Andrew Wetzel's Musings

July 28, 2017

I Showed Your House: To Give FEEDBACK or Not?

Filed under: Uncategorized — awetzel @ 5:03 PM

Real Estate is a unique profession in one specific way:  we alternate between cooperating and competing. We work together on committees, share ideas and attend classes in large groups and then we compete for clients! Knowing where and when to draw the line is what gets some of us into trouble. Let’s examine the underlying dilemma.

Before 1995 or so, at least in PA, EVERY agent worked for sellers either as an “agent” or a “subagent”. There was no such thing as legal “buyer representation”. As such, the profession was focused on working in the sellers’ best interests even if you showed a house to a potential buyer and wrote their purchase offer. The mere fact that many buyers thought the agent they relied upon was working for them as opposed to with them presented a problem which led to our Consumer Notice. This is a form, not a contract, that spells out the different relationships a buyer or seller can have with an agent. If they want to “hire” an agent they need to sign a representation contract.

It was both normal and expected that a subagent showing a house would tell the listing agent everything they knew as far as how the buyer felt about the house and why they either decided to make an offer or decided not to. This is called “feedback“. In its present form it is typically requested by email. There was no fiduciary duty of confidentiality so, essentially, BOTH agents and the seller(s) were a team with the buyer acting on their own. The subagent could not legally advise them on anything that might hurt the seller. I specifiy “legally” because I am sure that many agents felt naturally inclined to offer advice or suggestions especially if the buyer was their friend or relative.

Once “buyer agency” came into the marketplace, the focus shifted from protecting and promoting the interest of the seller to doing so for your own client. I use the analogy that buying and selling Real Estate is like playing poker in that, generally speaking, one side has no idea about the other:  are multiple buyers interested in a house or not, what is the level of urgency for either party, will the buyer offer more or the seller accept less, etc.

While client representation seems to be the natural inclination, there are still some vestiges of the past. One of these is “feedback” and there is an ongoing debate about whether a buyer agent should offer any since it may negatively affect their present or even a future client’s negotiating position. Some buyer agents refuse to offer any feedback at all; some will do so after getting their client’s permission (the latter is acceptable as long as the client truly understands any potential ramifications such as their later deciding to pursue a house). As alluded to earlier, an agent has to consider whether present “feedback” could hurt a future prospect for the same house.

Feedback, whether requested in a formal email or a phone call, generally includes several questions regarding the buyer and/ or agent’s perception of the asking price, the property itself and whether there is “further interest”. Frankly, a listing agent dependent on such feedback may need to re-evaluate their ability to provide client service:  shouldn’t they know if a property is over-priced or shows poorly? I agree that having a third party “report” this adds weight but most feedback seems to have negative comments which are difficult to judge as sincere. I have had a number of agents report that a house was priced too high and showed poorly and yet, miraculously, their client HAS INTEREST! My assumption is that they are laying the ground work for a low offer!

Aside from how a buyer agent handles feedback and how much stock a listing agent or seller attribute to it, the ONE primary benefit I see is that the showing agent may have insight or knowledge that I do not and I appreciate when they share that since there may be no other way for me to know what they know or saw. Such information will not likely impact a present or future negotiation but goes to the spirit of cooperation that exists among us as far as our desire to advance the concept of home ownership. It has been under assault since the market fell apart a decade ago.

So, what can you tell me that I may not know? Perhaps the seller was home during your visit (this happens especially when the weather is bad or when sellers are used to agents not showing up as scheduled), maybe the seller followed you around or were overly friendly or chatty (some sellers intrude on the privacy expected during a showing or make buyers uncomfortable which can undermine any interest), were there pet issues/ odors (cats!!!), how did the house look (exterior maintenance and general housekeeping may be a problem) and, most importantly, were there any MAJOR issues to report? I showed a house last that reeked of gas so I promptly called the listing agent. Years ago I showed a house that had such a pungent cat odor that it was evident from the street and caused my clients to promptly depart after about a minute in a house. I have been called about water leaking on a basement floor and other things that only a showing agent gets to see. Regardless of how an agent handles formal feedback, I think it professional to promptly report urgent issues. On a slightly different note, the feedback process is NOT where you should tell me that you did not show a house. Running late or canceling an appointment should be handled just as the original scheduling occurred so that owners/ tenants are not inconvenienced.

Feedback is a subset of “cooperation” and, while I understand that we may compete and we may have clients whose interests are in opposition, Real Estate is a vocation that demands professionalism. There are many things we can do to advance home ownership that do NOT conflict with our fiduciary duties owed our clients. Failing to do them reflects poorly on all of us as we are too often judged in the aggregate. While each little inconsiderate act may be like a pebble in the ocean, too often the minor ripples appear as one, unified reflection. We need to “raise the bar” and cooperate so that our profession will continue to grow in the eyes of the public rather than having a few bad acts or actors taint the many who are setting a good example. After all, a home is someone’s castle and, regardless of the expectation as to whether you will or won’t get an offer or feedback, allowing someone to enter your home is a BIG deal. I think we take that for granted. It is a necessary inconvenience but let’s handle it as best we can.

HIRE WISELY!

 

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