It’s OK to Say I Don’t Know

By
Real Estate Agent with Solutions Real Estate CalBRE License #01490977

It’s OK to Say I Don’t Know the Answer

 

It’s really OK to say you don’t know the answer to a question asked by a buyer or seller.

 

researching onlineIndeed, it’s probably far better to say you don’t know the answer rather than provide a response that is pure guessing, may be outright wrong, and/or possibly could create a problem for them should they listen to your advice.

 

We get questions all the time we can’t answer, and we must determine the right way to respond, in order to be helpful but also make sure we are not stepping outside our bounds…such as providing legal or tax advice.

 

Or telling someone the neighborhood is safe, or that it has the best schools, or that a road is public when in fact it’s private.

 

While our clients might hope, or expect, we know all the answers, and trust us to provide them with the responses they need, in reality there are plenty of times we can’t or shouldn’t be so all-knowing. There are liability issues for one, potentially, depending on the question and our response, especially if we are guessing.

 

Consider these questions: Is that adjacent lot buildable? Is that fence on the property line? Where IS the property line? No doubt you can think of many you have been asked.

 

Saying “I don’t know” and leaving it at that is probably not the best way to respond, even though that’s truthful. Our clients deserve better!

 

But it does provide the opportunity to let them know that while you don’t know the specific answer you will get it for them, or can find out who they need to talk with to get the information they need.

 

You might even have a suggestion of who to contact in order to do their research or get the correct answer, such as the HOA, the town building department, the local school or an attorney.

 

It goes without saying that following up with the answer is vitally important when you say that’s what you are going to do after you’ve said I don’t know the answer to your question.

 

The value we bring to a client relationship is having the answers to a myriad real estate questions, but also knowing available resources (e.g., organizations, people) and how to get the necessary answers to questions our buyers and sellers have. Knowing when to provide a specific answer, and when to say “I don’t know,” is part of that value.

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Topic:
Real Estate Best Practices
Location:
California San Diego County Carlsbad
Groups:
Certified Residential Specialists
SAN DIEGO Real Estate Agents & Loan Officers
San Diego Realtors®
Tags:
professionalism
buyer and seller questions
how to answer buyer and seller questions

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Rainmaker
409,806
Jeffrey Masich- Arizona Associate Broker,MBA &GRI
HomeSmart Real Estate - Scottsdale, AZ
Arizona Homes and Land Group/ Buy or Sell

Most definitely yes Jeff Dowler. "I will get you the answer or a place where you can do further research" is a good answer. Our our Arizona Buyer's Advisory is great for this. Good topic. 

Mar 18, 2018 08:32 AM #2
Rainmaker
3,640,222
Ron and Alexandra Seigel
Napa Consultants - Carpinteria, CA
Luxury Real Estate Branding, Marketing & Strategy

Jeff,

In my opinion, there is nothing worse than someone who makes up an answer.  Saying "I don't know", and I will find out is much better.  Nice post.  A

Mar 18, 2018 08:36 AM #3
Rainmaker
99,707
Erika Rae Albert, Austin Real Estate Expert
E*Rae Real Estate Group- Powered by eXp Realty LLC - Austin, TX
Exceeding Expectations in Every Transaction

Great post, I love how you stress the importance of stating what comes after the "I don't know"..."I will find out!"

Mar 18, 2018 08:57 AM #4
Rainmaker
1,475,590
Grant Schneider
Performance Development Strategies - Armonk, NY
Your Coach Helping You Create Successful Outcomes

Good afternoon Jeff - it is best to say we can't advise but suggest legal or accounting professionals.  Those questions you cited certainly could be troublesome if you weighed in.

Mar 18, 2018 09:39 AM #5
Rainmaker
269,771
Lynnea Miller
Bend Premier Real Estate - Bend, OR
Premier Real Estate Service in Central Oregon

Jeff- the liability an agent takes on when they give an answer to something they really don't know.  Far better to research who may have the answer and give this to your client so they can speak directly with the person who definately knows.

Mar 18, 2018 10:16 AM #6
Ambassador
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Jeff Dowler, CRS
Solutions Real Estate - Carlsbad, CA
The Southern California Relocation Dude - Carlsbad

Eric Bouler  - well I do the same. But I am not afraid or unwilling to say I don't know when I don't, and to find the answer, OR provide some suggestions on where they can get it.

Jeff

Mar 18, 2018 10:44 AM #7
Rainmaker
3,915,660
Gita Bantwal
RE/MAX Centre Realtors - Warwick, PA
REALTOR,ABR,CRS,SRES,GRI - Bucks County & Philadel

If I do not know something I do not answer the question. I offer to find out and get back to them.

