The Housing Scene by Lew Sichelman

Limiting Showings Can Be Costly

There are good reasons for sellers to limit the times and hours their home can be shown to prospective buyers. But if you put too tight a window on viewings, your place is likely to linger on the market or remain unsold.

“If a seller makes the home too difficult to show,” said Texas agent Tom Branch, “most agents will pass it up.”

If you have a newborn at home, sure, go ahead and restrict showings to certain hours or times of the day. The same goes for elderly or sick occupants who should not be disturbed. Or maybe it’s the first day of school -- that morning is always chaotic. And a showing is often a bigger inconvenience for the seller than for the agent who calls 40 minutes before he wants to swing by with a possible buyer. Feel free to declare such occasions off-limits.

But otherwise, to limit showings is usually a bad idea.

Yes, you have to keep the place clean and tidy 24/7. And you could have people walking through the house at all hours of the day and evening. But if you are a motivated seller, you don’t want to put anything in the way of landing a buyer.

Sellers sometimes unintentionally put up roadblocks. Branch, who works for RE/MAX Dallas Suburbs, recalled one instance where the seller required a 24-hour notice, plus a 30-minute reminder, for all appointments. Not only that, but the house was vacant.

That kind of restriction is “a big problem,” said buyer’s agent Diane Schubach of Laffey Fine Homes in Port Washington, New York. “I’m convinced that sellers are not aware of, nor have they ever had a conversation with their listing agent about, the importance of making a home easy to show.

“If a buyer can’t get in on one weekend, they will rarely ask to see it the following weekend,” said Schubach in a conversation Branch started on the ActiveRain real estate website.

Rachel Reardon of RE/MAX Executive in Charlotte, North Carolina, said she “couldn’t agree more.”

When showing five or 10 houses in a single day, Reardon and other agents “don’t have time for someone who has such restrictions unless they have a valid reason.”

In such cases, Reardon said she would do her level best to accommodate the seller. But Lynn Bower of John R. Wood Realtors in Naples, Florida, and Monica Atherton of the Associates Realty Group in Temecula, California, said they would just move on to the next place on their lists.

“I would not opt to show unless there was something about that property no other listing had,” said Bower. “Our inventory is healthy enough now that if one (listing) doesn’t fit the bill, another one will.”

“If it gets too complicated, I pass,” said Atherton.

Still, if you absolutely, positively have to restrict showing times, have your agent write them into the private remarks section of the MLS listing for your property. That way, all agents will be on notice and will try to oblige your wishes.

“Most agents understand that there are times when it’s just not possible to have a home shown within the next hour or two. We really do,” said Anna ‘Banana’ Kruchten, broker-owner with the Phoenix Property Shoppe. “We know ‘stuff happens’ from time to time that makes it impossible to accommodate a showing.”

If there are valid reasons to restrict showings, Kruchten recommends suggesting alternative times, or asking that your house be last on the list of houses the agent plans to show that day.

Buyers shouldn’t face ridiculous restrictions, but sellers can expect to be shown a modicum of courtesy and some reasonable notice, especially “if they ask for it,” said Jayson Holland of RE/MAX Masters Millennium in Denver.

The way the listing agent communicates with other agents about special showing instructions “can make a difference” in how fast a house sells and the price the seller receives, says Raylene Lewis of Century 21 Beal in College Station, Texas.

“I am talking about the difference between a quick sale at top dollar, and a listing that stays on the market an unnecessarily long time and sells for less than what it should have,” she said.

Lewis told of one instance in which she tried to schedule a showing three different times, but each time, it was not convenient for the sellers. Her client finally decided to pass and went on to buy another place. The sellers “lost out on a chance to get an offer and very likely cost themselves money, because the longer the house sits, the lower the offer the buyer is likely to make,” she said.