Open Mouth, Insert Foot: Don’t Say This During Showings


A few months ago, I was watching a horror movie on my laptop. (I think it was Paranormal Activity II). Several scary scenes within that movie take place in the kitchen. The audience gets a prolonged look at the set as the music swells and the suspense builds.

I wasn’t noticing the suspense. I kept staring at the kitchen design.

“I like that they’ve chosen outswing exterior doors leading towards the patio,” I said, hitting the “pause” button to study it more closely. “That helps with the household traffic flow.”

My boyfriend rolled his eyes. “This is supposed to be the scary part.”

“It is.” I pointed to the screen. “See those grout lines?”

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The Problem

Normal people see hardwood floors; people like you and I see oak, maple or bamboo; Normal people see a bathroom floor; we see 12×12 or 4×6 or 18×18 measurements. Normal people see a hallway; we see 36 inches.

If you look at a lot of houses, you begin to develop a trained eye. And that’s great. But that means you also spot the flaws. You see what’s outdated. You see what no longer works. You see what could have been done better.

When you’re looking at your own investment homes, you might be most critical-minded of all. Every little flaw leaps out at you.

And sometimes you speak those things aloud. At showings. Oops.

That’s not a good habit. If you’ve trained your eye to notice details, you also need to train your mouth to filter out some of those thoughts … especially when you’re doing showings. Otherwise, you might end up calling attention to details that don’t need to be highlighted.

I make this mistake constantly. I’ll be doing a showing with a potential new tenant, and they’ll poke their head into the bathroom. And I’ll instantly feel nearly-apologetic for the fact that the tub surround is plastic, rather than tile, and it’s kinda an ugly older plastic with a faded almond tint, and we’d really like to replace it, but we think we can squeeze another few years out of it, but in the meantime I feel guilty about it …

So I’ll blurt out something ridiculous like, “Hey, the tub surround may be plastic, but check out the awesome new sink faucet!” And the tenants will look at me like I’m crazy. Fair enough.

My Recent Mistake

I did this a few weeks ago. I was showing a house to a potential new tenant, and we walked out onto a deck that’s badly, badly overdue for some staining/sealing. The first words out of my mouth weren’t sales-y words like “This is a great place to eat dinner!” or “This is a quiet place to read!” but rather, “We plan on staining this deck next weekend.”

That caused the potential tenant to notice the old and damaged wood — a detail they had probably overlooked. Open mouth, insert foot.

Unnecessary Attention

The moral of the story is simple: Don’t call unnecessary attention to your flaws. Just solve the issues quietly. And if you’re not done fixing them yet, don’t say anything unless asked.

These so-called flaws are probably a thousand times bigger in your own mind than they are in someone elses’ mind, anyway. Most tenants aren’t worried about whether or not the cabinet hinges match the handles. They’re thinking about where to put their bookshelves and stereos and beds.

So take a breath. Relax. You might spot the flaws. But your prospects will see the results of the work you’ve done. And that’s a beautiful thing.

Photo: Kevin

About Author

Paula Pant

Paula Pant quit her 9-to-5 job, invested in 7 rental units, and traveled to 32 countries. Her blog, Afford Anything, shares how to shatter limits, build wealth and maximize life. (At, she shares EXACT numbers from all her rental investments -- costs, cash flow, cap rate; it's all published for the world to read.) Afford Anything is a gathering spot for a tribe dedicated to ditching the cubicle. Read her blog, and join the revolution.


  1. Too funny, Paula! I learned this lesson when I used to sell real estate, and my broker at the time told me a story about showing an older home to some prospective buyers. He took them into the basement, where the seller’s had thought it was a good idea to carpet it with orange shag. His immediate reaction was to apologize for the carpet choice and tell them maybe we could negotiate for a carpet credit. Before he had a chance to open his mouth, the buyers said “What cool carpet! We love it!”

    From that point forward, he said he kept his opinions about the houses he showed to himself, and let the clients raise their own objections, instead of him making assumptions about what they may or may not like. It was priceless advice!

  2. One thing that my wife and I have to keep reminding each other of is that no one else is going to look at “something” as critically as we will. In other words at some point good enough is good enough.

  3. Rita Phillips on

    Paula – you are not alone! With many years of remodeling under my belt, it’s easy to find “less than perfect” product around.
    You hit on one of my hot buttons, though. I hear so many agents pointing out all the negatives in a home they are showing. Wow. Who taught you sales/marketing?
    Plus, when I find myself offering too much of my opinion, later I remind myself that it’s just that…my opinion, not a buyers. Maybe those folks actually like those ugly grout lines! 🙂
    Thanks for the good read.

    • @Rita — Exactly. Good sales/marketing means NOT pointing out the negatives … which is easier said than done (no pun intended) when you’re viewing your own property with an ultra-critical eye! I’m definitely learning to stay quiet about my opinions and to highlight the great fixtures, not the ugly grout lines.

  4. I once had a property manager post a video online of one of my rentals where when he was showing the bathroom he said it was “nothing special”.

    Another thing that really annoyed me when I was buying my first house was when I would hear realtors use the term “starter-house” to describe some of the houses I was looking at. It felt so insulting to me.

    • They were trying to direct you to a more expensive place, or at least suggest you will need to move up the food chain in the housing market.

      In contracting we use good, better, and best, you choose. In reality we are implanting in your mind the need to spend more with us.

      Btw, I still live in my first house the one the Realtor said was a starter house.
      Now however the place has become a bit more desirable, not a Mc Mansion, but a very efficient property.
      All of my friends are downsizing to the same kind of homes, does the agent say “This is a starter home, when they know you are not going to move again?” No, they instead use terms like “no steps, easy to maintain, etc.”

  5. I have cured myself of this.
    I point out nice features and only address issues if asked.

    I’ll give you a pass on the deck since that is a nice upgrade you were planning on. Maybe it backfired, but that was at least pointing out a good thing.

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