Haus Schwatz: Cati's DC Real Estate


The Seller's Right To Be Stubborn

Moss on 1930s cement shingle roofSo, you have bought a house, and you're eager to prepare for your move. Less than a month until closing, the contingencies have been removed, and there is sooo much to do.

It's a big house that needs quite a bit of work, a lot of which is better done before you move in: refinishing wood floors, stripping flaking paint that's potentially laced with lead, opening up a couple of walls, removing asbestos insulation in a crawl space that needs waterproofing, and even replacing the 80-year old cement shingle roof that is now covered by a pretty ecosystem of moss and crawleys.

You also have a house to sell, and you don't want to miss the spring market. So you really need to get going. You need to get the architects in and the contractors, you need to plan and make decisions, you need to get estimates and to hire and to budget.

But then there's the seller, a kind and gentle elderly lady who has lived in the house for 40 years, has raised her family there, lost her husband there some decade ago, and simply needs time to say good-bye and let go of it all.

She does not want your visits or your contractors. All your planning and the spring market don't matter to her. She has accommodated the inspector, the appraiser and the termite guy, and now that's it.

It's a NO. 

We've asked. Again. And again. It's still a no.

Now, I'm your agent, and I do get it. I see what's at stake, and I know that whatever you plan for will likely end up taking twice the time, anyway. You have little kids, and you need to know where you will be in the summer, and where you will be when school starts. I get it. 

But legally, Mrs Seller has a right to be stubborn until she hands over the keys to you. Is it appropriate for me to keep begging the listing agent and thereby putting him in an uncomfortable spot?

Calling on all you brokers, agents and sellers: What do you think? Do we have to back off, or is it just unreasonable for this seller to cause all this delay and the uncertainty and possible financial losses that come with it? Is this handled differently in different parts of the country?

Please tell.


© 2012, Catarina Bannier


Comment balloon 8 commentsCatarina Bannier • February 05 2013 08:55AM


The seller owns the home until closing. As a listing agent, I would have a MAJOR issue with renovations taking place prior to closing.  Too many variables that we cannot control.

Posted by Doug Rogers, Your Alexandria Louisiana Agent (Bayou Properties) over 7 years ago
I agree with Doug; I would have issues with any changes beyond repairs occurring prior to closing. The seller has the right to enjoy her property until the date of closing.
Posted by Carol Zingone, Global Realtor in Jax Beach, FL - ABR, CRS, CIPS (Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Florida Network Realty) over 7 years ago

These are always tough situations when trying to deal with the appearance of many "intrusions" upon the Seller!  The seller has the right to be stubborn, yet is it always the right thing to do?  With regards to this Seller, a matter of pursuasion can possibly get her to understand how important it is for the buyer to have access.  The new buyer wants to make this home as wonderful as it was the day the seller first moved in! 

Posted by Dan Hopper, Denver Realtor / Author / Advocate/Short Sale (Keller Williams Realty Downtown LLC) over 7 years ago

Catarina I'm assuming your buyer doesn't want to actually start on the home improvements but just wants to access the home to assess updates? 

I would not expect the seller to accommodate starting improvements ahead of closing. And if she's already said no to any intrusion several times, I think you just have to accept it. It's probably very difficult for her to imagine moving on after so many years. I completely understand your buyers desire to get in and get started but this is one of those times I think you have to graciously back off. Perhaps the seller will have a change of heart if she isn't pressured. 

Posted by Tessa Skeens, Staging For Realtors, Builders & Investors (Hampton ReDesign, Home Staging and Redesign ) over 7 years ago

Doug, Carol-- Thank you! I completely agree. We would not propose to actually do any work until after the closing. We just want to get the architects and contractors in to see what needs to be done, how long it will take, and what they can live with and what not. DC can take a long time to grant permits for some of the work, and that could mean the house will sit vacant if they're not ahead of the game. It's an expensive house, so between the mortgage and the taxes, every unnecessary week or months for the house to sit means to potentially waste thousands of dollars.

Posted by Catarina Bannier, DC Real Estate The Smart And Fun Way (Compass) over 7 years ago

Dan, yes, perhaps we can give it a week and then try to explain once more. I feel for my guys, but I also see that we might need to trust the listing agent's judgment and go with it.

Tessa, thank you for your thoughtful response as well. after all, nobody wants to muddy the waters and go into this with a nasty after taste.

Posted by Catarina Bannier, DC Real Estate The Smart And Fun Way (Compass) over 7 years ago

It is the seller's right to say no to people coming into their home if they do not want them there. Yes it makes it more difficult on the buyer agents but there is nothing we can really do. Good post. Have a great 2013

Posted by Randy Bocook, Selling Coastal Georgia (Keller Williams Coastal Area Partners) over 7 years ago

Randy, thank you. Yes, it looks like we all have to lighten up on this and go with the flow...

Posted by Catarina Bannier, DC Real Estate The Smart And Fun Way (Compass) over 7 years ago