’re selling, or even stay on top of garden variety maintenance. In fact, financial duress may be why they’re selling.

In today’s market, you have to at least consider the possibility that the current owner’s circumstances may be so dire that the property will go into foreclosure, further clouding the status of any renter.

Even if the new owner is an individual rather than a bank, it remains to be seen what kind of landlord they’ll be.

All of these considerations inject uncertainty and distractions into a process that is already stressful enough.

For prospective Buyers and renters alike, simplicity sells. That’s why owners should decide whether they’re Sellers or Landlords — but not both.

About the author

Ross Kaplan has 19+ years experience selling real estate all over the Twin Cities. He is also a 12-time consecutive "Super Real Estate Agent," as determined by Mpls. - St. Paul Magazine and Twin Cities Business Magazine. Prior to becoming a Realtor, Ross was an attorney (corporate law), CPA, and entrepreneur. He holds an economics degree from Stanford.

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