How a Seller Loses a Buyer in 30 Seconds or Less

Real Estate Broker/Owner with Olsen Ziegler Realty

George Bush used to say: I'm the Decider

Well...the real estate version of when the SELLER decides to become: "I'm the Decliner." AKA: Mr. Decliner.

Seller Declined showing

While I personally don't have any skin in the game as an objective fiduciary, I will forever be dismayed at the lack of communication and the faulty design of the communication process when a buyer requests to see a home, and Mr. Decliner declines the request, no reason is given, nor is anything put into context.

It's even worse when a 3rd party showing service is in the mix, as while these places are very good at being efficient, I do believe it makes it easier for this request to quietly go away easily, unresolved, much to the dismay of the buyer.

Moreover, what adds insult to injury and is the most typical outcome (in my personal experience) is:

The listing agent never calls Mr. Decliner, nor the buyer's agent to try and see if a confirmed showing can somehow be the end result.

I think if an operations research analyst, a performance analyst, a process design engineer, or a customer service help desk designer were to evaluate this process, the process would be so chocked full of holes it it would be laughable. 

But guess what: The buyer isn't laughing, they are ticked that a home that is supposedly for sale:

  • Can't be seen
  • No explanation is given as to why
  • The listing agent is nowhere to be found in the process
  • If a 3rd party showing service is involved, they have delivered the final blow to the buyer's agent and marked this open ticket request closed
  • The buyer wasted minutes of their time previewing the property online and decided to save it as a favorite
  • The buyer's agent took their buyer's list and mapped out an efficient schedule to benefit everyone involved

The issue just goes away quietly.

Why the listing agent doesn't intercede at all is beyond comprehension.

There is an old saying: You don't get a 2nd chance to make a 1st impression

I have had many a buyer tell me:

If Mr. Decliner can't even accommodate a showing request, why would I want to negotiate a purchase offer with them?

Think about it: Say you are trying to schedule a well visit with your mechanic to get the oil changed on your car.  You call the shop and ask if they have an opening on Friday between 2-3pm.  The mechanic will either say yes, and confirm, or no, and: PROPOSE ANOTHER TIME.  Could you imagine if the mechanic simply said: NO, and ended the phone conversation, and the conversation ended without setting up an appointment?  Absurd, I know, it wouldn't happen, but this DOES happen with real estate showing requests every single day.

And, this is a choke point or flaw in the showing process when 3rd party showing services are used.  I love them as a buyer's agent, but it makes resolution of this issue (and it is a very important issue) more complicated, more likely to go unresolved then if a listing agent were directly involved as they, ultimately, have the responsibility to ensure showings occur.

It just happened to me 5 minutes ago, not once, but TWICE, for two different buyer!

I am setting up tours of many homes for two different buyers. Invariably, no matter how much planning, forethought and efficiencies are incorporated to ensure a smooth travel itinerary is achieved and the buyer gets to see the homes they want in a timely fashion, there is always one or two NOs or COUNTER-PROPOSALS. 

The challenge as a buyer's agent is if you are showing 12 homes and the seller who is 5th on the list says:

Can you come an hour earlier or an hour later?

What they may not realize (if their listing agent hasn't communicated properly with Mr. Decliner) is that it is a HUGE deal for a buyer's agent to try and revamp a schedule as sometimes, EVERYTHING needs to get shifted around, or you may end up at the end of the tour 20 miles away, having to drive all the way back to see Mr. Decliner's home.

Before anyone jumps on the bandwagon of: there are many VALID reasons why sellers rightfully so decline showings -- I get that, and that is not the focus of this post.  Even if there is a valid reason, this request should not quickly dissolve into oblivion. 

The buyer's agent should receive a call from the listing agent saying: let's figure out together how we can get your buyer into Mr. Decliner's home and not only that, but bend over backwards to make it happen, regardless of market conditions, as, after all, Market Value is driven by exposure and exposure isn't going to be achieved without boots going through the front door.

I can tell you one thing, even before I decide to take a listing, I have a very involved conversation with my sellers on what my expectations are for them, we have a strong and mutual understanding of what each party's role in this process is, and in the RARE event they need to decline a showing, I have already tried to figure out a PLAN B with my seller BEFORE I call the buyer's agent back to try and figure out how to make this work.  Rarely have I had an issue with showings as the expectation was already set.

