Reality of Realty
April 17, 2008 9:33 PM   Subscribe

Landlords are selling the house we are in and we would like to know what to expect from the coming months.

We are renters in a house and the landlord is selling. We have never been involved in selling or buying, so we want to know what are rights are in this situation. A few specifics:

1) Can we request that we be present when the house is being shown? That is, can we let the realtor know when the house would be available for showing?

2) What can the landlords/realtor require of us, aside from a clean house?

3) We never really unpacked many things and would rather not do so. Everything is clean and neat, but there are boxes. Will this be an issue?

4) How long, approximately, are houses on the market before they are taken off and re-listed? How long, on average, are they "rested" between being taken off and re-listed (if any time at all?) This house went up for sale before about 4 years ago and did not sell.

Any other pearls of wisdom are much appreciated. I would like to go into this informed. We do not want our lives to be turned upside down by living at the ease of the realtor, but we DO want the house to sell, as we are in a long lease and wish to leave.
posted by oflinkey to Home & Garden (9 answers total)
To ease future answer-ers: Assuming oflinkey's profile is accurate, she's in the state of New York.
posted by Tomorrowful at 9:45 PM on April 17, 2008

Response by poster: Oo, sorry. Yes. Thank you Tomorrowful. That item did not seem to make the final edit.
posted by oflinkey at 9:49 PM on April 17, 2008

What city? In Cali, most relevant ordinances are city-by-city. Maybe NY is different. I'd read up on your city's website. In San Fran and a few other Bay Area cities, under certain conditions, you couldn't be asked to move or (much more likely) would get money to move with.
posted by salvia at 10:36 PM on April 17, 2008

I doubt they can even require a clean house, since that's pretty subjective. You may wish that, though.
posted by rokusan at 10:39 PM on April 17, 2008

Best answer: We are in this situation currently. We rent and our house is on the market.
Our lease allows us to leave with appropriate notice though - from either us or the landlord.

The realtor will list the property, put a realtor sign in the yard, and a lockbox with a key on your door for realtors to use, and ours did a walk through with us - we pointed out some things to them and they basically said to keep the place as clean and uncluttered as possible, thats it.

Your boxes won't be an issue.
Your lease probably doesn't state much about anything you MUST do when showing the house for sale, but you might check.
Our house has been on the market for about a year, they may take it off after summer. Tons of newer homes are for sale around us for the same prices so its a tough sell in this market.
Relisting is really up to the landlord and their motivation for selling (hint: falling home sale prices I suppose - they may want out before it falls too far or are tired of dealing with or paying property management etc)

Our request that the realtor agreed to is when they want to show the house, that we get at least an hour or two notice, preferably 1 day's notice with a specified time frame. (not "tomorrow afternoon" or "this evening" but "today between 5 and 6pm") and that since we have two indoor dogs, that we be present when they show the house. (plus no realtor is going to bring people into a home with two loose dogs in todays litigious society so that works to our advantage.)

That said, they mostly abide by this. We keep the place clean, but I am not getting any compensation for the house being shown and nothing is in our lease regarding it so my view is that I'm paying full rent to live in my home so it will appear lived in. If I have boxes of stuff, as long as they arent scattered all over the place then thats the way it is. Which works fine for us.

The downside:
While most of the time they call with some notice, any realtor can show the place, not just the one listing it - you'll find some realtors are less respectful than others as we've learned.
We've had calls where they want to show it in 30 minutes. No prob if I'm not doing anything, but otherwise it would be intrusive. My wife has had a call from the realtor that the person wanting to look at the house is actually outside the house and wants to see it "now" with no notice. She told them NO. We have had them call for a time, and then show up 30-55 minutes late (big deal for us since we get the dogs leashed and usually put them in the garage while they walk through) but waiting around for them only to be late - or just call and cancel (so far no no-shows with no call saying so) is disrespectful.
We've had walk throughs with small children grabbing breakable items off shelves, etc. No breakage so far though.
I've had the realtor ask why the sign is down in the yard. The wind blows it down nearly daily due to the poor soil (aka rocks with hard rock under the topsoil). I'll put it back up if I'm out mowing, but really it's not my job to keep the sign up or spend time trying to hammer it into rock so it stays up.
Having people come to look at the place and get things tidy stresses my wife out - she hates that.
I've had them call to come when we had plans to be out on a weekend - then postpone and then call back literally as we are 1 block from home leaving to go out and they ask if I can go back to the house "it will only take 30 minutes" - I have no problem saying no there, it's my valuable time - and they can reschedule. I've also said no when I was home sick and asked to try another day. I'm always nice about it, but some of the realtors can be a little pushy, but like I said, I'm paying the full rent so I don't let them walk all over us.

