Flies Tenants, Honey, & Vinegar

“A home sale can have many potential deal killers. Emotions can run high. There can be hidden agendas. From tenants who don’t want to move to the child who doesn’t want to see the family home sold, third-party players can block or undo a transaction. For agents, it can mean playing a combination of sleuth and therapist.”

–“Who Killed the Deal to Sell Your House? It Was an Inside Job“; The Wall Street Journal (5/15/2018).

[Editor’s note:  thanks to Alan Crystal and Helen Kaplan for bringing the WSJ article to my attention.]

I don’t know about wayward kids and housekeepers, but I do know a way to minimize the risk that uncooperative tenants will torpedo a home showing — and therefore the owner’s chance at a sale.


Give ’em a break on their rent while the house is on the market.

Sale Saboteurs

That accomplishes two things:  1) it acknowledges the hassle and inconvenience of letting nosy strangers into their home (even if someone else has title, it is the renter’s home, however temporarily); and 2) it incentivizes the renter to be cooperative (vs. obstructionist.)

So, a typical arrangement will provide that the tenant gets a 20% monthly break on their rent in return for keeping the home showing-ready, accommodating showing requests with only 4 hours notice (vs. the more typical 24 hours, etc.), etc.

Even if the monthly rent is $5,000 — enough to lease a palace in the Midwest — that comes to a measly $1,000 per month.**

That’s a pittance compared to the risk of a scotched deal on that same palace (call it $1M — again, in the Midwest).

Only when sugar doesn’t work do smart owners resort to vinegar (egregiously uncooperative behavior almost certainly violates the renter’s lease, and ultimately would be grounds for eviction).

P.S.: substitute “city ordinance” for “lease provision,” and the same strategy works for enlisting neighbors’ cooperation.

**Even better: putting the property on the market once it’s vacant. But, then the financial hit due to foregone rent would be $5k/month in the same scenario.

See also, “What to Do About the Pornographic Statue* on the Neighbor’s Front Lawn“; and “The Most Stressed Member of the Seller’s Household.”

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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