When Kyle McCorkel was on the hunt for his family’s next home, he knew the search would be an uphill battle. A real estate investor by day, McCorkel was keenly aware of just how hot housing was, so when the perfect property came around in October — a four-bedroom, colonial-style house in Hershey, Pennsylvania — McCorkel was ready to get creative to make a deal.
Apparently, that would require a bit of waiting.
“Their one contingency was that they got to spend this last Christmas in their beloved home,” says McCorkel, owner of Safe Home Offer. “I willingly obliged. I don't think many buyers are willing to wait two to three months to settle and move into their new home.” (He’s right: The typical home took just 50 days to close in September).
Still, idiosyncratic homeowner demands like these became increasingly common in 2021’s extreme seller’s market. And the one McCorkel encountered? It might even be considered tame.
That’s because with record-low housing supply and surging buyer demand, sellers have had the clear upper hand for some time now. Most are using that leverage to cash in. According to a survey from Realtor.com, about 26% of homeowners plan to list their homes in the next year. Among that group, more than a third say they’re doing it to “take advantage of the market and make a profit.” Even more telling? Over 40% plan to ask for more money than they think their home’s worth.
It’s not all about profits, though. In fact, industry pros say some sellers took their demands much further this year — making some jaw-dropping asks in the process.
As Ryan Dosenberry, owner of Lakeshore Homebuyers in Michigan, puts it, “Without question, this year has been the wild, wild west of real estate. To say it was a seller’s market is an understatement.”
Just how wild did it get, though? Here are the most extreme seller demands we could round up.
Sellers sold their pets with the home
Buy the house, get a new pet, too? Apparently, that was a thing this year. Multiple agents have seen sellers include furry friends in their home sales.
Ben Fisher, an agent with The Fisher Group Park City Luxury Real Estate, had one such seller back in February — a discovery he says left him “speechless for a moment.”
“The guy seemed great, and everything was going so well until he came up with the weirdest demand I have ever heard,” Fisher says. “The gentleman had a pet dog named Jimmy, and he wanted to let the buyer keep the dog along with the house.”
According to the owner, Jimmy — a friendly Golden Retriever — was born in the house and had an emotional attachment to it. Though the request seemed a challenge at first, Fisher was eventually able to find an animal lover willing to take the two-for-one deal.
“She was delighted to have Jimmy as her pet,” Fisher says.
Sellers took parts of the house (or yard) with them
Though sellers were clearly eager to cash in on their homes this year, some just couldn’t part with, well, parts of their property. Take one seller who recently demanded they keep the toilet seat from the home’s primary bedroom.
“I initially thought it was a joke,” says Perry Zheng, the real estate investor who was looking to buy the home. Though not required, typically anything attached to the floors, ceilings and walls is included in a sale. So, buyers can (usually) assume things like refrigerators, dining room chandeliers and, yes, toilet seats, are included.
It wasn’t a joke, though — and Zheng quickly learned why. “It had a health monitoring feature that tracked your BMI, blood sugar, blood pressure and temperature,” says Zheng, founder of the real estate investment platform Cash Flow Portal. “It came with a built-in bidet and drying feature, and to top it all off, the toilet seat was also heated.”
He estimates the imported seat cost at least $10,000. “It’s no wonder the seller wanted to take it,” he says.
Other industry pros have encountered similar scenarios — though not with bathroom fixtures. Don Adams, general manager for Regional Foundation Repair, was tasked with removing an entire kitchen and entryway floor’s worth of century-old tile, so the owners could take it with them. Nicholas McMillan, owner of Hire Realty, had a client demand to keep a tree from the backyard. It left behind a “gaping hole,” McMillan says, and made selling the home significantly more challenging.
“Landscape is a major concern for homebuyers,” McMillan says. “It made it quite difficult to sell the place. Considering the features and location of the home, it could have sold like a hot cake otherwise.”
Sellers asked for more money or costly extras
Other sellers focused on financial gain. They asked buyers to cover transfer taxes or put down higher earnest money deposits to show they were serious about the home. Some demanded more cash at the very end of negotiations — often from buyers already offering well above asking price.
“The market is distorting what the average seller believes is normal,” says Mark J. Schmidt, a broker associate at RE/MAX Country New Jersey. “It certainly is still a seller’s market, but many sellers have inflated expectations and unrealistic views of how far they can push negotiations.”
It wasn’t all about snagging more upfront cash, though. Marina Vaamonde, a real estate investor and founder of home-selling platform House Cashin, had one seller ask her to arrange his four-hour-away move — and cover moving costs.
Dosenberry, an investor in Michigan, had to buy an owner’s handmade furniture to lock in the deal. On another property, the owner (a “hoarder” as Dosenberry described him) refused to clean out the home, forcing Dosenberry to do it himself.
“It was almost all trash,” he says. “The house had enough junk to fill 10 large dumpsters.” The task added about $6,000 to Dosenberry’s costs.
Sellers limited showings — or refused them altogether
Homes are selling at the fastest pace in at least five years — about 47 days on average (from listing to accepted offer) — and hopeful sellers have certainly noticed. In fact, some sellers were so confident their homes would sell, they either severely limited showings or refused them altogether.
Steve Johnston, CEO of Ideal Agent, a national discount real estate agent service, says one of his agents encountered a seller who would only allow buyers on the property between noon and 2 p.m. on Saturdays — a mere two-hour window. According to Johnston, their thinking was, “Bring all the buyers through during those times. We know it will sell, so we don't want to be inconvenienced.”
Glenn Phillips, CEO of Lake Homes Realty, a multi-state brokerage focusing on lakefront properties, had an even more extreme example.
“The seller refused all in-person showings, demanding that all offers be based only on the written description and photos,” Phillips says. “The photos weren’t of good quality, the house was old, and it was cluttered. Our buyer passed on that one.”
Sellers asked for more time — sometimes way more
Sellers also used their leverage to draw out transactions or buy more time in their homes (much like in McCorkel’s Christmas case).
Just ask Shmuel Shayowitz, president of Approved Funding — a mortgage lender outside of Teaneck, New Jersey (one of our top 10 best places to retire this year — a spin-off of Money’s annual Best Places to Live list).
“I had a seller ask the buyer to close on the home and allow them to stay there rent-free for 45 days,” Shayowitz says. “I also had a seller who was willing to accept an offer — above the asking price, of course, but it was contingent on no set closing date. The seller would have up to six months to close but could close with as little as 30 days' notice, and the buyers would need to be ready in both extreme instances.”
Surprisingly, the buyers agreed, and once the sellers were finally ready to close — three months into the contract — it caused a “huge scramble” on the financing side, Shayowitz says.
Will 2022 be as “wild”?
Clearly, sellers had the advantage this year. The question is: Will 2022 be more of the same?
Most forecasts project another strong housing market in the year to come, but sellers may not wield the power they did these last 12 months. Prices are predicted to rise — though at a slower pace than this year, and inventory and construction are expected to increase as well.
For these reasons, Phillips says homeowners need to be cautious about selling their house “based on how they feel about it, instead of market data.”
As he puts it, “No amount of marketing can overcome a grossly overpriced home.”