In your case, being as accomodating as possible, while still living in your place without making it looked unlived-in will probably get your house to sell and you can get out of your lease then. It can get stressful though. In our case, there's not much for rent in our area that isnt MUCH more expensive for the same or lesser quality or its the same or less price but the homes are just flat horrible and not worth it for us. We're looking though in case this place sells and we HAVE to move, but until something comes on the market that's right for us we plan to be here, but that's our situation - a little different than yours for the end goal :)

I would advise keeping valuables and checkbooks, etc. out of sight, you just never know...
it's another reason why even though I don't like being around when people are walking through the house, I am present (or my wife is), plus we do get questions from interested homebuyers about how much the utilities average per month and things like that which we can answer better than the realtor's guesstimate.
posted by clanger at 11:45 PM on April 17, 2008

I believe it depends on your city. When I lived in Buffalo, there was a city ordinance that the landlord had to give you 24 hours notice before showing the apartment.
posted by meta_eli at 5:50 AM on April 18, 2008

Check with the tenant organization in your area, generally listed in the local help section of the phone book. IAALandlord, and I am selling the building. I have to give 24 hours notice. I gave the new tenants a big rent break to compensate for the hassle. The listing agent is mot accepting of bad behavior from other agents. If you have a lease, it generally must be honored. You can help or hurt your landlord's sale price, so the landlord should be very nice to you.
posted by theora55 at 6:58 AM on April 18, 2008

Our apartment building was just sold. We wanted to use this as a reason to break the lease, but were denied. One of the selling points of a rental property is already having it full of happy tenants with long leases, unless the buyer wants to renovate it. You will most likely not be able to break your lease and leave early if it's sold.

We ended up being lucky: the buyer wants to move into one of the units the day we want to move out. Yay for us.
posted by nursegracer at 7:08 AM on April 18, 2008

You have some room for negotiation here. You can negotiate, e.g., lower rent, ability to break the lease, payment of a storage unit (to put your unpacked boxes in), that kind of things ... in exchange for keeping the place very neat, being extra accommodating to realtors, even staging the house. A seller should be very motivated to give you what you want in exchange for your assistance in selling the house.

I am selling my house right now (which I live in) and I am keeping it in museum condition. I've moved out half of my stuff, color-organized my closet contents, etc. I display art, books and flowers carefully etc. Each person to come see the house has commented on how good it looks. If someone else were living in the house, I'd do what I could to motivate them to take the same degree of care so that I could get a quick sale or a high price. So, if I were the owner, I'd be very willing to help you out if you were willing to take seriously the selling project. You could even ask for a bonus check upon sale of the house if you've done a stellar job staging it and keeping it clean. If you're interested in that kind of arrangement, it should be possible to negotiate. If your landlord won't negotiate at all, you're really not obliged to knock yourself out at all. But since you want the house to sell, you will do best by taking this sale personally.

Sales can be seriously hindered by having the owner/tenant present. If you want the house to sell, you really should vacate the house. Turn on all the lights before you leave, open all the curtains, keep it super clean and tidy. This is so that the buyer pictures him/herself living there, not you. I looked at eight houses in one city, and now, eight months later, the only house that is still unsold is the one where the owner was home, yammering away about what a great foundation it had, etc. We felt like we were invading his house, not buying our house. It was a perfectly nice house -- but it was his house, he made that clear.
posted by Capri at 12:46 PM on April 18, 2008

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