Andrew Wetzel's Musings

December 14, 2019

51 Things a Buyer’s Agent Should NOT Do, Even If Their Client Accepts Them

Real Estate agents are licensed by the state.  I am in Pennsylvania.  Once approved to represent or “work for” clients, they are bound by RELRA, our Real Estate Licensing and Registration Act, which is enforced by the state Real Estate Commission.  If an agent becomes a REALTOR, which means they belong to national, state and local REALTOR Associations, they are bound by a Code of Ethics which is very similar to RELRA although enforcement is handled through a local Association in most cases.

Once a REALTOR is “hired” to represent a buyer-client they owe them certain “fiduciary duties” which are spelled out in the rules and regulations.  They should review and discuss them with their buyer-client to ensure that they are committed to working together.  Here is a list of things NOT to do even if the buyer-client asks you to do them or if they accept your doing them.  Most of this list comes from real-life examples, fortunately not my own.  I have been mediating buyer-seller and client-agent disputes since 2002.  In addition, I have served on all levels of our Association’s Professional Standards Committee which means I have heard, reviewed, evaluated and resolved many ethics complaints.  As I like to say when I teach ethics to my fellow agents, you can’t make this stuff up.

Here are some examples of what NOT to do when representing a client buying Real Estate:

  • Do not ask how they found you or if they have spoken to or worked with any other agents;
  • Do not ask if they have seen or know of any specific properties that interest them;
  • Do not ask how they may have learned about any specific properties that interest them;
  • Do not spend a lot of time preparing for the initial conversation. Personality wins every time;
  • Do not explain the buying process, your respective “roles” and how you earn your fee;
  • Do not tell them what you are going to do for them and why they should hire you;
  • Do not discuss the overall market and how it is performing, specifically in areas they like;
  • Do not discuss how using the Internet for “shopping” may distract them;
  • Do not ask if they are financially pre-qualified to buy or discuss what a seller may expect or require before responding to an offer;
  • Do not recommend a proven, local lender. Let them use any lender they want without question;
  • Do not explain different financing alternatives or what a “seller assist” is;
  • Do not clarify what the buyer is looking for in terms of their “wants” and “needs”;
  • Do not ask if they own any Real Estate or if they have a property to sell;
  • Do not ask about their current living situation, their sense of urgency or their timeframe;
  • Do not ask if they know anyone else interested in buying or selling Real Estate;
  • Do not discuss how pricing correlates with location, features, condition and their competition;
  • Do not review the Consumer Notice with them or ask them to sign it. In fact, do not discuss or document your “business relationship” with them or explain your “fiduciary duties” to them.  If “dual agency” becomes a possibility, you can always discuss it later;
  • Assume you know what is best for them and let them assume you know what you are doing;
  • Do not sign a representation contract, explain your fee, how you are paid or that a seller typically pays your fee. If something comes up, you will figure it out later;
  • If you have no exclusive contract or if you have a “non-exclusive” contract, hope they want to see properties where the listing broker will pay you what you think you are “worth”;
  • Do not tell them that the length or term of the contract and your fee are negotiable by law;
  • Do not explain how the “protection period” works if you use one;
  • Do not tell them to call you about any property that may interest them or that they find on their own such as any with a “For Sale” or “Coming Soon” sign or any properties they find online;
  • Do not explain how “cooperation” with other Real Estate agents works or that you can show them any property in the MLS;
  • Do not discuss what may cause them to owe you money;
  • Do not trust the buyer to be able to determine the best areas for them to consider. Assume you know what is best and tell them what to do.  What could possibly go wrong?;
  • Do not suggest having them drive by properties first to evaluate the neighborhood and whatever else may impact their buying decision before taking the time to see inside;
  • Do not review MLS printouts or call listing agents to make sure that properties meet their needs and expectations;
  • Do not discuss scheduling showings or tell them that getting a confirmation may take time;
  • Do not explain the Agreement of Sale to them. In fact, make sure all paperwork is done electronically so you can save them time by not having to meet with you in person;
  • Do not discuss what may happen between the time an offer is presented to a listing agent and when it is signed or what typically happens before settlement;
  • Do not ask a listing agent if a property is still available before showing it;
  • Do not ask a listing agent if they have any other offers or interest or have turned anything down;
  • Do not ask a listing agent if the seller has any requirements such as a preferred settlement date;
  • Do not discuss a potential “range of values” for an offering price or discuss negotiating;
  • Do not discuss a strategy for making a competitive offer or for competing with other buyers;
  • Do not discuss what personal property is or could be included, excluded or negotiable;
  • Do not review the disclosure statements before asking them to initial and sign them,
  • Do not explain the contingencies in the Agreement of Sale, especially the inspections, or what could possibly go wrong;
  • Do not stay on top of the timeframes in the Agreement of Sale or provide ongoing updates;
  • Do not discuss any concerns that a seller, an inspector or an appraiser might have which could affect the buying process and possibly end it unsuccessfully;
  • Do not offer to attend inspections. Let the inspectors manage the buyer’s concerns;
  • Do not explain the mediation clause or what it means should a problem arise;
  • Do not discuss a home warranty or offer them an opportunity to include one with a sale;
  • Do not document changes to any contracts or provide them with copies of everything they sign;
  • Do not explain how deposit money is handled if a sale falls through;
  • Do not discuss what may happen if they fail to do what is required to complete a sale;
  • Do not promote or protect their interests above yours. Assume that “confidentiality” is not important if it gets in your way.  The acronym, OLD CAR, which describes our “fiduciary duties”, only makes you remember the first car you owned;
  • Do not let them make all of the decisions. Why bother them when you know what is best?;
  • Do not suggest they contact a professional, such as a lawyer, when they have a question;
  • Do not stay in touch after a sale! They will remember the spectacular service you provided!

Of course, this list is really intended to show you most of what we are expected to do, even if actual performance may vary from one agent to another.  Our “fiduciary duties” require that we obey your lawful instructions, be loyal to you, disclose what we know, keep your business confidential, account for any monies we handle and that we provide reasonable care and due diligence to you.  There is so much more to working for buyer and sellers than simply doing the paperwork.  Even if you have bought or sold Real Estate before, we have knowledge and insight gained through experience, training and education.  We are expected to protect and promote your interests throughout the process and to be knowledgeable and competent in what we do.  Our clients have the right to expect nothing less.

When it comes to buying what is typically a person’s largest asset:

There is no time for inexperience, empty promises or false expectations!

HIRE WISELY:  We are not all the same!

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