My family has been spending all of free time house hunting recently, and I wanted to share with you a particularly sneaky trick one home seller tried pulling on me.
Home Seller didn’t want to show me his house except at an open house
It all started on a Wednesday when a nice looking house showed up for sale by owner on Zillow. The house was in the right location and for the right price so my wife and I called the seller to see if we could see the place. There was no answer so we left a message. A couple days later our call hadn’t been returned so we left another message. Why wouldn’t somebody selling their home by owner want to return a call as quickly as possible?
Finally, our call was returned Saturday evening. The seller didn’t offer to show us the home whenever we wanted to see it but instead welcomed us to come by his open house on Sunday. We were already planning on spending our Sunday at open houses so we told the gentleman we would see him there.
A suspicious amount of interest at the open house
On Sunday my wife and I spend all day at open houses. Before we go further I’ll point out that according to this article on realtor.com nobody actually buys a house from an open house. (We did! But that is another story.) Anyway, this open house seemed to be working out unusually well for the seller.
We toured the house and it was very nice. So nice in fact, that I was considering buying it. As we were touring the house another couple was also working their way through the home. I was making my way towards the front door to speak to the owner and tell him I was interested. Before I could though the other couple started speaking with the owner.
The couple asked the owner if there had been any other interested buyers. The home owner told them a guy who had been by earlier wanted to put in a bid but had to go get pre-qualified for a mortgage first.
“Well, we better act fast then!” said the couple. Then they started talking about how much they loved the place and wanted to buy it. I was kind of disappointed because I had been considering making a bid, but I didn’t want to get involved a bidding war because there is no way possible to get a good price for a home if you get involved with trying to outspend another buyer. I gave up on the idea and left. I considered the home off the market and went on to the next open house.
The shill game
Later that week the same house showed up as having another open house the following Sunday. Huh? I was confused. The couple I had seen was obviously wanting to buy the place, so what happened? That is when I realized that I had almost fallen for a little scam.
The couple I had seen at the open house weren’t really home buyers. They were shills, friends of the owner. They were hanging around the home all through the open house pretending to be buyers to put heavy pressure on other potential buyers that they better get a bid in fast or the house would be gone. I am sure if somebody had put a bid on the home that the owner would have used these shills as a bargaining tool during price negotiations.
That is why the home owner never answered his phone or returned my calls until right before the open house, because he thought his little trick would pressure people into buying his house before it was gone.
What I did right
Being unemotional about home buying is difficult, but it saved me from getting involved in a bidding war against myself I wasn’t going to win. I wanted to find a fairly priced home, made a fair offer on it, and get a good price. When somebody else is also bidding on a house you will get scared about the possibility that you won’t get the house, so you don’t think clearly and soon you start bidding more and more and more.
Sometimes houses with multiple bidders even end up selling for more than the asking price. That is why when I saw somebody else wanted the house I walked away.
Photo by Vlastimil Koutecký