The transfer of home ownership

By Elizabeth Erickson | Sep 12, 2012

It’s difficult to remember a time when home sellers handed the keys to the new homeowner themselves.

“Have a glass of lemonade! We’ll show you how the sprinkler system works and introduce you to our good friends, your new neighbors!”

There used to be an underlying spirit of a handshake in this now complicated, home selling/buying process... and it’s sometimes still there.

Negotiations used to be done in the kitchen, not through a computer. It was more personal. There seemed to be fewer ill feelings as buyers and sellers with their broker’s help, tied up the details of an agreement.

They arrived at common ground and there seemed to be less residual resentment over the negotiations it took to get there.

‘Oh, sure. Those days were back in the 1950s, right?’ No, not so long ago.

Short sales and millions of dollars of sellers’ lost equity have certainly had a part in making the transfer of property more ... bitter at times.

But also for a number of years it’s more driven by a legal nature: “Oh, our company doesn’t ever want the buyer and seller to meet. There’s too much hazard in something going sideways if a seller says something that offends the buyer – the whole deal could fall apart!” (actual quote)

And over the years the world has become more litigious; folks are ready to yell ‘lawsuit’ if things aren’t exactly as they expected. (And I’m not talking about occasions of gross negligence...)

So every large firm’s bank of attorneys gives the admonition: “Keep those sellers and buyers apart! Keep it on paper. It’s a legally binding contract, not personal.”

As homeowners close the door for the last time, they’re often leaving behind the place where their happiest memories were created. Hours later, buyers are opening the same door with joyful optimism and hopes for their own future.

Not personal?

Of course, there are times brokers know when it would be inappropriate for disgruntled clients to meet.

But no matter how antiseptic attorneys would like it to be, buying and selling a home is very personal. Lots of emotions, feelings, fears and unknowns.

Sellers often would like to meet the buyers of their home, only to be advised that that would be ‘a very bad idea.’ (Truthfully, that is the case if you’re a cranky, negative person. If so, please discontinue reading.)

But to you pleasant, reasonable sellers out there (the 99 percent), you could propose a meeting at your home with your own broker, the buyers and their broker.

Serve some refreshments/appetizers (even a box of crackers with cheese will do). Lead the buyers though the home’s systems and share your own special thoughts. (Of note: Personal things you love about your home and neighborhood have no ‘box to check’ in the state’s required Form 17; a five-page Seller’s Property Dislosure of what’s wrong with your home!)

Whenever possible, sharing a ‘house blessing’ between buyer and seller, no matter how casual, is just plain neighborly.

Elizabeth Erickson is owner and designated broker of Gallery Homes Real Estate. Contact her at or at the office: 425-212-4300 or direct: 425-508-1405, or go to

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