When Kyle McCorkel was looking for his family’s next home, he knew the search would be an uphill battle.
A real estate investor by day, McCorkel was acutely aware of the warmth of housing, so when the perfect property arrived in October – a four-bedroom Colonial-style home in Hershey, Pennsylvania – McCorkel was ready to get creative to make a OK.
Apparently it would require a bit of a wait.
“Their only possibility was that they were able to spend this past Christmas in their beloved home,” says McCorkel, owner of Safe Home Offer. “I voluntarily agreed. I don’t think many buyers are willing to wait two to three months to settle down and move into their new home. (He’s right: the typical house only took 50 days to close in September).
Yet idiosyncratic owner requests like these have become increasingly common in the 2021 extreme seller market. And the one McCorkel encountered? It might even be considered tame.
Indeed, with record housing supply and growing demand from buyers, sellers have clearly had the upper hand for some time now. Most use this leverage to cash out. According to a Realtor.com survey, about 26% of homeowners plan to list their home next year. Among this group, more than a third say they do it to “take advantage of the market and make a profit”. Even more revealing? More than 40% plan to ask for more money than they think their home is worth.
It’s not all about profits, however. In fact, industry pros say some sellers have taken their claims much further this year, making jaw-dropping claims.
As Ryan Dosenberry, owner of Lakeshore Homebuyers in Michigan, puts it, “Without a doubt, this year has been the Wild West of real estate. To say it was a vendors market is an understatement.
How wild has it gotten, though? Here are the most extreme seller requests we could round up.
Sellers sold their pets with the house
Buying the house, also having a new pet? Apparently that was a thing this year. Several agents have seen sellers include furry friends in their door-to-door sales.
Ben Fisher, an agent for Fisher Group Park City Luxury Real Estate, had one such seller in February – a discovery he says left him “speechless for a while”.
“The guy sounded great and everything was going so well until he made the weirdest request I’ve ever heard,” Fisher said. “The gentleman had a pet dog named Jimmy, and he wanted to let the buyer keep the dog with the house.”
According to the owner, Jimmy – a friendly Golden Retriever – was born in the house and had an emotional attachment there. Although the request seemed a challenge at first, Fisher was eventually able to find an animal lover willing to accept the two-for-one contract.
“She was thrilled to have Jimmy as a pet,” Fisher says.
Sellers took parts of the house (or yard) with them
Although sellers have clearly been keen to cash in on their homes this year, some just couldn’t part with parts of their property. Take a salesperson who recently demanded that he keep the toilet seat in the master bedroom of the house.
“At first I thought it was a joke,” says Perry Zheng, the real estate investor looking to buy the house. Although not required, generally anything attached to floors, ceilings and walls is included in a sale. So shoppers can (usually) assume that things like fridges, dining room chandeliers and, yes, toilet seats, are included.
It wasn’t a joke, though – and Zheng quickly figured out why. “It had a health monitoring feature that tracked your BMI, blood sugar, blood pressure, and temperature,” says Zheng, founder of real estate investment platform Cash Flow Portal. “It came with a built-in bidet and drying function, and to top it off, the toilet seat was also heated.”
He estimates that the imported seat costs at least $10,000. “It’s no wonder the seller wanted to take it,” he says.
Other industry professionals have encountered similar scenarios, but not with bathroom accessories. Don Adams, managing director of Regional Foundation Repair, was tasked with removing century-old tiling from an entire kitchen and entryway floor, so homeowners could take it home with them. Nicholas McMillan, owner of Hire Realty, had a client request to keep a backyard tree. That left a “gaping hole,” McMillan says, and made selling the house that much harder.
“Landscape is a big concern for homebuyers,” McMillan says. “It made it quite difficult to sell the place. Considering the features and location of the home, it might have sold like hot cake otherwise.
Sellers asked for more money or expensive extras
Other sellers focused on financial gain. They asked buyers to cover transfer taxes or pay higher deposits to show they were serious about the house. Some demanded more money at the very end of the negotiations – often from buyers already offering a price well above the asking price.
“The market is distorting what the average seller considers normal,” says Mark J. Schmidt, associate broker at RE/MAX Country New Jersey. “It is certainly still a seller’s market, but many sellers have inflated expectations and unrealistic opinions about how far they can take negotiations.”
However, it wasn’t just about getting more money up front. Marina Vaamonde, a property investor and founder of home-selling platform House Cashin, asked a seller to organize her four-hour move – and cover the moving costs.
Dosenberry, an investor from Michigan, had to buy the handmade furniture from a landlord to close the deal. On another property, the landlord (a “hoarder” as Dosenberry described him) refused to clean the house, forcing Dosenberry to do it himself.
“It was almost all trash,” he says. “The house had enough junk to fill 10 large dumpsters.” The task added approximately $6,000 to Dosenberry’s costs.
Sellers limited screenings – or refused them outright
Homes are selling at the fastest rate in at least five years – around 47 days on average (from listing to offer accepted) – and hopeful sellers have certainly taken notice. In fact, some sellers were so confident their homes would sell that they either severely limited viewings or turned them down altogether.
Steve Johnston, CEO of Ideal Agent, a nationwide discount real estate agent service, said one of his agents encountered a seller who only allowed buyers onto the property between noon and 2 p.m. Saturday – a simple two-hour window. According to Johnston, their thought was, “Get all buyers through during these times. We know it will sell, so we don’t want to be inconvenienced.
Glenn Phillips, CEO of Lake Homes Realty, a multistate brokerage firm specializing in lakefront properties, had an even more extreme example.
“The seller declined all in-person viewings, requiring all offers to be based solely on the written description and photos,” Phillips explains. “The photos were not of good quality, the house was old and cluttered. Our buyer forwarded that one.
Sellers asked for more time – sometimes much more
Sellers also used their leverage to pull trades or buy more time in their homes (much like in the case of McCorkel’s Christmas).
Just ask Shmuel Shayowitz, president of Approved Funding – a mortgage lender outside of Teaneck, New Jersey (one of our Top 10 best places to retire this year – a spin-off from Money’s Annual The best places to live listing).
“A seller asked the buyer to close the house and allow him to stay there rent-free for 45 days,” says Shayowitz. “I also had a seller who was willing to accept an offer – above the asking price, of course, but it was dependent on no set closing date. The seller would have up to six months to close, but could close with notice as short as 30 days, and buyers should be prepared for both extremes.
Surprisingly, the buyers agreed, and once the sellers were finally ready to close — three months into the contract — it caused a “huge scramble” on the financing side, Shayowitz says.
Will 2022 be so “wild”?
Clearly, sellers had the advantage this year. The question is: will 2022 be more or less the same?
Most forecasts call for another strong housing market in the year ahead, but sellers may not exercise the power they have exercised over the past 12 months. Prices are expected to rise – albeit at a slower pace than this year, and inventories and construction are also expected to rise.
For these reasons, Phillips says homeowners should be careful when selling their home “based on what they think, rather than market data.”
As he puts it, “No amount of marketing can overcome a grossly overpriced house.”
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