By Jeff Stern
I recently received a message from an agent who was faced with a tricky situation. Tell me how you would handle this situation if you were in her shoes.
She’d received a call on a property. “I’d like to see the house you have listed,” said the woman on the phone.
The first question the agent asked was, “Are you currently working with an agent?”
“Yes,” she replied. She had an agent. But when asked who, she couldn’t recall the agent’s last name. Red flag number one.
“My agent is not available right now,” she said. The caller went on to say there had been a death in the family and the agent was attending a funeral. “So, I’d like you show us the place.”
The agent replied, “I’m hosting an open house at that address on Saturday. Please come by then.”
The caller couldn’t possibly make it during that time, she said, and again asked for a private showing. The agent was now torn.
She wanted to serve her seller well by bringing serious, qualified buyers. She wanted to help the buyer who wanted to see a house. She also wanted to help her fellow agent by showing the house when that agent couldn’t.
What was the right thing to do?
Unsure, and knowing I’m deeply involved in real estate education, professional standards investigations and hearings, she messaged me for advice. Our conversation led to her making a very wise choice: she declined showing the property to this unknown caller, instead recommending that if they were unable to come to the public open house (that is what they are for), to contact their agent’s broker and ask them to assign an agent in that brokerage to work with them in their own agent’s absence.
The agent and I had coffee a few days later and she told me she struggled all day with the decision to say no to the private showing, at least until the open house. In the end it had been all for nought anyway.
I’ve seen a lot of things, and I must say, this agent should win a reward for her professionalism and ethical behaviour. She wanted to say yes and show the property in order to help everyone involved. Even so, she took my advice and declined the buyer’s request.
The Manitoba Securities Commission Real Estate Brokers Act has rules about things like this, in particular, setting out that an agent from one brokerage cannot be involved with the client of another brokerage. Had the agent engaged the other broker’s client, it would have been offside and she could have been called to task.
The days of showing houses indiscriminately to people who are unknown to the listing agent, let alone pre-approved and who have not met and engaged their own buyer agent, are quickly dying.
Sure, it was fine back in the days before computers in the real estate industry, when listings had a single black and white picture with a few feature remarks and details printed in daily update sheets delivered to broker offices that agents could photocopy. Even when we progressed to a bi-weekly book of properties and daily couriered update sheets, there was a need to go see the place in living colour. But we have internet now. Most listings have whole slideshows of photos and even virtual tours. There’s no longer a need to show homes randomly to every Tom, Dick and Harriett who asks.
Showing randomly to anyone who asks is bad because:
- It’s a disservice to your seller to ask them to jettison their family for an hour every time someone feels like having their own personally guided tour through a house they may or may not actually be legitimately interested in or even capable of buying.
- It’s a risk to you, the agent. It is risky not to screen people who want to get you alone in a house.
- It’s a risk to the seller to expose their home to anyone who asks. Their security system, family schedule and jewellery boxes are easy prey for someone with the mind to take advantage.
- It’s even a disservice to the person asking for a showing. By allowing them to run wild and free among whatever listings they have a whim to see, you’re not finding out their core needs and wants, and then using your professionalism and knowledge to help them find what they’re looking for… which is kind of your job, isn’t it?