Asking Questions Beyond Real Estate Reason

Real Estate Agent with Liberty Homes RS-#62825

I represent the Home Seller OR the Home Buyer and quite frequently I have to step into the other agent's shoes so that I get a better (realistic) view of what circumstances surround the sale or purchase of a property. That doesn't mean I put another agent on the spot.

There are always going to be circumstances surrounding the seller selling and strict criteria for the buyer who's purchasing.   What I don't get is why another agent would ask personal questions to pass on to their client:

  1. Why is the seller selling?  We all know it is confidential info although in some cases it's matter of fact like a short sale situation. In those cases we are required to put that info in the MLS to begin with. If it's a relocation sale then that is put in the MLS as they need to submit the relocation company's addenda with their purchase contract. In any case, why should it matter why they're selling? Does your buyer want to buy the property or not? 
  2. How much does the seller owe on the property?  It may be a valid question if there is no room for negotiation and in most cases you can certainly get the info right off our MLS Tax Records.  Since we've had a declining market (some neighborhoods more than others) there are many seller's who are losing what they put in to the property. Researching a bit will give you the answers....rather than putting an agent on the spot when it's public information to begin with....and bottom line is that if your buyer REALLY wants the property they will put in their best offer. Right?
  3. What are the neighbors (neighborhood) like?  Let's not get into what kind of information (or opinions) we should be divulging.  If we follow fair housing laws we know we can't step over our boundaries and if they want to know...then they can introduce themselves. Find out more here>>>> State and Local Fair Housing Enforcement Laws and don't try and put me in that position when neighbors are ...neighbors. A neighborhood is ....a neighborhood.

Remember, REALTORS® protect and promote their clients' interests while treating all parties honestly.  Ask me about the property, the upgrades, the view and whatever else might be pertinent to the property.

Don't expect anything different from .....this agent...

And stop monkeying around.



Posted by



Celeste "Sally" Cheeseman  is a Realtor-Associate® and Certified Residential Specialist (CRS) with Century 21 Liberty Homes in Mililani, Hawaii. With a sharp understanding that a listening ear is the key to a client's needs  she serves the island of Oahu (Honolulu County) and all Hawaii Military Relocations, Hawaii Retirees, Hawaii Job Transfers and Hawaii Residents, Home Buyers and Sellers.


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Celeste "SALLY" Cheeseman
Liberty Homes - Mililani, HI

Debe: really irks me when they ask these questions...I mean, they "think" they're getting great info for the buyer but they better think twice about their questions.

andrea: No kidding. Where do they come up with these questions?  Didn't they look over the COE's about studying?

Jan 26, 2010 06:15 AM #6
Jo-Anne Smith
Oakville, ON


Excellent advice....I do know that often-times buyers want to know the answers to these questions and if we're representing them, all we can do is ask. Still, it's really none of their business...


Jan 26, 2010 07:01 AM #7
Hannah Williams
HomeStarr Realty - Philadelphia, PA
Expertise NE Philadelphia & Bucks 215-820-3376

Sally... What great information you have here...I felt as if I was reading my own notes ..Great stuff!


Jan 26, 2010 07:15 AM #8
Randy DeLaMare
Realtypath LLC - Salt Lake City, UT
Helping friends Realize their Real Estate Dreams

Sally, great post. Are we all a bunch of crazies. Think before you speak is a very good idea.

Jan 26, 2010 07:33 AM #9
Carla Muss-Jacobs, RETIRED
RETIRED / State License is Inactive - Portland, OR

My all time favorite was "What's the train schedule?" asked of me when considering a home that was near the Pacific RR tracks.

Also on the all time favorites, "When do the buses run?" Again, asked of me when considering a property near a commuter bus route. 

Jan 26, 2010 08:28 AM #11
Claude Cross
Homes By Cross, Inc. - Charlotte, NC
Charlotte NC Homes For Sale

Sally - I am so tempted when asked "Why are the selling?", because it sounds like they are reporters from the National Enquirer. I am so wanting to tell a fabulous tale to make their wanton interest whole like " The wife is having an affair with Brad Bitt and the husband wants out".

In reality, the sellers just want to move to someplace diffferent. Drole, But your question does beg the question... So do you like the house? Do you want to live here? Opening lines to successful endings.  I like this post and hope you contine it's theme. Cheers

Jan 26, 2010 08:45 AM #12
Marcy Eastham
Town & Country Realty Corvallis Oregon - Corvallis, OR

Hi Sally,

I will join in the chorus withcudos for a great post.  I usually get the "why are they selling" question at open houses, although I have some buyers who continually ask me that. I deflect the question by saying "you know, they don't put that in the listing packet." I think it's idle chatter while they are looking at the house.  However, for an AGENT to ask that -- <sigh>.

