I vividly remember the day we found out our landlord was putting our home on the market. We endured four long months of showings, repairs, and inspections before it was over.

If this dreaded day has come for you, too, then you’re probably wondering what you can do to make life easier while your home is on the market. While you can’t do anything to stop your landlord from selling, you can prepare yourself and your home for the inevitable intrusions.

This guide will help you:

  • Assert your rights
  • Prepare your home for the market
  • Understand what to expect throughout the process
  • Take care of your lease

Know Your Tenant Rights

As a property owner, your landlord has the right to sell at any time. While it will undoubtedly be inconvenient, you more than likely have no choice but to cooperate.

That said, you still have rights as a tenant.

Basic tenant rights, such as anti-discrimination laws, the right to a habitable environment, security deposit requirements, and the right to a reasonable amount of privacy, are protected under federal guidelines.

Your right to privacy is most relevant in this situation, so make sure you understand what you’re entitled to. Specifics vary by state, but your landlord is required to give you advanced notice before entering your home. This includes visits from real estate agents, showings, repairs, and anything else involved in the sale.

A few tips:

  • Get EVERYTHING in writing. Cover your bases, and try to communicate by email if possible. If you’ve agreed to something verbally, try to get your landlord to send over something confirming the conversation in writing.
  • Cooperate with your landlord. It may pay to work with your landlord and their agent. It’s in everyone’s best interests to work together. Don’t make things harder for yourself by getting into a disagreement with your landlord.

‘Stage’ the Property

I know what you’re thinking—why do I need to prepare my home for someone else to sell while I’m still living there? You’re technically not obligated to clean, put away personal items, or contain pets, but there are three things you need to take into consideration.

  1. Clean, uncluttered spaces often sell faster.
  2. Do you really want strangers checking out personal items and family photos?
  3. Are people coming into your home going to be respectful to your pets?

During our home’s showings, we kept everything clean and did our best with the clutter, but we were preparing to move, so there were boxes everywhere. Just do your best, and hopefully the place will sell faster. Once the sale is final, you’ll be able to enjoy whatever time you have left on your lease in peace.

Will there be pictures?

If your home is going to be listed online, chances are there will be pictures.

Unless the owner has pictures from a previous listing, a real estate agent will likely photograph the space. The agent should know to do this, but ask them to avoid taking any pictures of electronics or other expensive items. We had advanced notice, so we put away things we didn’t want pictured online.

What to do inside.

Clean like your mother is coming to visit. Spend some time cleaning your home, and focus on the bathrooms and kitchen. If you’ve got carpet, vacuum it regularly.

Do your best to consolidate clutter. We gave up trying to keep all clutter out of sight, especially as we neared our move date. The constant cleaning gets old, as you have people coming into your home several times a week, but just try to keep your home presentable.

Clear your sink every day, and take out the trash regularly—just act like, you know, an adult human being. Many people think of renters as being gross, dirty, and destructive. Having renters at all can be a huge deterrent to selling a property, so don’t sabotage the sale by making cleanliness the reason someone drops that property from their list.

What to do outside.

person walking behind lawn mowerIf your lease holds you responsible for lawn care and maintenance, keep any grass or shrubs trimmed and looking neat. Don’t spend any money on additional landscaping, but take care to present a well cared for yard. Curb appeal is huge in just getting people in the door, and you want the exterior to attract, not deter, potential buyers.

On the Market

You’ve found out your landlord is selling, they’ve taken pictures, and the listing is online—what now?

We lived in a pretty popular area, so there were five showings the weekend after the property went online—great start for the owner, but horrible impression on us and what it was going to be like during the whole process. The first month was really busy with a lot of showings, but they slowed down as offers started coming in.

The for-sale sign.

Ask your landlord to forgo placing a for-sale sign in front of your home. They may say no, but it doesn’t hurt to ask.

We unfortunately had a for-sale sign displayed in our front window. We lived in a townhome with a small flight of stairs, and people would regularly walk up to look inside. You may want to keep the blinds closed if you’re in a similar situation.

Is there a key box?

real estate push button realtor lockboxDo not let your owner’s real estate agent hook a key box to your door. Modern key boxes allow any real estate agent to access your home if they’ve got the right cellphone app and code. We kept the key box inside, and when the agent alerted us to a showing, we left the box on the front porch. If you’re going out of town, just go ahead and leave the key box outside.

Get ready for showings.

