Organized real estate is unique in how it’s structured – in most countries (including Canada), there’s an agent who represents the Buyer and an agent who represents the Seller and in order for them to help their clients, they have to co-operate. Not just cooperate in a be-nice-to-each-other-way- but REALLY cooperate. While the Seller normally pays both agents, their loyalties and obligations are to their own clients. This is great in so many ways – but it does mean we are dependent on each other.
Unfortunately, cooperating with other agents can be incredibly painful. Whether that’s because of how easy it is for people to get a real estate license or the giant brokerages that don’t supervise their agents or the thousands of people who get their license each year and only sell a property or two a year, there is a serious lack of professionalism in our industry. And it hurts more than the other agents – the buyers and sellers are often victims too.
So today I thought I’d write a How-to Etiquette Guide for Buyer Agents. If you aren’t an agent, feel free to stop reading – it might freak you out to find out what goes on behind the scenes.
- When you book a showing at a property, show up the scheduled time. And leave when it’s over. This has been a particularly painful problem during COVID, with agents showing up whenever they want to see a property (while the sellers are still home) or staying well past their allotted time and screwing up the rest of the day’s schedule. If your appointment is from 3-3:30, show up at 3 and be gone by 3:30. If you’re going to be late, just call and let me know or reschedule your appointment.
- If you can’t make an appointment, cancel it! Sellers go to a lot of effort to prepare their home for a showing, so don’t make them waste their time and wait in their car for an hour while you don’t show up. It’s a courtesy to leave a business card at the showing – that way, the seller knows you visited and there’s an easy way for the listing agent to contact you. (Listing agents: did you know you can report this to TRREB and the agent will be fined? If we all started doing this, maybe the behaviour would stop).
- Limit the number of people at a showing – and please, no dogs! Yes, this happens. An agent friend of mine just caught a buyer agent on a Ring doorbell entering one of her listings with an unleashed yorkie. I love yorkies, don’t get me wrong…but come on! During COVID, most brokerages have rules about the number of people that can be in a home at the same time, so follow the rules. So many Sellers have cameras these days – you aren’t really getting away with it.
- Take off your damn shoes. I don’t care how busy you are: be respectful to the homeowner – they LIVE there! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to clean my clients’ floors because disrespectful agents traipsed through it with their muddy shoes or snowy boots.
- Never, ever, ever, give the code to the lockbox to your client. You MUST accompany your client in the home. If you’re running late, don’t let them enter before you. It boggles my mind that some agents think this is ok to do.
- Respect the home and keep the kids under control. Don’t sit on the seller’s couch. Don’t let the kids jump on the beds. Don’t open the drawers. Don’t rifle through their personal items. Don’t use their toilet (especially if you forget to flush).
- Return calls and emails. If you’ve expressed interest in a property and I get an offer, you’re going to want to know (or at least your buyer will). If we’ve already got an agreement of purchase and sale together, if I’m calling or emailing you, rest assured that it’s important. Don’t just ghost when the paperwork is signed and leave your client to deal with the mess on closing.
- Don’t ask me to do your job for you. Your buyer hired you to figure out the value of the property, so don’t ask me to send you comparable sales so you don’t have to do it. I’m happy to answer questions about the home and neighbourhood because that helps my seller – but that doesn’t eliminate your duty to perform your own due diligence.
- Read the MLS listing. Read the broker remarks too. Don’t call me to ask how many bathrooms there are or if the basement is finished or if there’s parking. That’s in the listing. Don’t call me to ask if there’s an offer date or if we’ll accept pre-emptive offers – that’s in the Broker Remarks.
- Respect offer timelines. If my Seller has requested that offers be registered or presented at a certain date and time, don’t show up 2 hours later and wonder why they’re angry or why we’ve already sold it to someone else. If you’re having a technology problem, just let me know.
- Don’t send me a 14-page offer as 14 attachments. Or as JPEG’s. Technology has come a long way and there are lots of programs that can take care of this for you.
- Read the showing notes. When you book a showing at a BREL listing, we send you TONS of information along with the lockbox code. It’s important information that will help you and your buyer, so please read it!
- If you’re a new agent or don’t sell a lot of homes, have your broker or an experienced co-worker review your offer before submitting it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to re-write offers or explain real estate 101 to other agents. I like to help – don’t get me wrong – but your client has entrusted you with the largest financial purchase of their lives. The details are important.
- Be nice! Yes, we’re on different sides of the negotiating table, but that doesn’t give you the right to swear at me or talk down to me or hang up on me or otherwise try to intimidate me. Our clients are best served when we have a good working relationship and are working towards a mutually beneficial solution – not when you’re grandstanding or being rude.
- Don’t call me Sweetheart. Or Sweetie. Or Dear. Or honey. Ever. Even if you’re trying to be nice.
- Don’t send me pictures of you in your purple underwear on Tinder. True story, this happened to one of our agents a few years ago. I’ve been waiting a long time to share that story. Keep it professional.
- Don’t ask me to break the rules for you. I know bidding wars are uncomfortable, but no, I won’t tell you the number you need to offer to win it. That’s against the law, so please don’t put me in that position.
- Don’t call me directly to book a showing, even if it’s last minute. Showings only get confirmed through the brokerage – that’s for the safety and security of my client and I can’t/won’t release the lockbox code to you.
- Don’t forget to lock the doors – yes, even the back door. There’s nothing more upsetting for a Seller than getting home and finding out their door was left open.
- Don’t leave with the key in your pocket – and PLEASE for the love of all things real estate, scramble the lockbox code before you leave.
What did I miss? Fellow agents, what do you wish Buyer agents knew? Comment below!