Let’s be clear on one thing: by nature, real estate agents are not fragile beings. They’ve heard it all. And for the most part, they have a great sense of humor about things. In other words, you can tell them virtually anything — in fact, you should if it’s pertinent to buying or selling your home.
It’s just that there’s a handful of things clients say that can rub agents the wrong way. These things aren’t offensive, per se’, and you probably mean no harm when saying them. But we need to discuss these things. Thus, this list. Let’s file it under “edutainment” — important enough to warrant a dialogue, but light enough for you to realize it’s not the end of the world if you’ve said these things to an agent in the past.
Here they are.
1. “I want to buy a home, but I don’t want to commit to one agent.”
Loyalty is a two-way street. If you want an agent’s help, understand that he or she will spend a considerable amount of time, money, and effort shuttling you from house to house, scheduling home viewings, and previewing listings on your behalf. The tradeoff for this hard work is to sign a buyer’s agency agreement, allowing them to formally represent you as a client (versus merely a customer). There are major differences between the two. Learn more about agency relationships here.
2. “Don’t show my home unless I’m available.”
Look down. See a hole in your shoe? That’s because you’re shooting yourself in the foot. Real estate agents are busy. Therefore, if you want to maximize your home’s exposure, you’re gonna have to be flexible (i.e., as “hands off” as possible). I get it, though. You cringe at the thought of muddy shoes dragging across your beige carpet (or whatever else your concern may be). You naturally want to be present to keep an eye on things, but try to control that urge. Buyers get uncomfortable with sellers standing over them while they view a home — and that’s if you’re lucky enough to draw the buyer inside in the first place, considering all the hoops created by stipulating that other people’s schedules must align with yours.
3. “But Zillow said…”
Stop listening to Zillow. Relying on Zillow to determine your home’s value is, at best, a crapshoot. Zillow itself even encourages buyers, sellers and homeowners to conduct other research such as “getting a comparative market analysis (CMA) from a real estate agent” and “getting an appraisal from a professional appraiser.” Sure, Zillow’s Zestimates® are quick, easy, and free… but so is dating advice from your thrice-divorced Uncle Larry. The point? Just let a local real estate professional (who will actually see your home’s unique features in person) determine its fair market value.
4. “I’ll get pre-approved for a mortgage later.”
This puts you at a huge disadvantage right out of the starting block. First, an agent worth his or her salt won’t agree to invest countless hours showing homes to someone who isn’t approved for a loan. Secondly, it’s an unfair burden on the seller to bring tire-kickers into their home (which is how you’ll be perceived). Therefore, listing agents and sellers will often require a pre-approval letter alongside your offer. This letter strengthens your offer by instilling confidence in all parties that you’re financially capable of purchasing the home.
5. “I don’t want to bother my Realtor®. Can you just show me the house?”
Not just no, but heck no. To be clear, you’re more than welcome to view it, but there’s a protocol in play here. Contrary to what you think, asking your agent to see a home is not “bothering” them. It’s their job. It’s how they get paid. It’s what they love doing. If there are extenuating circumstances preventing your agent from showing you a home, let him or her call the listing agent directly. Don’t worry, you’ll get to view the home one way or another. But if you’re already represented, then going straight to the listing agent is considered is a faux pas in this industry (and a bit of a slap in the face to your agent). Just don’t do it.
The correct pronunciation is Real-tor. No need to throw that extra syllable in there.
7. “Oh, you sell real estate? You must make good money.”
Hold your horses… not necessarily. According to NAR (National Association of REALTORS®), the median gross income of REALTORS® was $47,700 in 2013, and that’s before expenses like MLS fees, marketing, insurance and everything else. Also, keep in mind that commissions are split between the brokerages representing the buyer and seller. In other words, of that X% you paid your agent to sell your home, he or she saw only a tiny fraction of that.
8. “I’m planning to sell my home by owner. I just want to know how to do it.”
We all know that time is money, but so is knowledge. It’s not always free, and it certainly can’t be passed from one brain to another through osmosis — especially not how to sell a home. So if you ask this question to an agent, don’t be offended if you don’t get the answer you were seeking. It’s not that agents want you to fail… it’s just that advising you how to sell a home isn’t as easy as, say, forwarding a recipe for chocolate pound cake. I should know. Many people tried to replicate my grandmother’s chocolate pound cake. They even had the recipe. But they all failed miserably, every time. Bottom line? If you want to benefit from experience, be willing to pay for it (especially when it comes to real estate).
9. “I’ll only sell my home to a buyer who is (insert race, gender, religion, etc. here)”
This is a big no-no, and one that’s liable to get you sued (unless, of course, you list with a real estate professional who’d certainly know better than to discriminate). Federal equal housing laws were passed in 1968 in the wake of the Civil Rights Movement, and they prohibit renters and home sellers from discriminating against individuals on the basis of race, sex, religion and other factors. So in a nutshell: focus on getting your home sold, and forget about to whom.
10. “I’d love to get paid to look at pretty houses all day, every day.”
So would agents. “Looking at pretty houses” is only one of about 184 things real estate agents do for their clients.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Graduate REALTOR Institute
Jill Sackler, NYS Real Estate Broker Associate based on Long Island's South Shore
Specializing in Lifecycle Real Estate Transitions
©Jill Sackler 2010