Does it Matter Why They’re Selling?

Exquisite home available only due to job transfer.

–Generic blurb on MLS

Does it matter why someone’s selling their home?

Prospective Buyers certainly seem to think so; seasoned Realtors, not so much.

Here are three reasons why Realtors place much less emphasis on Seller motivation than the general public.

One. The only time you’re going to know the Seller’s motivation is if it serves their interests to tell you.

Divulging a job transfer can certainly make sense, especially if the owner has only been in the home a short time.

Otherwise, the Seller’s “(bottom line) price, terms, and motivation” are strictly off-limits, as every Realtor has drilled into them.

The rest of the time, you’re likely to hear variants of, “the Seller needs a bigger/smaller/different home” — sort of like the coroner citing “decedent stopped breathing” as the cause of death: literally true, but meaningless.

Two. Duty to Disclose, etc.

If the Seller is moving because their home is near a toxic waste dump, sits atop an earthquake fault line, or holds some other dark secret, you’d certainly want to know.

And you would.

There would likely be multiple news accounts documenting any environmental or neighborhood issue(s). Plus, the Sellers themselves have a legal duty, at least in Minnesota, to disclose any material facts affecting their home’s condition.

Even if you lived in a bubble, hopefully your Realtor doesn’t, and they would alert you.

Prospective buyers also can — and should — avail themselves of publicly available police reports, utility bills, etc.

I even advocate knocking on neighbors’ doors (during daylight hours!), debriefing mailmen, etc.

Three. The home’s condition and price speak for themselves.

A good Realtor who knows the neighborhood and overall market can quickly determine if a given home is well-priced, in good condition, etc.

By the second (or third) showing, prospective Buyers likely know, too.

Just to make sure, every Buyer should expect to pay an experienced home inspector $300-$400 to carefully evaluate the home for them (call that “trust but verify”).

Trust But Verify

So, how can you tell when a Seller isn’t motivated? (And their home is usually overpriced, to boot)

The listing is larded with language like “priced to sell,” “make an offer,” “Hurry! Don’t miss your chance,” etc.

Often times, when you see such listings, you pull their history and discover that they’ve been on the market . . . since 1998!

P.S.: one of my favorite New Yorker cartoons shows a father and son in front of a storefront plastered with signs reading “Liquidation sale!” “90% off everything!” “Must sacrifice,” etc.

The caption: ‘some day, son, this will all be yours.’

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.
1 Response
  1. Anonymous

    Depending on the seller's relocation package and what the corporate relocation home sale benefits entail, knowing that a home is for sale due to job transfer means that a good deal may already be available, or can be struck in negotiation.

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