Active Rain May 22, 2009

Are You Related to the Palm Beach Withhelds?


This is what sometimes appears as the name when sellers of a home instruct their agent that they wish to remain anonymous. I can understand the sentiment, but in this age of information, home owners should think long and hard before engaging in this practice. Other markets outside of New York may be different, but here in Westchester County and the surrounding areas the connotation of “Withheld” may be counterproductive. 

Over the years, homes sold by a withheld owner were often under distress. REO brokers often use this, and traditionally homes marketed as pre foreclosures would withhold the owner name to help them avoid embarrassment. That worked far better in 1997 than 2009 for reasons related to technology. Unlike 1997, public records with the owner of record’s name are a click away, rendering privacy a moot point.  

Other reasons for wanting to have the seller name withheld has been privacy concerns. This is the predominant reason why a non-distressed seller would not disclose their name. However, it backfires all too often.

Privacy should not trump the suggestion of distress. If a listing unintentionally hints a distress sale, the seller’s posture is more vulnerable- that can cost them serious money when an offer arrives. And once a buyer believes the seller is in a bind, no amount of denying it will completely eradicate doubt in the buyer’s mind. 

There have been times that it helps to know the name of the owner of a sold home when advising clients in pricing their home, and if “Withheld” supplants a last name when trying to ascertain the exact identity of a recent nearby sale, the practice becomes a counterproductive nuisance. 

I think that in most cases people who withhold their name are doing more harm than good. I recall selling a listing right next door to Supermodel Heidi Klum’s home, which was also for sale. Now, if anyone would want to withhold their name, it would be a supermodel. Ms. Klum’s listing disclosed a corporate owner. She had her anonymity without the “Withheld” moniker. 

Recently, our MLS required an additional form for withholding the owner’s name, and the practice seems less common. This is good; the fewer the Withhelds, the better. Sellers should be very cautious about instructing their agent to withhold their name. 

Search the MLS like an agent here. New York’s Premier Short Sale REALTOR. Read my short sale bog here. See the New York Photo blog hereJ. Philip Serves Briarcliff Manor, Ossining, the River Towns, Westchester County, and the bedroom counties of New York City.