Mar 18, 2018 11:07 AM #8
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Kathy Streib
Room Service Home Staging - Delray Beach, FL
Home Stager - Palm Beach County,FL -561-914-6224

Hi Jeff- certainly something that agents are taught!  Having resources for their clients is part of what makes working with an experienced local agent so valuable. 

Mar 18, 2018 04:26 PM #9
Rainmaker
2,637,799
Endre Barath, Jr.
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices - Beverly Hills, CA
Realtor - Los Angeles Home Sales 310.486.1002

Jeff I say that quiet often when I truly do not know the answer, buyers and sellers prefer honesty, over the years once in a while I found out they had the answer they were just testing me...Endre

Mar 18, 2018 09:43 PM #10
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George Souto
George Souto NMLS #65149 FHA, CHFA, VA Mortgages - Middletown, CT
Your Connecticut Mortgage Expert

Jeff glad to see that it is OK to say "I don't know" because that is my specialty

Mar 19, 2018 08:16 AM #11
Rainmaker
2,708,040
Sally K. & David L. Hanson
Keller Williams 414-525-0563 - Brookfield, WI
WI Realtors - Luxury - Divorce - Short Sale

It is not only"OK" for lots of liability reasons it is the smartest thing you can do along with referring a transaction out of your area of expertise.

Mar 19, 2018 08:16 AM #12
Rainmaker
1,385,298
Yolanda Cordova-Gilbert
Sitterle Homes - Richmond, TX
Sitterle Homes

Jeff,

 I totally agree there is nothing wrong with saying I do not know but I will get an answer for you!

Mar 19, 2018 12:27 PM #13
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An Idabel OK Broker ~ Judi K Barrett
Judi Barrett~Integrity Real Estate Services~Idabel, Oklahoma - Idabel, OK
BA, Integrity Real Estate Services -IDABEL OK

I don't know a lot of things and do not feel a need to pretend that I do.  If I do not know the answer, I'll look for the answer or refer you to someone that I believe can help you.  Great post.

Mar 19, 2018 04:28 PM #14
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Jeff Dowler, CRS
Solutions Real Estate - Carlsbad, CA
The Southern California Relocation Dude - Carlsbad

Jeffrey Masich- Associate Broker,MBA,GRI  - sounds like a good resource for your area!

Well, I totally agree Ron and Alexandra Seigel  I have run across a few listing agents who gave answers to me and my buyers that I was pretty sure were wrong...but maybe they thought they WERE correct.

Jeff

Mar 19, 2018 04:34 PM #15
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Jeff Dowler, CRS
Solutions Real Estate - Carlsbad, CA
The Southern California Relocation Dude - Carlsbad

Thank you Alesha A. Wilson, M.Ed., MRP  - I think just stopping with "I don't know" does our clients, or whoever, a disservice.

Jeff

Mar 19, 2018 04:36 PM #16
Rainmaker
364,065
Matt Brady
Skyline Home Loans - Del Mar, CA
Lending With Competence And Character

This is vitally important in lending. I am often picking up the pieces of a deal that another LO was sure could be done but the UW did not agree. If you are not the decision maker it is always better to under promise and over deliver. Knowing where to get the answers is more important than trying to know every answer.

Apr 17, 2018 07:21 AM #17
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Jeff Dowler, CRS
Solutions Real Estate - Carlsbad, CA
The Southern California Relocation Dude - Carlsbad

Hi Matt Brady 

I couldn't agree with you more. Your last statement says it best!

Jeff

Apr 17, 2018 07:34 AM #18
Rainmaker
362,161
Graziella Bruner
NCS Premier Real Estate - Detroit, MI
Associate Broker - Serving Wayne & Oakland County

I totally agree, It's OK to say, "I don't know" and You can bet, I will try to find out so we both know.  We have too many resources out there.  I'm sure with a few phone calls and a little research, the answer if not an answer will manifest. 

Apr 17, 2018 10:39 AM #19
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Jeff Dowler, CRS
Solutions Real Estate - Carlsbad, CA
The Southern California Relocation Dude - Carlsbad

Thanks for stopping by Graziella Bruner  We owe it to our clients to be honest and let them know we don't know but to get them the answer or the resource so they can research.

Hope your spring will arrive soon!!

Jeff

Apr 17, 2018 10:49 AM #20
Rainmaker
362,161
Graziella Bruner
NCS Premier Real Estate - Detroit, MI
Associate Broker - Serving Wayne & Oakland County

Thank You Jeff Dowler, CRS - Our new tag line is: "It's Now Sprinter"

Our temps are only 34 degrees, with a light snow.   I'm waiting on Summer, forget Spring. Have a beautiful day in Sunny California. 

Apr 17, 2018 10:55 AM #21
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