Novice Realtors Rush In Where Pro’s Fear to Tread

“Never negotiate furniture.”
“Never negotiate furniture.”
“Never negotiate furniture.”
“Never negotiate furniture.”

Realtors who don’t know the above rule ” or forget it ” soon get the opportunity to (re)learn it.

That’s because negotiating the sale of personal property, particularly furniture, can be more challenging than dealing with the preceding house sale.

That can be true even though the dollars involved are puny, perhaps only 1% (or less) of the house transaction.

I can think of five reasons why negotiating furniture can be such a headache challenge:

One. Unrealistic expectations.

Sorry, Sellers, while Buyers are hardly innocent (see #5), in my experience a great many Sellers unwittingly booby-trap the process by starting out with unrealistic expectations.

Fair or not, used furniture typically fetches something like 10¢ on the dollar.

In some cases, it actually has a negative value (yup, it’s literally less than worthless).

That can be true for especially large or fragile pieces of furniture that have to be professionally moved (or disposed of).

Two. Emotions.

This one also implicates Sellers.

As emotional as the sale of a home can be after decades living there, personal property can be even more . . . uh, well, personal.

Sellers aren’t negotiating a price for a rocking chair, they’re selling Grandpa’s wedding gift.

Put another way: personal property can be highly valuable, but it’s emotional value, not economic value.

Complicating matters further . . .

Three. There’s a lot of it.

A complete personal property list for a 4 Bedroom, 3,000 square foot home can easily be 2 pages, single-spaced.

That’s A LOT of details ” and potential disputes.

Four. Negotiation fatigue.

Compounding Reasons #1 — #3, negotiating furniture typically comes after the Purchase Agreement has been signed, and the Inspection Contingency resolved.

While it can be the case that the Buyer and Seller are now BFF’s, it’s at least remotely possible that everyone is suffering from negotiation fatigue, and not feeling so generous or flexible.

That’s not a good way to commence yet another round of negotiation.

Five. Overreaching Buyers.

And, just so you don’t think that I’m letting Buyers completely off the hook, Buyers often don’t help their case by assuming that they’ve got the Seller over a barrel, and can therefore offer even less than fair market value.

Seller Alternatives

Sellers almost always have an alternative to simply forfeiting their personal property to the incoming Buyer, assuming it’s nicer stuff in decent condition.

One good option is donating it.

Another option is to conduct an estate sale, if there are enough items and value that that makes sense (don’t worry, the estate companies will tell you if it’s worth their while).

If neither of those options is attractive, and the Buyer and Seller indeed want to include a Personal Property Addendum, the easiest strategy is to sell everything at one, package deal price.

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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