Some agents and landlords restrict showings to business hours—ours did not. Many agents will add a note to occupied listings that says “Unit is occupied. We require 24 hours notification for a showing.” Again, ours did not, which meant that the most notice we got for showings was twelve hours but most often it was one or two.

We did not have to, but we were able to accommodate every request, so we did. Was it annoying? Yes, but we were trying to be as cooperative as possible for several reasons:

  • We didn’t know if something would come up in the future that would make it impossible for us to comply with a request.
  • Our landlord had offered us a rent abatement if we cooperated throughout the process.
  • We wanted to get out of our lease early.

Laws vary by state, but your landlord is typically required to give you 24 hours’ notice before entering your unit, which includes any showings when they’re selling your home.

Unless you’re renting a mansion, showings should take 30 minutes max. Prospective buyers aren’t inspecting every detail; they’re mostly just walking through and checking out all of the rooms and closets.

Don’t be rude to people looking at your home. It’s not their fault your landlord decided to sell the property, and I couldn’t help thinking about how these people could be our new landlord.

For us, all showings during the week occurred after 4 PM. Saturday was the biggest day during the weekend, and we were sometimes given giant blocks of time where they would book multiple showings. If this happens to you, just plan to do something or run some errands.

You technically don’t have to leave, but it’s pretty awkward for potential buyers to have someone hanging out when they’re trying to look around.

Home Buying Process

Even though you may not be on the hunt for a home of your own, it’s not a bad idea to learn more about the home buying process.

  • Do you want to know the basics? Learn the lingo.
  • What are people looking for? See how people search for their dream home.
  • There will probably be a few home inspections. Why are home inspections necessary?

Handle Your Lease

lease agreement with penYour landlord has listed your home, and you’re probably interested in moving out as soon as possible. Before you start looking, ensure that everything with your lease is in order. You don’t want to duck out on your lease early and be liable for months of rent.

What kind of lease do you have?

Make sure you know what kind of lease you have. The most common types of leases include:

  • Month-to-Month Lease. Month-to-month leases can be terminated by either the tenant or landlord, usually with about a month’s notice.
  • Fixed-Term Lease. A fixed-term lease involves a specific rental period, like one year, agreed upon in a written contract.

While a month-to-month lease gives you more flexibility, it also leaves you at a greater risk if your landlord puts your home on the market. That said, if you find somewhere to live, you can more easily move out and away from the situation.

Those with fixed-term leases are in a more difficult position, because the fact that your landlord is selling your unit while still occupied indicates that they’re not interested in letting the home sit empty on the market. They’re probably looking to sell before you leave so they don’t lose rental income or have to pay utilities while it’s on the market. Depending on how much time is left on your lease, you may be getting a new landlord.

Amend your lease if necessary.

Work on amending your lease as soon as you know someone is interested in buying your home. Our landlord worked with the new owner to maintain possession until we moved out, even though the sale was finalized a month before we left. We couldn’t finalize the amendment until the day before close, because our landlord wasn’t willing to give up the chance at an extra month of rental income if the sale fell through.

Be persistent, and ask some questions about your safety deposit and final home inspections—who will do the final walkthrough and who will return your deposit?

Get a discount.

If your landlord doesn’t offer, request a rent abatement for the inconvenience. If you agree to work with your landlord, do it! Keep your place relatively clean, contain your pets when necessary, and leave when the real estate agent schedules showings.

Our landlord offered us half-off our last month of rent if we worked with him and his agent throughout the process. We were also the point of contact for several home repairs our landlord had done for the buyer.

Move out early.

moving boxes and furnitureAgain, if your landlord is selling your home while occupied, they’re probably not willing to lose out on any potential income. We weren’t sure when the unit would sell, but we wanted to move out as soon as possible, so we started looking for a new home as soon as ours was put on the market.

We found a place that was available a month before our original lease was up, and we were prepared to pay overlapping rents for a month. Luckily, a buyer came through, and we got out of our lease a month early. The buyer wanted to move in, and we wanted to move out, so it worked out. If the new property owner buys the property for investment purposes, you may not be able to get out of your lease.

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Bottom Line

Your landlord is selling, and unless you’re interested in buying, you really have no choice but to go along for the ride. That said, you still have a reasonable right to peaceful enjoyment of your home. Prepare yourself by:

  • Knowing your rights
  • Understanding that it will probably take some time
  • Being ready to cooperate
  • Getting everything in writing