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5 minutes


17 November 2008

Buyers – Meet the sellers

And probably get a better deal.

Buying a home is generally far more stressful than selling a home. Buyers buy with their hearts. Sellers sell with their wallets. Buying is more emotional than selling.

Granted, the sellers are often walking away from a lifetime of memories. But the sellers have a choice – if they want to, they can stay. Generally, they only sell when the money becomes more important (or necessary) than the emotions.

It’s different for buyers. Until the sellers sign a contract, they don’t really have a choice. The buyers are at the mercy of the mood of the sellers (and, often the agent who influences the sellers).

No matter what the agent or the seller may say, buyers can be sure of nothing until the sellers sign a legally binding contract. The spoken word means nothing in real estate.

The agent may say to the buyers (as agents often do), “Congratulations, you’ve just bought the home. The sellers have agreed to your terms.”

Don’t believe it. Sorry. Until it’s in writing you can’t believe anything anyone tells you.

The agents and the sellers can say what they like, but until the sellers sign a contract, anything can happen. The sellers can change their minds and decide not to sell. The sellers can decide to ask for a higher price. The sellers can sell to other buyers without so much as giving the buyers the courtesy of a call. The sellers can even demolish the home if they want to.

In short, if you are a buyer, you cannot believe anything that’s told to you – as many buyers discover.

Every day all over Australia, buyers are getting their hearts broken and their wallets walloped. They think they have bought homes – indeed, they have been told they have “bought” a home (sometimes even in a letter from the agent) – when, really, all they have is a tiny tenuous tentative talked-up agreement.

We’ve all heard the saying “not worth the paper it’s written on”. Well, real estate verbal “agreements” are worth less than these notoriously worthless paper agreements.

Remember this iron-clad rule, buyers (and forget it at your emotional peril). Until the sellers sign a legally binding contract-of-sale to sell their home to you at the verbally agreed terms, you have not bought anything.

It doesn’t matter what they (agents or sellers) have said. If you don’t have a signed contract, you don’t have a deal. No signature, no deal. Get it?

Now, here’s one way that all buyers can strengthen the chance of a verbal agreement being kept.

As soon as you are told, “Congratulations, the home is yours,” make sure you do everything in your power to meet the sellers.

That’s right, go and see them.

Tell the agent, “I want to meet the sellers.”

If the agent gives you the slightest bit of cheek (such as saying something inane like, “What for?”) resist the urge to reply, “Because I want to meet the people who are getting more than half a million dollars of my money, you inconsiderate boof-head,” and just go and knock on the sellers’ door.

“G’day, we are the people who are buying your home. Do you mind if we come in?” That’s all you have to say – and, presto, you are sitting with the sellers, the big decision makers.

In 99 out of 100 cases, the sellers will let you in. You will trade names. Soon, you will no longer be “the buyers”, you will be real people.

You will like the sellers and they will like you.

And people who like other people find it very hard to do the wrong thing by them. On the contrary, nice people do nice things for other nice people.

Here’s a story of how ‘meeting the sellers’ had a happy results for the buyer. The buyer didn’t just get the right home, she got it at a lower price.

The seller had two buyers for his home. Buyer A offered $612,000. And Buyer B offered $605,000. The decision for the seller was easy -take the buyer that offers the highest price.

Until Buyer B knocked on the sellers’ door. “Hi, I want to buy your home, can I talk with you about it?”

“Sure,” said the seller.

The buyer explained her situation. She loved the home. It was perfect for her; well, not so much for her, but for her autistic 10-year-old daughter. But the most she could pay was $605,000 – seven thousand dollars less than the other buyers.

The seller’s heart melted. The sight of this lovely lady and the story of her autistic child was touching and genuine. The seller just said, “Yes, of course you can buy my home. I hope you are as happy in it as I have been.”

Okay, perhaps that’s an unusual story and maybe many sellers wouldn’t sell to the buyer who offers a lower price.

But if you’re a buyer and you’ve got your heart set on a home and you go and meet the sellers, remember this – you are not going to make the situation worse.

In most cases when sellers meet buyers, the sellers are more inclined to do the right thing by the buyers.

So, when buying a home there are two rules to remember. First, until the sellers sign the contract nothing is definite. Second, if you meet the sellers you’ve got a much better chance of getting a much better deal.

Go on do it. Meet the sellers.

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