hidden issues that can derail a home sale

The reward for the hard work that goes into downsizing is often the opportunity to recoup the investment that you’ve made in your home. After all of the sorting, selling, packing, and divesting, the real estate portion can seem like the last stop on a long journey. It’s always a relief to turn over a clean, empty house ready to sell.

But a real estate transaction can sometimes bring drama all of its own. Even the most experienced Realtors will run into hidden issues that can derail a home sale.

Hidden Defects That Can Derail a Home Sale

Inspection Items
These maintenance, repair or condition issues are the most common reason a deal falls through. Big ticket items that can quickly derail a sale include:

  • Foundation damage or faults.
  • Presence of mold and/or water damage.
  • Major issues with pools or hot tubs.
  • Older or underperforming HVAC systems
  • Sewer lateral findings such as clogged drains, tree roots, and cracked pipes. Sewer issues and septic systems can be expensive to fix.
  • High levels of radon. While there are reliable and safe ways to mitigate radon in a home, some people will be spooked by the prospect, and walk away from the deal.

Selling AS IS
It’s common for downsizers, retirees or seniors to consider selling their homes AS-IS. Usually it’s because they have not kept up with maintenance, the home may have older systems, and the finishes are dated. Declaring a property AS-IS is one strategy people use to avoid making repairs or upgrades and get their house on the market quickly and cheaply. However, that strategy sometimes backfires. Buyers may agree to the AS-IS condition, but they may also expect an unrealistically low price, as well. Or, they will end up asking for repairs anyway, which can kill the deal. An experienced Realtor will be able to talk you through the pros and cons of selling AS-IS in your state.

Family Conflicts
While any real estate agent worth their salt will know who owns the home and all of the parties involved, family conflicts can easily mire a real estate deal. Most common issues include:

  • Sellers going through a divorce may disagree on key negotiating points during the contract phase of a real estate deal.
  • Out of area adult children sometimes overvalue the house or fail to understand the process and cost or repairs.
  • Multiple heirs sink deals when they can’t all agree. One of our colleagues worked on a deal with nine heirs who had to agree. There was one holdout and the deal fell through after extensive negotiations.
  • Distant family members who have a real estate license may insist on taking the listing, even though they are inexperienced or unfamiliar with the local real estate market.
  • Family members may also negotiate deals that work to their advantage, resulting in a sale that is far below the price that could have been achieved in the open market.

It’s inevitable that some deals will fall through. However, many of these issues can be avoided pre-sale through due diligence and thorough communication. If problems are found during the contract period, an experienced and knowledgeable Realtor can also keep the deal on track with skilled negotiation tactics.

Our favorite story about a real estate deal gone south? One of our colleagues reports that her client saw her home in a new light after seeing how beautiful her home was once all her stuff was out and the house was professionally cleaned. When she saw the professional photography she decided not to move after all!

Many thanks to the input from our Realtor colleagues Sharon Skinner of Presto® Real Estate, Naperville IL, Tricia Spurrier of The Spurrier Team in Houston TX, and Terri Dimond of Berkshire Hathaway in Santa Barbara CA.

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