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When the typical Triangle Area real estate agent goes out on a listing appointment to pitch their services they tell the potential seller client what they will do for the seller and why the seller should become their client. The list of services offered by the agent will vary from firm to firm and from agent to agent. In our business, there may or may not be a correlation between service level and price, but that is another post. But there is one service that costs the agent and their firm almost nothing, and therefore, it is almost always included – no, promised, to potential seller clients: Feedback.
“Mr. or Ms. Seller, if you hire me and my firm, we will solicit feedback from any and all potential buyers and their agents. And, we can use this information to help market the home.” [Note, it's always a 'home' to these agents.]
But feedback is more than this. Often listing agents will use buyer feedback to help them (the listing agent) tell the now seller client something the agent does not want to say themselves or something the seller does not want to hear or something the agent has, in fact, told the seller, but the seller did not believe.
So far, so good. Actually, sounds beneficial – and it is!
A buyer and his or her agent are out scoping properties. The buyer(s) is in town on a business trip and has one afternoon free to see as many properties as possible. Yes, the buyers and their agent narrowed it down greatly on the internet and back and forth with email. But, there are still multiple properties that they want to see in two different areas. So, they skip lunch, start at 12:30, grab a bite at four, and don’t finish until dark – right? Right!
They might see eight or more houses. Now many agents will limit how many properties they will show, both daily, and in total. But a good agent, especially one working with savvy buyers, will try to maximize his or her buyers’ selection, and in a case like this, maximize the productivity of the limited time they have on the ground.
And, this is on top of the two properties that this particular buyer’s agent previewed for other out-of-town clients on that particular morning.
Sound pretty common? Absolutely.
Now, are the buyers and their agent taking notes? Well maybe. It depends - on the buyers’ reactions, the accuracy of the MLS data sheet, the style of the particular agent and of the particular buyers, etc. If the goal is to further narrow the list of properties, it is highly unlikely that they are going to take the time to write notes about properties number four and five. Four and Five are out – really nothing further to discuss – let’s move on.
Look, at this point, any number of things might happen. One thing the buyers might say is, “Hey, let’s go back to your office and write up an offer for our Number One.” Great! So they do that – first a little research (CMA, taxes, etc.), but then the evening ends (late) with a glorious offer! Or, Number One might be hopelessly overpriced, so the agent repeats the process for Number Two. Or, the buyers might say any number of other things, like for example, “We’d like to sleep on it.”
The point is that the buyer’s agent has been rather busy! Good busy, but busy. So regardless of the outcome (for that day), later that night the buyers’ agent finally gets a chance to check or answer email – and, what does he or she find? Well, an inbox full of Feedback Requests.
What?, You thought I forgot the topic?!
Well, remember what we had to say below about how most real estate agents believe that it is very important to be well-liked by their peers. (See our post, blackballed) Quick review: For most real estate agents in this market, it is more important to be well-liked by your peers (other real estate agents), than it is to take care of your clients. So, most agents will sit down and accommodate those requests.
Yessiree, they will sit right there and say things like, “My buyers did not like the wallpaper in the hall bath” or “We thought that the factory right behind the house was a wee bit loud” or even, “Gosh, the price seemed a little high to us, but thank you ever so much for letting us see it”. Or, they might say: “Golly gee wiz, my clients just loved the place”.
Believe it or not, this is Standard Operating Procedure for real estate agents in our market! Question in passing: Is it SOP to inform buyers of this practice?
Now, what do we do?
Let's set aside the whole question of time-commitment. (Does the buyers’ agent really have time to provide information to the seller, promised by the sellers’ agent? Well maybe, maybe not. By the way, they call it a courtesy.)
Typically, we do not provide feedback. In the rare event that we do provide it, we must be absolutely positive that it will not affect our buyer client in any way. Besides, what was it we learned about information back in Negotiations 101?