Jan 26, 2010 09:02 AM #13
Barbara-Jo Roberts Berberi, MA, PSA, TRC - Greater Clearwater Florida Residential Real Estate Professional
Charles Rutenberg Realty - Clearwater, FL
Palm Harbor, Dunedin, Clearwater, Safety Harbor

Sally - great post - you mean you can't tell me what kind of neighborhood this is??? How about what religions or ethnicities live here???????????? I love it when people start with those questions-

Jan 26, 2010 10:21 AM #16
Celeste "SALLY" Cheeseman
Liberty Homes - Mililani, HI

Jo:  There are certain things we cannot answer ....unless the seller or buyer says okay...still, I'd get it in writing and if it's not public knowledge better I stay away from it.

Hannah: I guess we have the same thoughts? 

Randy: I'm different.... lol

carla: Most times those are some questions that they can search the internet for....other than that it's not too bad as asking personal questions about the seller/buyer/neighborsetc.

Jan 26, 2010 10:36 AM #17
Lora "Leah" Stern 914-772-4528
Coldwell Banker, 170 N Main Street, New City NY 10956 - New City, NY
Real Estate Salesperson

Love your questions about the questions.  If agents did their research they could find out most of the answers to these questions on their own.  Great post.

Jan 26, 2010 12:36 PM #18
Jeff Dowler, CRS
eXp Realty of California, Inc. - Carlsbad, CA
The Southern California Relocation Dude

Sally - there are certainly lots of questions we get in our business that are hard to answer, inappropriate or seemingly irrelevant. But I supopose to the person asking it has some relevance to their thinking, whether we agree or not. Clearly we have to steer away from the ones that can get us or our clients into legal hotwater. The neiughborhood question is REAL common. Just as is the question "is this a good neighborhood." Hmmm


Jan 26, 2010 03:54 PM #19
William Johnson
Retired - La Jolla, CA
Retired Real Estate Professional

Woo Hoo, A very interesting post and I am actually pondering it. Very interesting.

How are you, We haven't chatted in a while. Trying to back in the groove but still very busy with Buyers. Hope all is well!

Jan 26, 2010 03:58 PM #20
Terry Chenier
Homelife Glenayre Realty - Mission, BC


This begs the question. Do you have a form there for "agency" and "limited dual agency?" We do, with strict guidlines what and cannot be divulged.

Jan 26, 2010 04:33 PM #21
JL Boney, III
Coldwell Banker - Columbia, SC
Columbia, SC Real Estate

#3 is the one that always comes up when I am dealing with a buyer. Of course, I explain to them that I cannot and will answer those questions, and why I can't. But it's just human nature to ask them.

Jan 27, 2010 02:18 AM #22
Jeanean Gendron
The Address Realty - Redding, CA
Specializing in Selling Unique Properties

Sally, the every day life of a Realtor. We always have some complex issues to deal with in each and every day. Nice post and I like the "Monkeying Around" term. I'm there.....Agreed!

Jan 27, 2010 02:39 AM #24
Joan Mirantz
Homequest Real Estate - Concord, NH
Realtor, GRI, CBR, SRES - Concord New Hampshire

Great points Sally...and your point that a resourceful Agent can find or deduce that info is well taken... It just takes a little mental exercise :0)

Jan 27, 2010 06:33 AM #25
Kathy Clulow
RE/MAX All-Stars Realty Inc. Brokerage - Uxbridge, ON
Trusted For Experience - Respected For Results

Sally - my suggestion if they want to find out about the neighborhood or the neighbors drve by when the are likely to be coming or going ... stop and have a chat but please do ask me questions I unfortunately can not answer

Jan 27, 2010 12:52 PM #26
Katerina Gasset
Get It Done For Me Virtual Services - Wellington, FL
Get It Done For Me Virtual Services

Sally - For number 3, our buyer agents tell the buyers to drive the neighborhoods and also check on the sheriff website. 

As far as #1 and #2 go - when i worked with buyers, i tried to find out everything. I was their advocate. Aside from public information which I discovered on my own, whatever the other agent told me was used in my buyers behalf in our negotiations. Putting the other agent on the spot or not is not in my job description with the buyer. If that agent 'feels' on the spot, then they is how they are internalizing my questioning. :) 

Jan 29, 2010 04:57 PM #27
Carol Culkin, ReeceNichols
ReeceNichols Real Estate - Overland Park, KS
Overland Park Residential Real Estate

Sally - All these come up on a regular basis but number three causes me to take a gigantic step backwards and explain fair housing laws.  There are a lot of ways to find things out and this information is what a buyer needs to get on their own. In every initial consultation with a buyer I go through a packet of paperwork which explains fair housing among other things.  My last buyer sat in her car and stalked the neighbors and I when I found this out, I encouraged her to roll down her window and introduce hersel and ask many questions too.

Feb 05, 2010 08:36 AM #28
Celeste "SALLY" Cheeseman
Liberty Homes - Mililani, HI

Thanks for all you comments and input!

Carol: Good one....stalking may cause the neighbors to call the cops ...goodness!

Feb 05, 2010 04:06 PM #29
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