In most real estate transactions, it is rare for buyers and sellers to meet in person before closing day. The simple reason is that things can go wrong, very wrong. Most real estate agents prefer to avoid face-to-face meetings because there’s always a chance their clients might make an ill-timed faux pas and jeopardize the whole deal. This is mainly why your agent will ask you to leave most of the talking to them.
But even with these risks, there are benefits to arranging for an in-person meeting. When done right, it could be the meeting that seals the deal. Here’s a rundown on everything you need to know about face-to-face meetings between buyers and sellers.
Advantages for HomebuyersAdvantages for Homebuyers
You can get more detailed answers.You can get more detailed answers.
Why do you want to meet with the sellers? Chances are, you have a few questions about the home. A meeting is your chance to get answers about what it is like to live there and whether there are any issues to know. The sellers may even be able to give you some tips and advice on living in the neighborhood, like their favorite local restaurants or yearly events.
It’s a chance to convince the sellers you’ll take good care of the home.It’s a chance to convince the sellers you’ll take good care of the home.
Selling a home can be quite an emotional experience. Sellers who have lived in their homes for many years may want reassurances that the new owners will look after the place. For buyers, an in-person meeting is your chance to convince them that YOU are those new owners they’re looking for. From that point on, you’re no longer an anonymous buyer; you’re a flesh and blood person that, hopefully, now has a bit of rapport with the sellers. When meetings like this are successful, they can be far more effective than even the best buyer love letter.
Risks for HomebuyersRisks for Homebuyers
There’s a chance of misunderstandings.There’s a chance of misunderstandings.
The biggest issue with meeting the sellers is that there’s a chance of miscommunications and misunderstandings. Either party saying the wrong thing could hurt negotiations. For instance, the buyers could mention their plans to remodel the home, which might concern the sellers that some of those costs will be passed onto them. They may even take offense that the buyers are planning a drastic renovation, suggesting the home as it currently stands is not in good condition. Poorly chosen remarks like this are best left unsaid until you’ve reached the closing table.
You may uncover issues with the home.You may uncover issues with the home.
It is important to know what you’re buying, but this could work against you if you are not in a signed contract. For instance, an innocent remark by the seller that “the neighbors seem quiet today” could signal to the buyer that they’re usually a lot noisier. Provided both parties have not signed the purchasing contract yet, the buyer has a chance to back out now and get their deposit back. But if they’re fully in contract already, then they have no way to back out without losing their deposit.
Advantages for Home SellersAdvantages for Home Sellers
You may feel better about passing the home onto them.You may feel better about passing the home onto them.
A buyer’s financials should be the main concern for sellers. So long as the numbers look good and they can back up their offer, there should be nothing more you need to know about them. But there’s always the human element, and some sellers would like to put a face to their buyers. It may assuage some of their doubts if they can see that the buyers are real people with hopes and plans for the future just like themselves. We attach a lot of emotions to the places we call home. In many ways, they become almost like a part of ourselves, so it’s natural to want to know that the new owners will take care of the home.
It could smoothen out any difficulties with the negotiations.It could smoothen out any difficulties with the negotiations.
Negotiations can sometimes drag on for longer than usual. If you’ve reached a deadlock where neither agent can see a way past, a meeting between the buyers and sellers might be what’s needed. It may be that much of the difficulty with the negotiations has been due to some misunderstanding that can be cleared up quickly. Perhaps one party had made assumptions about the other that they can now see were misplaced. Even if the negotiations haven’t been particularly fraught, a pleasant meeting could make the whole transaction process go a lot easier. The buyers and sellers now have a better understanding of each other and can probably get over any hurdles that appear along the way.
Risks for Home SellersRisks for Home Sellers
You may commit a Fair Housing Act violation.You may commit a Fair Housing Act violation.
The Fair Housing Act of 1968 stipulates that it is illegal to discriminate in selling a house against individuals because of their race, color, national origin, religion, gender, familial status, or disability. Your listing agent will have a firm understanding of this and avoid any remarks that could be construed as discriminatory. However, this may not be as clear to a seller. In the wrong context, an innocuous comment or joke could land you in hot water, and even a remark about how diverse the neighborhood is could be misconstrued. If the buyers feel truly offended, you may find yourself on the receiving end of a lawsuit.
You may find you don’t like the buyers very much.You may find you don’t like the buyers very much.
As much as your listing agent might tell you to only focus on whether a buyer is financially qualified, even they know there’s more to it than that. It’s reasonable to want to put a face to the buyers and understand why they’re attracted to your home. In a pleasant meeting, this can end up being highly beneficial for both parties. But there’s also a chance the meeting will not go to plan, and you’ll end up developing a dislike for the buyers. Now you’ve complicated things even further. The tension between both parties could torpedo what had otherwise been a sure thing.
How to Conduct a Safe Meeting Between Buyers and SellersHow to Conduct a Safe Meeting Between Buyers and Sellers
With the above risks and rewards now being apparent, you may now be wondering if there is a safe approach for conducting a meeting? The real estate agents may still have some doubts about this wisdom and for a good reason. But if negotiations are deadlocked, and their clients seem dead set on making this happen, there are a few things you can do to make it less risky.
1. Have both real estate agents present at the meeting1. Have both real estate agents present at the meeting
Your agent is your representative throughout the transaction. Their job is to point out issues, guide you through the process, and protect your interests. As such, you’ll want them there for this meeting. It is just better for everyone involved when both agents are present. Let them be the ones to lead the conversation and keep everyone on track.
2. Stick to the focus of the meeting: the house2. Stick to the focus of the meeting: the house
While these should be formal meetings, they can also be a bit informal as the buyers and sellers get to know each other. A bit of small talk is fine but try to remember why you’re here. Stick to the main point of discussion, which is the house. The more chance for side talk, the more chance one party will say something they’ll later regret.
3. Be and look your best3. Be and look your best
First impressions count, so you’ll want to look your very best at the meeting. That goes for your behavior as well; it should be polite and cordial. If a problem crops up, leave it alone until you can discuss it later with your agent after the meeting. Both sides should leave the meeting feeling satisfied. This is not the time for heated arguments or stern ultimatums.
Final ThoughtsFinal Thoughts
Buyers and sellers rarely meet in person and the reasons why are clear to see. There is no need for it in most cases, and many can go wrong when they happen. That said, you can arrange meetings if both parties are game for it. A cordial meeting might even be just what’s needed to get the ball rolling on the deal. Just know the risks involved and follow your agent’s advice.