Charlottesville is (still) a small town. It might seem smaller when you try to buy or sell a house.
Please. Please. Please. If you’re buying or selling a house, be aware that what you are posting on your social networks or blogs may be found by the buyer, seller or real estate agent – and may harm your negotiations.
Buyers – Don’t talk on Facebook/Twitter/G+/whatever about what houses you like or love. Until after you close. When you get a house under contract, don’t tell the world. (or do so to a very limited number of friends) — and don’t assume that you’ve locked down your Facebook privacy settings; they’re complex – see this creepy story if you don’t believe me.
Sellers – Don’t talk about what you’re doing to your house to get it ready. Unless it’s really awesome. Don’t talk about defects – leaks, cracked foundations, how you are covering up said leaks or cracked foundations (fix them!). While Virginia is a caveat emptor state and you don’t have to disclose anything, it’s probably not good practice to talk about what’s wrong with your house.
Agents – Seriously. You (should) know better.
“It’s awkward” to be friends with someone on Facebook (moreso than Twitter or G+) but that’s ok – the transaction will be over soon. 🙂
Think about it – if I am working with a buyer and she discovers that it looks like the seller was transferred to Charlottesville a couple years ago, just completed a post-doc program at the University of Virginia – and they have three kids in high school who are looking at colleges – one could reasonably infer that these particular sellers are motivated.
Or – the Seller who just received an awfully low offer from Maryjanne Webstqr (sic )** — In this world, it’s natural to google the purchaser. We discover that she’s posted on Facebook (or Twitter, or Google Plus) (having not locked down her newly changed timeline/privacy settings) says that “I love this house! We went in low, but if they don’t take it, we’ll pay full price! It’s perfect and we need to be in before school starts!”* Think we’re going to ignore that in negotiations?
Or this –
As noted in this story from 2009 –
“3. Use Google Maps (update: use Bing – it’s better and more up to date) to see what surrounds the house. Is the street tree-y? Industrial? How far is the nearest park? How far to downtown, UVA, etc? (ed note: check this out)
4. Google the street address + Charlottesville to get more information about the neighborhood. For example: Grove St. plus Charlottesville clued me into the Grove Square development (which I was unaware of because I’m new to C’ville). (ed note: don’t forget to visit Charlottesville Tomorrow for the most in-depth reporting on growth, development and politics in Charlottesville/Albemarle)”
Or this – “I hope our house sells soon – we put an offer in on the house of our dreams in the place we’re moving to and couldn’t stand it if we lost it”*
Don’t tell the world what you’re doing and you’re going to be better positioned for the inevitable negotiations.
* not a real status update, but it could be.
** I’m doing a google test.
I totally agree that buyers and sellers should play their cards close toÂ the chest, but I can’t shake the fear that communication among agents is a greater threat to confidentiality than social media, especially in such a small market.Â
In a small town, buyers and sellers are represented by agents with close professional ties, and said agents both have abundant incentive to close deals.Â Buyers and sellers definitely need to share their personal circumstances and level of motivation with agents to craft a strategy, but whatÂ control do theyÂ haveÂ ultimately over confidentiality of that information?
To be clear, I’m not saying it’s anything dishonest, just that casual transfer of information is very likely within a small professional community, and the incentives for the intermediaries in the transaction are not necessarily aligned withÂ the best interestsÂ of buyers and sellers.
Thanks for the comment. From a confidentiality standpoint, they have the same level of control as they do with an attorney or doctor … if the client and the agent agree to work together contractually.Â
Confidentiality is one reason I advise my buyer clients that I work with clients, not simply people who want to see houses. Any agent can open a lockbox; not all truly represent the clients’ best interests.Â