3 Seller Red Flags to Look Out for When Buying a Home

by Maurie Backman | Updated July 19, 2021 - First published on June 1, 2021

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A man and woman sitting on a couch and talking with their realtor while holding paperwork.

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Sometimes, it pays to walk away from a seller who just isn't reasonable.

In today's tight housing market, getting an offer on a home accepted is no easy task. And some buyers may be willing to put up with more, shall we say, "seller quirkiness," in a market when homes are so limited. But if these things apply to you, it could be a sign that you've encountered a bad seller and should walk away while you can.

1. Your seller sits on your offer for too long

So you've found a home you like and have made a reasonable offer on it -- say, you're willing to pay the seller's asking price in full or even a bit more. Under normal circumstances, your seller should respond to that offer within 24 hours. Some sellers may need a bit more time, especially if they're sorting through multiple offers at once (which, in today's housing market, is a distinct possibility). But if it's been days since you've made that offer, your real estate agent has followed up, and your seller is still silent, then it could be a sign that you're better off finding a new home. You don't want to enter into a contract with someone who's unresponsive.

2. Your seller comes back with silly counter offers

When you make an offer on a house, it's common practice for a seller to come back with a counter offer, especially if your offer is below the seller's asking price. But if those counter offers are odd or extremely nit-picky, then you may want to find a different seller to work with instead.

Say your seller is listing a home for $400,000 and you offer $385,000. Your seller might come back with $395,000, or another figure that meets you in the middle. But if your seller comes back with $399,500, well, that's a different story. Mostly, that means your seller is holding firm on their initial price, and if you can't or don't want to pay that, you may need to move on. But it also means your seller is taking an interesting (read: strange) approach to the whole counter offer game by coming down a mere $500 dollars and thinking that will fly.

3. The seller wants insane contingencies

In today's housing market, stories are emerging of odd seller contingencies that desperate buyers are actually agreeing to. Some sellers, for example, are requiring buyers to adopt the pets they want to leave behind as part of the deal. If your seller tries to force you into some odd arrangement, like promising to retain a certain type of bush in your front yard, you may want to walk away and find a seller who can give you a cleaner transaction.

Buying a home today can certainly be challenging -- especially since home prices are high and you'll generally need to qualify for a larger mortgage to purchase a home. But don't make a tough situation even worse by forcing yourself to work with a difficult seller. If you do, you might end up agreeing to clauses in your sale that hurt you financially. And you may end up so aggravated that by the time you move into your home, you never want to look at it again.

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