When the Occupancy Date Kills the Negotiation

Dear Monty: We just lost the home we wanted. We have been looking for over a year, and finally, a house came up for sale where we want to live. We met with the seller and agreed on the price, but they wanted six months after closing to move out. Our lease was due, school was starting, and we could not wait that long. They found another buyer that had a home to sell first and sold to them. We don’t want that to happen again. What could we have done differently?

Monty’s Answer: The occupancy date is a significant reason negotiations fail. There are times negotiations never commence. When the seller states that their circumstances are such that they need three or six months to move out, many prospective buyers will eliminate the property. The buyer may react this way because their circumstances require occupancy at closing or soon after that. So both buyer and seller have events that depend on occupancy that keep them from reaching an agreement. Ironically, both parties are seeking the same thing – a successful transaction. 

The environment

Most of us rarely buy or sell a home. We don’t always think of ways to react. We may treat the other party’s preference as final without asking – why? Or when you learn why they need a different time, you can relate and accept it. And, when you do that, you give up. Is there another way? Both positions could be the beginning of a negotiation.

Potential solutions

1. Change the price. A buyer may offer more, or a seller may accept less to bridge the gap.

2. Change the closing or occupancy date. Your story is an example. By extending the occupancy date to nine months, your kids will have finished the school year, and the seller will get extra time. It is incredible how fast that time will fly by. It is still less time than you have invested, and you have yet to determine when the next home will appear. 

3. Change your circumstances outside the transaction. Renew your lease for six months and start your kids in the current school or learn if you could enter them in the new school district. 

4. Show the other party how to change their circumstances. Isn’t clear why the seller needed extra time. Here are some examples:

a.) They don’t trust movers to pack and need time to pack themselves. An experienced white glove home organizer is likely better and cheaper than a van company. The seller may accept the “right” person.

b.) They are building a home that won’t be ready for six months. Point them to a furnished apartment and agree to pay for temporary furniture storage. Many cities have companies offering temporary housing. 

c.) They are downsizing and have no place to move. Temporary housing again, and offer to buy their furniture if you like it, and the seller doesn’t want to store it. 

Do the math 

Some of these suggestions have no direct cost, while others will have costs associated with the solution. These costs can be relatively small, especially if both parties agree to participate. We assume that the seller pays rent after closing. A buyer or seller may have rejected some of these ideas before they had a potential match. Buyers who have found a home or sellers who have found a buyer may now reconsider such ideas.    

The advantage is a completed transaction. The disadvantages are the extra effort and possible additional costs.

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