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  • Writer's picturePeter Lamont, Esq.

Tactics of Unscrupulous Home Sellers

While the vast majority of people selling their homes are honest and forthcoming with buyers, there are some who believe that they can benefit if they trick or manipulate the buyer or use deceptive tactics with their realtors and attorneys. It is important to be aware of some of the tactics that unscrupulous sellers may use. Here are a few of the tricks a bad-acting seller may use.

Before we get into the post, it is important to understand that in our 20 years of experience in real estate, only a very small percentage of sellers will use any of these tactics discussed below. We are not suggesting that sellers are inherently manipulative. to the contrary, nearly all of the sellers we have ever represented wanted the buyers to love the house and did everything within reason to make the sale as straightforward as possible.

Hiding Information / Defects

Some sellers may try to take advantage of buyers by hiding information about the property. For example, they may fail to mention that there are significant repairs needed or that the home has been flooded in the past. This can leave buyers feeling misled and frustrated.

Some sellers deliberately mislead their realtors and the buyers into believing the there are no significant defects with the house, even though they are are of conditions that need repair. They use cosmetics coverups in the hopes that the buyer will not learn about the condition until months or years late. Some sellers may even go so far as to stage their home in order to hide known defects. They may move furniture to cover up a water stain on the ceiling or use paint to cover up cracks in the walls.

It is important to understand that in our 20 years of experience in real estate, only a very small percentage of sellers will use any of these tactics discussed below.

Home Inspection Pressure

Sellers who are trying to hide defects, and even those who are not but are trying to limit repair or credit requests, will often insist that they are present during the home inspection. They will then engage in conversation with the inspector while attempting to distract him from looking closely at certain areas or making detailed notes.

Inspection Contingency Pressure

Some sellers will try to strong-arm buyers into waiving their right to a home inspection altogether. They may try to do this by offering a significant discount on the purchase price or by insisting that the house has been recently inspected and no problems were found. Some may even offer to provide recent inspection reports that were prepared by an inspector hired by the sellers and which shows favorable results.

When trying to convince buyers to waive the inspection contingency, unscrupulous sellers may make false statements about having other offers on the table and that the buyers need to act fast if they want to purchase the property.

When there is an inspection contingency, some sellers will try to deliberating stall the inspection past the inspection deadline in the contract and the refuse to repair defects that are found during the home inspection, even if those defects are required to be repaired in order for the sale to go through. Others will make unrealistic demands, such as asking the buyer to pay an exorbitant amount of money for repairs or to make all repairs themselves.

Appraisal Pressure

In order for a buyer to obtain a loan to purchase a home, the property must appraise for at least the purchase price. If not, the buyer may have to pay the difference out of their own pockets. Some sellers will deliberately inflate the sales price, especially when inventory is low, knowing full well that is will under apprise for less than the asking price. They will then use strong-arm tactics and offer a private mortgage at higher rates, and draconian terms.

Some sellers will attempt to influence the appraised value of their home by providing the appraiser with false or misleading information. For example, they may provide an appraiser with a list of recent upgrades that they have made to the property, even if those upgrades have not actually been made.

Strong-Arm Tactics

Many sellers will attempt to convince the buyer to accept a high price or to waive various contract contingencies by applying strong-arm tactics. For example, they may insist that the buyer needs to act quickly and make an offer without giving them time to consult with their attorney or realtor.

Some sellers will become angry or aggressive when negotiating with buyers in an attempt to intimidate them into accepting their terms. Others will try to take advantage of buyers who are inexperienced in the home-buying process by pressuring them into making decisions that are not in their best interests.

Other sellers fabricate stories about needing to sell their house because they are moving for work purposes or have already found another home. They may even claim that they have already bought a new home and need to close on their current home quickly in order to avoid being homeless.

Unscrupulous sellers may also threaten to cancel the contract if the buyers do not agree to their terms, even though they have no intention of actually doing so. In some cases, they may even file a lawsuit against the buyers without any legal basis in an attempt to pressure them into completing the transaction..

Unsigned Documents and Contract Changes

Once the contract is signed, some seller fail to sign post-contract agreements such as extensions, addendums etc. They may even make verbal representations to their attorneys but then not actually sign the documents. This can cause a number of problems down the road, such as delays in the closing process or the buyer being unable to obtain financing. In some cases, it may even result in the buyer losing their earnest money deposit. Some sellers will also try to change the terms of the contract after it has been signed, such as by increasing the price or adding unreasonable contingencies.

Playing the Realtor against the Attorney

Some sellers may try to out their real estate agent and their attorney at odds in order to confuse the process, frustrate the buyer, and hide their own nefarious intentions. For example, they may provide the real estate agent with information that is not accurate or tell their attorney one thing and then later say something different.

Probing the Buyer

Some sellers will also try to find out how much the buyer knows about the home-buying process in order to take advantage of them. They may ask leading questions or make statements that are not true in order to gauge the buyer's level of knowledge and sophistication. Some sellers will request an interview with the prospective buyer before accepting their offer in order to probe them for information.

Side Deals

in some instances, sellers who may be under contract but still negotiating terms, may be secretly negotiating with a second buyer whom they cultivated without the knowledge of their real estate agent or attorney. They then attempt to force the contract buyer to waive contingencies or pay high prices in an effort to convince the second seller to accept their offer instead. They then cancel the contract with the first buyer and sell to the second.


While it may only be a small percentage of sellers who would ever think about misleading a buyer or using any of the tactics discussed above, it is always a good idea to be aware of what some people might do to try to convince a buyer to move forward with the purchase of their house.

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As with any legal issue, it is important that you obtain competent legal counsel before making any decisions about how to respond to a subpoena or whether to challenge one - even if you believe that compliance is not required. Because each situation is different, it may be impossible for this article to address all issues raised by every situation encountered in responding to a subpoena. The information below can give you guidance regarding some common issues related to subpoenas, but you should consult with an attorney before taking any actions (or refraining from acts) based on these suggestions. Separately, this post will focus on New Jersey law. If you receive a subpoena in a state other than New Jersey, you should immediately seek the advice of an attorney in your state as certain rules differ in other states.


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