When Parents Are the “Kiss of Death” in Home Buying

 By Bill Primavera

The Home Guru

Of all the experiences I’ve enjoyed with my family, one of my favorites was helping my daughter, her husband and my six-year old grandson search for the home of their dreams.

Yes, my grandson participated too because of his request that we find a home that featured a “cave” of some sort – a dark space under a stairway or a deep closet, for instance — and ultimately we found one.

While I feel that I was of some service in my daughter’s home search, many times parents are considered the “kiss of death” when giving their opinions about their children’s intended purchase. This is not a put-down of parents because, after all, we all want to protect and support our children. But many times, parents’ opinions, whether valid or off-the-wall, can kill a deal, much to the dismay of both their children and their realtors who may have thought that an offer was imminent.

That has happened to me many times, and to all realtors I know.

One such instance involved my friends Diane and Bob Arenholz of Better Homes & Gardens/Rand, “the spouses who sell houses.” I had received an email from them indicating that they were representing a young couple who were about to make an offer on a special property I had listed as a “country retreat.”

But, I got a subsequent phone call from Diane saying that, before they presented the offer, the young couple just wanted to invite their parents in for their opinion. Uh-oh, I thought, as we all do . . . the kiss of death.

The second showing took place with the parents and, indeed, the deal went south.

 “It was like the perfect storm because not one, but both sets of parents showed up,” Bob explained, “and it became like a dueling match to see which parent could find more fault with the house than the other.

“One of the fathers came in like an engineer and did a full inspection of the house from top to bottom,” he continued, “and when I asked his son if his dad had a lot of knowledge about home systems and maintenance, I learned that the ‘inspector’ had never owned a home in his life, but lived in an apartment on Pelham Parkway in the Bronx. I suspect he never had a hammer in his hand and that the only maintenance he ever did was to pick up the phone and call the super.”

Diane chimed in, saying, “Agents are placed in an awkward position when they disagree with the opinions of their clients’ parents. How can you tell the buyer that their parents don’t know what they’re talking about?” she asked.

“And, let’s face it,” added Bob, “Many times parents are kicking in money for the house, and they feel that entitles them to rip it apart. They are almost always highly critical of the choices their children make,” he said. “It’s very rare that their input is positive and they think the house is wonderful.”

JoAnn Coogan, an agent in my own office who has never had any job other than that as a realtor, said that parental influence has very frequently come into play in her dealings. “One problem is that the parents may not have had a house-buying experience in over 30 years and they come to the current situation with that perspective from long ago, starting with sticker shock at the price!”

And, my own observation is that a young couple may be comfortable with the work that a “fixer-upper” requires, but parents may discourage them because of their own perception of the work it would require.

“I think it all depends on the baggage parents bring with them,” Bob Arenholz said. “With the parents from Pelham Parkway, it was obvious to me that they just didn’t want their kids to move that far away from them. So, now, instead of investing in a good home at a rock bottom price and at low interest rates, they convinced their kids to rent an apartment near them in the Bronx and to wait it out ‘until the market gets better.’

“But what does that mean?” he asked. “Wait until the market gets better and prices go up and they have to pay more for the same kind of house, while they’re throwing their money away on a rental?  Sometimes, it just doesn’t make sense.”


Bill Primavera is a licensed Realtor® (www.PrimaveraHomes.com), affiliated with Coldwell Banker, and a marketing practitioner (www.PrimaveraPR.com). For questions or comments about the housing market, or selling or buying a home, he can be reached directly at 914-522-2076.