Savvy Buyer Feedback Maxim:
This is so obvious! It is testament to the intellect of the typical real estate agent that this needs to be explained at all.
Now, I wish this was the end of the diatribe, but no….
If and when we fail to respond to the first email Feedback Request, yes, we get another, and another, etc. And low and behold, if all those emails fail to do the trick, the seller’s agent, or one of her minions, starts calling. Yes!, on the phone! My phone! After all, she promised her seller clients feedback. And, usually it is the agent from un-noteworthy house Number Seven, and usually this is two or three days later, and always when I am in the middle of something terribly, terribly important. And, they say, do you remember my listing….?
The conversation goes downhill from there….
Listing Agent Must be Present to Show
So, Mr. & Mrs. Seller are moving to the South of France. They have a $2.5 million mansion here in the Triangle, which they still occupy. The house has $250,000 worth of furniture and roughly the same amount of art on the walls. Obviously, this property needs to be handled with a certain amount of finesse. One thing the seller might very well insist on is: If we list this house with you, Mr. Agent, we expect you to personally attend every showing. You will give our property the appreciation it deserves and we will have piece-of-mind that our home is secure. By the way, you will not release our keys or security system access code to anyone.
So, the agent may or may not place the property in the MLS, but the showing instructions are clear: "Listing Agent must be Present to Show. For an appointment, call Listing Agent."
Fair enough? Of course.
This makes sense for a $2.5 million, occupied property. And, it might make sense for properties worth much less. Of course, as with everything in real estate, it all depends.
The facts: Not long ago we had buyers interested in a $500,000-range property, new construction, never occupied, MLS-listed. Showing Instructions: Listing Agent Must be Present to Show. For an appointment, call Listing Agent. Well okay.... So, we did, repeatedly. Maybe a dozen times or more. When she finally deemed to return our call, it was one excuse after another as to why we could not see the property. In the meantime, our buyers found and purchased another property.
The Speculation: Here the facts end and we enter the world of speculation. True, there could be any number of reasons behind this. But, being cynics, we would like to offer one possible hypothesis. Could it be that had we been actual unrepresented buyers, not agents, that the listing agent would have found time to show us the property immediately? If the listing agent scares up a buyer on her own, without the benefit of a cooperating agent, she makes more money - a lot more, often double. Do you think that just maybe that is what happened on this unoccupied property? Mind you, this is pure speculation.
Now, who does this hurt? Well, everyone, other than the listing agent, but I will spare you a list, save for one. If this is what happened, the party suffering the greatest injury is who? The seller! That is, the client of the listing agent. Mr. Seller, your listing agent has greatly reduced the pool of potential buyers for your property. Odds are overwhelming, you will make less money.
And how would the seller know? Odds are not high that he or she would find out. 'Discovery Risk' is low. Like so much in this business, it is quite easy to injure your own client, often to your advantage, and the client never knows.
Sellers should make sure that any agent they hire is both available and willing to, in fact, be present for showings. If there is any doubt, the seller should prohibit dual agency for the property. And if using a small real estate firm, the seller should prohibit designated agency as well. That way, the listing agent will be forced to work with a cooperating broker. On the off chance she does find the buyer, she can refer the buyer to another broker (and yes, get paid for doing so) AND continue to represent you exclusively.
Note to Sellers: Be careful who you hire! Yes, yes, we know that there are all sorts of reasons to hire any given listing agent - just be aware of the cost.
Want to sell your house? Get Out!
Greg Swann over at Bloodhound Realty explains:
When we are out with buyers, we run into this sort of stuff all the time. Typically, our response to the buyer is, "They (the sellers) just don't want to sell it." What we mean, of course, is the sellers are not very motivated to sell. Is that terrible? Well, it is surely an indication of what is to follow. If the sellers are not going to be reasonable about simple access to the property, how reasonable should we expect them to be on other issues, like say, price. This is an easy argument to make to our buyer clients - with an even easier solution: "Let's move on."