It's the least we can do for our clients. Anything less, is doing our clients a disservice.

PS. This not a rant against showing services, they aren't the focus of this post. This is also not a rant against all listing agents, some do call and diligently try and help solve the issue.  To keep a balanced perspective, again, I understand there are valid reasons to decline a showing.  That said, to let the issue simply go away is completely unacceptable and it certainly won't happen on my listings, although I run into it on a frequent enough basis that it made me think of that old saying:

Who's on 1st?

Selling your home is hard...not showing it makes it even harder.

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Show All Comments
Michael Simcock
Coldwell Banker (Elk Grove, CA) - Elk Grove, CA
Elk Grove, CA Realtor 916 425-1084

The easier a home is to show, the more likely is ends up on the list for the day. I rank them in this order.

1. Vacant with lockbox

2. Call first lockbox.

3. all others except.

4. 24 hour notice needed.

5. 24 hour notice needed with restricted hours.

Once I need to contact and wait for a response, it goes to the end of the list unless there is something about the home that makes it something that has to be on the list.

If we cannot see a home, it rarely makes it on the list the next trip.

Nov 18, 2010 01:30 PM #1
Leslie Ebersole
Swanepoel T3 Group - Saint Charles, IL
I help brokers build businesses they love.

I have to sit on both sides of this fence:

- as a listing agent I get twitchy when sellers decline showings and I get twitchy when buyers agents don't prepare adequately. I will move heaven and earth to accommodate true schedule changes: delayed flights, vomiting children and so on, but I hate apologizing to my seller for buyers' agents who simply can't be bothered to give a little notice.

- as a buyer's agent, I try to keep my special requests and "please, please, pleases" to a minimum. That way when I really need to get into a house, the listing agent knows I'm serious and will help make it work.


Nov 18, 2010 02:02 PM #2
Chris Olsen
Olsen Ziegler Realty - Cleveland, OH
Broker Owner Cleveland Ohio Real Estate

Hi Michael -- Most of my buyers adopt your last sentence.

Hi Leslie -- I totally agree on the lack of notice for buyers -- that is a valid objection of sellers.  Can I get inside in 3 hours when both sellers work and dogs are running amok?  Some lifestyles don't accommodate it.  There is an old saying: A lack of planning on your part doesn't constitute an emergency on mine part.  But that wasn't the focus here, just a normal request, usually 2-3 days ahead of time.

Nov 18, 2010 02:08 PM #3
Carla Freund
Keller Williams Preferred Realty - Raleigh, NC
Carolina Life RealEstate & Relocation 919-602-8489

Chris, I so agree with you!  I always ask the showing service why a home can't be shown.  And, if my buyer really likes it (it is their favorite), I call the listing agent and get them involved (unless I was given a good reason). 

However, I've been on the listing side as well.  Not only do I expect my sellers to give a reason to the showing service if they decline a showing, but I expect them to call me and let me know why they declined the showing.  It is very frustrating to get the little email notice saying a showing was declined and as the listing agent, not know why.  I then try to contact my seller.  If I can't get them, I call the buyer's agent and let them know I'm trying to contact my seller and will get back to them with a date and time.

This is obviously a hot topic with some of us.  Fortunately, it doesn't happen all the time.

Nov 18, 2010 03:17 PM #4
Andrzej Niemyjski
Realty One Group - Sun City West, AZ

This looks like short sale listing that never wants to be sold.  It looks like owner is working on their loan modification and just trying to use mls as a leverage tool.  "See my house has been on a market for x days and nothing"

Nov 19, 2010 01:23 AM #5
George Souto
George Souto NMLS #65149 FHA, CHFA, VA Mortgages - Middletown, CT
Your Connecticut Mortgage Expert

Chris in my opinion a Seller is crazy to decline a showing especially in this market.  There maybe very good reasons why the Seller would not want the house shown on a particular day, but he/she better have a really good reason for why it can't.

