April 27th, 2015 10:09 AM by Jackie A. Graves, President
Would you go to a friend’s dinner party,
nibble every course, drink a glass or two of wine, and then leave—without ever
speaking to the host? I hope not. And I hope you wouldn’t treat open houses the
same way. And yet home buyers often do, refusing to sign in or deflecting
agents’ questions about the house they’re touring.
Sometimes they do it because they’re leery of
being given a hard sell or handing over their personal information; others
decline because they’re uncomfortable being put on the spot about a potentially
huge decision. Whatever the reason, this puts brokers in a tough place: Open
houses might be fun for home shoppers, but to agents, they’re work.
Your feedback is the market research they need to do their jobs
So, perhaps all that home buyers need is a
little preparation. If they know the questions brokers are going to ask, they
can be ready with answers, and everyone can go home (perhaps to this very
home?) happy. Here’s your cheat sheet:
1. The question: How long have you
Why they’re asking: The agent is trying to gauge how serious you
are. If you’ve been looking for only a short time, say a few weeks, the agent
will understand that you’re just getting your feet wet—that you’re still
gathering your thoughts. If you’ve been looking for months, then the agent
might dig in. That tells her you’ve seen a lot, but you haven’t found what
you’re looking for. She’s wondering why you haven’t pulled the trigger and,
hey, maybe this is the house you’ve been waiting for.
How you should answer: Be honest and specific. This is harmless
question: Are you working with an agent exclusively?
Why they’re asking: Agents are trained to respect boundaries. If
you are represented by an agent, the open house agent cannot try to represent
you. This question sets the tone of the conversation. Don’t be surprised if the
agent asks who your agent is. Most agents who do business in a certain area
know other active agents. This way the open house agent can call your agent—not
you—for your feedback. You are insulated by your buyer-broker agreement.
How you should answer: If you’re working with an agent, say so!
Even better, give the open house agent your agent’s name and brokerage company.
This protects you from having to give your personal information to the open
house agent. Rather than sign in with your name, number, and email, you can
sign in with your name and your agent’s contact information. That’s all the
open house agent needs to follow up.
3. The question: How does this house compare
to others you’ve seen?
Why they’re asking: Now that the agent knows how long you’ve been
looking, she wants to get a sense of whether this house is a contender. She is
also assuming that you’re touring other houses nearby (other “comps,” as they
say). She wants your honest insight on whether her listing is better or worse
than the others.
How you should answer: Be honest. If the house around the corner
has a remodeled master bath and this one doesn’t, point that out. If you think
this house could use some work, let her know. Remember, being honest about the
house won’t hurt the agent’s feelings. She’s independent. Of course she cares
about her listing, but, unlike an owner, she isn’t emotionally attached. This
is one reason for sale by owner is difficult.
question: Are you specifically looking at this neighborhood?
Why they’re asking: The agent isn’t being nosy here, she
wants to know how focused you are. She wants to rule out the
looky-loos and focus on the serious buyers. If you are looking in that
particular neighborhood but not interested in making an offer on
her listing, you’ve caught her attention. She needs to understand
what other listings have that hers doesn’t. Now she’s focused on knowing
your trigger: Are you focused on certain streets within the neighborhood?
A certain style of house? Or is it all about price?
How you should answer: Be specific. If you’re focused on
that neighborhood, it’s OK to say so. If you’re open and still
getting your bearings straight, it’s OK to say so. These answers provide
depth for the agent when she’s talking to the seller (e.g., “The open
house was great! I had a buyer walk through who has been looking for a while
and she is only looking in this neighborhood.”). This tells the seller
there are buyers out there—and that adjustments may have to be made if
those buyers aren’t buying this home.
question: What do you think of the price?
Why they’re asking: This is probably the most important question,
but it may not be the first one out of the agent’s mouth, because she
wants to establish rapport first. The agent knows that people are usually guarded
when it comes to price. She wants you to give a thoughtful answer, not a
How you should answer: Now, this is tricky. If you’re not really in
the market to buy, or can’t compare it to other houses on the market, don’t
just throw out a number. Simply tell the agent you haven’t seen enough to
give an educated answer. If you feel you cananswer, say something
like “I think it’s priced competitively” or “It’s priced too high.” The point
is not to give a dollar figure but to offer a general perception. If you
believe it’s a good deal, say that. If you think it’s overpriced, say that.
Because if the house isoverpriced, maybe the agent will call
you once it’s reduced.
6. The question: Are you
considering making an offer on this home?
Why they’re asking: Please don’t take offense! The agent has a job
to do, and this is a valid question.
How you should answer: As a prospective buyer, remember: You
hold the power. If you’re planning to make an offer, it’s good news to the
agent and lets her know to expect something in writing. It also might help you
if the house is in demand so the agent will know there are multiple offers
coming in. That way, she may not start negotiating without first getting your
offer in hand. To some extent, this buys you time to call your agent and get
your offer submitted. If you’re not planning to make an offer, it’s
fine to say that, too.
Finally, please sign in. You don’t have to go
overboard—you don’t even have to give your last name. (Unless you want the
agent to check your credentials on LinkedIn.) No one is expecting
to see the list, not the broker’s boss, not the seller. Signing
in is, in some ways, absolutely unimportant. But it is also common
courtesy, the least—the very least—that you can do to preserve the
social fabric of our society.
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