I'll admit it. I love cop shows. I went through a big "Without a Trace" phase a few years back. And I still catch" The Closer" whenever I get a chance. But my all time favorite is the original "Law and Order". We watch reruns while we cook dinner (Ed cooks; I chop).
Anyway, the other night as I chopped onions I was watching an episode I've probably seen ten times, and I realized there was something we Realtors could learn from Detective Lenny Briscoe and company.
Usually, about halfway through the show Lenny and his partner solve the murder and arrest the suspect.
They read him his Miranda Rights and drag him off to the interrogation room for questioning, where they roll into their "good cop, bad cop" routine. Sometimes the perp is smart and lawyers up right away, but often he is (inexplicably) so eager to please the "good cop" that he ends up spilling his guts and incriminating himself.
That's when it struck me that agents should read their sellers their Miranda Rights before they are allowed to talk to prospective buyers or their agents. Sellers want so badly for buyers to like their home, and are so eager to build rapport with them, that they divulge information they shouldn't. We need to remind them that "Anything you say can and will be used against you".
Here are some things that sellers will reveal that can undermine their negotiating position with a buyer:
- They've already bought another house and are closing on it next week.
- They're being transferred to ...(distant city).
- Their mortgage is all paid up.
- They're facing foreclosure if they don't get their house sold soon.
- They hate all the barking dogs or screaming kids in the neighborhood.
- They can't go below x on the price (or they need to make x)
- They're getting a divorce.
Any knowledge that can give buyers negotiating leverage should be kept under wraps. Savvy buyers will ask innocent sounding questions in an attempt to find out about your situation, why you are selling and how desperate you are.
One of the agents in our office even had a buyer tour her listing, see (and read) a letter from a divorce attorney lying on the desk, and then try to use the knowledge of the sellers' impending divorce against them in negotiations.
Obviously you need to be honest when answering questions about the condition of the house - it's the law - but otherwise it's a good idea to keep mum and refer questions to your agent. Better yet, be gone when buyers are touring your home. Things will work out better all around.
If you would like to schedule a buyer or seller consultation with the Come Home North Shore Team, please give us a call at 847.881.6657.