Nov 19, 2010 09:02 AM #6
Karen Kruschka
RE/MAX Executives - Woodbridge, VA
- "My Experience Isn't Expensive - It's PRICELESS"

Chris  I had one recently where the seller declined two showing requests on a Saturday.  When I called to inquire they told me they had decided not to relocate - it would have been nice for them to tell me so I could pull it from the MLS - people Grrrrrr  :)

Nov 20, 2010 03:54 AM #7
Gene Mundt, IL/WI Mortgage Originator - FHA/VA/Conv/Jumbo/Portfolio/Refi
NMLS #216987, IL Lic. 031.0006220, WI Licensed. APMC NMLS #175656 - New Lenox, IL
708.921.6331 - 40+ yrs experience

Extremely well-written and well-expressed sentiment regarding this issue, Chris.  I think it boils down to two main considerations ... one is simply being professional and carrying out the details and responsibilities of your job to the best of your ability.  If you're seeing to the details in a consistent and beneficial manner for your client, you're probably following through on all phases for what you have written about above.  The second consideration may be just plain-ol' manners.  Those manners should be based around the Golden Rule ... do unto others, etc.  If that is done, most likely the problem you mention won't occur very often.

Take care of those two steps and your transactions will probably fall into the successful category more often than not.  JMO ...

Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving Chris ...


Nov 20, 2010 04:54 PM #8
Chris Olsen
Olsen Ziegler Realty - Cleveland, OH
Broker Owner Cleveland Ohio Real Estate

Hi Carla -- I hear you, ditto.

Hi Andrzej -- In some parts of the country where distressed properties rein, I can see that, but I don't show short sales that often and it's not the case in my experiences unless the listing agent forgot to mark the property as a short sale in the MLS.  But your view makes perfect sense for those types of properties sometimes, not to say I agree with sellers who decline showings however.

Hi George -- Totally agree with you.

Hi Karen -- This is a crazy business sometimes, one would think basic communication would flow smoother and quicker, given the technology at our disposal today.

Hi Gene -- I could not agree with you more. These things are lacking at times, and it frustrates all involved, especially when the system is designed (in theory) to support people who want to buy and sell.  I hope your Thanksgiving is happy as well Gene!


Nov 22, 2010 10:13 AM #9
Rebecca Diamond
Berkshire Hathaway Fox & Roach Bryn Mawr - Bryn Mawr, PA
Main Line Homes for Sale

Nicely written, thank you. When I'm acting as Buyer agent and am scheduling a tour, I get so frustrated by the "can you make it an hour earlier/later request", that I usually just say no and schedule another property in its place. As a listing agent, I have a rather involved and direct conversation about showings and that declining showings is not the road to success. I think we as listing agents have to do a very thorough job of making Sellers understand that very often, if not mostly, showings are not going to be convenient. The system is not designed for the Seller's convenience. And in this market, Mr. Seller, you ought to do your level best to make that appointment happen. Of course events transpire that make showings impossible at times, but these should be the rare exception, not a frequent occurrence.

Nov 23, 2010 06:18 AM #10
Chris Olsen
Olsen Ziegler Realty - Cleveland, OH
Broker Owner Cleveland Ohio Real Estate

Hi Rebecca -- You make an excellent point on the system not being designed for the seller's convenience, that is a point worth really communicating to a seller.  All your points are right on.

Nov 23, 2010 02:37 PM #11
Pat Haddad, ABR, CRS, ePRO, GRI
Keller Williams Indianapolis Metro NE - Carmel, IN
Carmel, Fishers, Westfield IN Real Estate Expert

Another thoughtful post Chris.  I could simply print this out and add it to my listing presentation.  I find that most sellers completely understand the process and will do everything in their power NOT to miss a showing.  My sellers are always told it only takes one buyer---are you turning down the one?  I also agree with Rebecca--that is my pet peeve number two.  I have 14 homes scheduled and the 15th wants us to come an hour later.  Hmmmm...would like to, but probably not going to happen!!

Dec 07, 2010 02:27 PM #12
Chris Olsen
Olsen Ziegler Realty - Cleveland, OH
Broker Owner Cleveland Ohio Real Estate

Thanks Pat.  A great listing agent like you can prevent (most of the time) this from occurring and it benefits everyone involved.

Dec 08, 2010 11:30 AM #13
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Broker Owner Cleveland Ohio Real Estate
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