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Ten Tips for Selling a Tenant Occupied House


Whether you are a seasoned landlord that has seen it all or a landlord that has one house and a great tenant, there will probably come a time when you want to sell a tenant occupied house.  You may be thinking it’s not going to be a problem.  Selling any home in this market can be a challenge, but selling one with a tenant can completely exasperate you.

Look at it from the tenant’s point of view. They live there right now and chances are, they don’t want to move. From their point of view, you are asking them to inconvenience themselves by allowing strangers to traipse through “their home” at all hours of the day and possibly the evening. When you sell the house, they will have to move if a retail buyer bought it. They may still have to move if an investor buys the house and wants to make changes. Why should they make it easy for you?

The one thing you don’t want is an angry tenant

Think about the damage they can do. Then think about what they could tell a potential buyer if given half a chance! They have actually lived there for a period of time and they should be familiar with the home, how it is maintained, any problems the home might have and the quality of the neighborhood in general. If they are angry, they may remember things differently than you do.

If you want to have a chance of selling that house, you need a plan. You need to try and get the tenant on YOUR side so that you can sell the house quickly.

10 Tips for Selling a Tenant Occupied House.

  1. Sit down and explain to them what the situation is; that the house is for sale and you would like their help.
  2. Assure the tenants that they are not going to be booted to the street with no warning and that they will have “X” amount of days after the contract is signed to move.
  3. Promise them that they that they will be notified prior to any showing of the home.
  4. Let the tenants know that they will also be notified prior to any home inspections, appraiser visits, etc.
  5. Offer to compensate the tenant for every time they allow someone to view the home. You will have to decide on an amount, but consider paying them $10 every time the home is shown payable once the house closes.
  6. Offer to give them a gift certificate of some kind to a store of their choice when the home closes.
  7. Ask what you could do to make this process easier for them.
    If the tenant is really stubborn, you may have to resort to one of the “big 3″ below.

  8. Offer some type of bonus for leaving the home in top notch condition when they move out. For instance, you could offer them an additional $100.00 bonus in addition to the return of their security deposit.
  9. If moving expenses are the problem, offer to reimburse them for the cost of the moving truck. Help them move on.
  10. If the tenant is really stubborn, you may have to resort to the “cash for keys” plan. If the sale of your property hinges on getting  these folks out of the house this will certainly prove to be a lot easier and less costly than an eviction.

Get the tenants on your side!

While the last couple of suggestions may sound crazy, stop and consider this. Angry tenants can do a lot of damage to your property!

Time is money and the faster you get the house under contract and sold, the sooner you can move on. Your job is to get the tenant to help you sell the home.

Photo: Crosa

About Author

Sharon has been investing in real estate since 1998. She owned and operated a successful home inspection company for 17 years. In January of 2008 she took the leap of closing her business to become a full time real estate investor.


  1. Hello Sharon,

    Why does the tenant have to move out at all? I was thinking of selling my tenant-occupied home to a theoretical out-of-state investor who wants cashflow. Is that not also an option?

    • Hi Robert –

      It is an option if you can find an investor that wants the house (rather than a retail buyer) and this particular tenant. Some investors will be willing to give the tenant a try and others won’t. A lot of times, they don’t want to inherit a tenant that they didn’t choose. For instance, if the house is a mess or damaged in any way when they look at it, they may not want that tenant.

      A lot of the problems come up when you try to show the house. Some tenants will throw up all kind of road blocks to put off potential buyers. Each situation is different.

  2. Pingback: Are you a Landlord? « Tina Mak P.R.E.C. – Vancouver Radio Realtor

  3. I found what also works well is that you offer to have the lawns mowed and a house cleaner come in each week to keep the place looking clean. Of course, tact has to be used about the house cleaning so as not to upset them. But if the house is going to be on the market for a number of weeks tenants could see this as a bonus.

  4. Hello Sharon,
    I am short selling house that is tenant occupied. Closing is at the end of November and lease expires December 31st. New owner agreed to buy with tenants, but they will move out at lease expiratin date.
    To whom should I return security deposit check my tenants gave me , to my tenants or new owner?

  5. Hello Sharon,
    I am planning to sell my property, which is tenant occupied. The lease has expired in Dec 2012. However, a new lease hasn’t been signed till now due to going back and forth on some questions.
    My plan is to give them a month notice to vacate the home. Will there be any issues given the situation? The tenants have been nice so far, and we do not want to cause any issues or get them angry.

    Pal Hu

    • PalHu – Since they don’t have a lease, I don’t see a problem. They might need more like 60 days to find a new place and move in reality.

      I would just tell them that due to your current circumstances, you need to sell the property. Have you looked into the possibility that they may want to buy it?

      You could tell them you would like for them to be out in 30 days and see what happens. I would try to have an honest talk with them (in person) and try to work it out. Usually when they find out the property is going to be sold, they are OK with it and will go ahead and start looking for a new place.


  6. Remember, tenants are NOT second-class citizens and their rights should be fully respected by the laws in their jurisdiction.

    • Sharon Vornholt

      Richard –

      Absolutely! Landlords should always make every effort to work with the tenant and their schedule. It can be a tricky balance, but you want the tenant on your side. Thanks for your comments.


  7. I am a tenant that lives in a home that was recently sold. My lease is being upheld by the new buyer. When the owner sold the home they said they paid the new owner the rent and now are demanding I reimburse them for them paying the rent for that month at closing. Is this normal and am I obligated to pay them back? They closed on the 3rd of them month vs the end of the previous month as they stated they would. I was not notified of the change until I contacted the investment firm that was to purchase the home since I needed to pay the rent to the new owner. I obliged the previous owners when they came last minute to say the home was being sold in a few weeks and when the investors had the inspector come thru. I was not compensated for my time and efforts when it came to this event. Any words would be most helpful.

  8. Sharon Vornholt


    Rent is paid in advance, so your landlord should have been paid at the beginning of the month for that month. If they didn’t close until the 3rd of the month, then your previous owner was owed 3 days rent by the new owner, not the whole month.

    What should have happened was:

    If you had already paid the rent for the upcoming month (the month that they closed on the 3rd) to the previous owner he owed all of that rent to the new owner (except the 3 days) at closing. The closing company (attorney or title company) should have handled all of this and you as the tenant should not have been involved.

    At any rate, you only have to pay rent for the month once.

    Who did you pay the rent to? Was it the previous owner in advance for the month of the closing or the new owner?


  9. Here’s a question from a tenant’s point of view. My landlord is selling the house in which I rent a suite. He’s a good guy and lives upstairs, so I’m happy to cooperate when prospective buyers want to see my suite. He’s always given me 24 hours notice and I keep the place spotless.

    Here’s the issue. It seems to be a courtesy that I not be there on site when the showings take place. I can’t find anything legal saying I actually have to temporarily vacate the premises until they’re done. Am I legally obliged to leave my home? I’ve left the past 6 or 7 times they’ve had a showing, but sometimes it isn’t always convenient. I work from home sometimes and I have a child. What if my child is sick during a showing?

    I am not saying no to entry. They can still enter and inspect the premises but we might want to be there. Do we *have* to vacate each and every time they want to show or is it only desirable to make prospective buyers more comfortable? What’s the protocol?

  10. Elle –

    You are not obligated to leave the property. I would tell your landlord that you work from home. Let him know that you won’t interfere, but you need to be there. Anyone looking at the property should be an investor and they will understand.


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