What You Say May Be Used Against You! Questions NOT to Answer an Agent

Managing Real Estate Broker with EXP Realty of Canada Inc., Brokerage

One of the questions that I am most frequently asked is actually "What should we ask a REALTOR®?"  Often, it is just as important (and possibly more so) to know what questions that a REALTOR® may ask you that you should NOT answer!

Remember: Until you have signed a contract or "Listing Agreement" with the REALTOR®, that REALTOR® and any other that you might speak to, does not have a fiduciary obligation to you!  They are under no obligation to keep your answers confidential.  You may say, "Hey!  What a minute!  What kind of professionalism is that?"  But please consider this.. If you hire another REALTOR® to market your home and one of the REALTORS® that you talked to previously, but didn't hire, ends up bringing an offer from a Buyer later, working as the Buyer's Agent, they would be obligated to disclose anything that they know about your property and motivation, etc. to their client - THE BUYER!  Your answers may be used against you!

Interview as many REALTORS® (commonly called "agents"*) as you wish, but be careful of such questions as, "Why are you thinking of moving?"  While the question may seem innocent enough, your answer may indicate some duress or motivation that might suggest that you could be open to taking a lesser price for your home - even well below market value!  Whatever your reasons are for selling your property, they have absolutely no bearing on the value of your property.  Such questions as "How much did you pay for your property?" or When did you purchase the house?" are totally irrelevant to it's current value!

YOU SHOULD NEVER CHOOSE A REALTOR® BASED ON WHAT THEY TELL YOU THEY CAN GET FOR YOUR HOME!  The market (the Buyers and effects of supply and demand) determine your home's value - not the REALTOR® (unless they are going to buy it themselves - at or above market value!)  It's too easy to do the "3L" Listing Program - (LIE, LIST and LATER) to get people to sign a Listing Agreement for 6 months and then come back and say "Oh well, the market changed" or "There is so much more competition now". Once they've got you signed....  (Always demand an "Easy Exit" Guarantee".  But that's a blog for another day!)

So, avoid any questions that might suggest your opinion of the property's value, such as  "What do you think your home is worth?"  Your answer can work against you - both with the REALTOR® you hire and those that you don't!  Don't make it easy for them to tell you "what you want to hear" just to get the Listing Agreement.  The value of your property is NOT determined by what a Seller "thinks" their property is worth, or even what he or she wants or needs for the property.

The value of your property is determined by what a willing Buyer will pay for it, within a reasonable time period and after a thorough marketing program has been implemented to ensure that every prospective Buyer has been made aware of the property's availability.

When you are looking to hire a REALTOR® to work for you - YOU should be the one asking the questions!  After you have signed the Listing Agreement with the REALTOR® that you trust to protect your best interests, then you can safely answer any questions that your REALTOR® may need answers to so that they can know how best to serve you!

Good luck and Happy Selling!   -- Rick

* The term "agent" is often misused as, in many jurisdictions, including Ontario, the "agent" is the Brokerage or company that the Broker or Sales Representative is licensed through.  The term REALTOR® is a licensed trademark of the Canadian Real Estate Association in Canada and may only be used by it's registered members.

Comments (4)

Tanja Cisliek
Future Home Realty - Seminole, FL

Rick, I partially agree with you, Homeowners shouldn't spill the beans to agents they are interviewing. However, if they don't answer common rapport-builder type questions like when they bought the house, why they are moving, etc., they are not going to have any chance of really having a productive meeting with the people they are interviewing. There is a fine line of being private, and being abrasively rude. Following your advise exactly would make for one uncomfortable conversation. 

I would recommend to anybody thinking about selling NEVER share your bottom line you're willing to take with anybody you are interviewing. But stuff like when a property was bought, for how much, and how long they've lived there is public records anyway, so why not talk about it?? I don't get that.

Jul 10, 2012 11:04 AM
Rick Sergison
EXP Realty of Canada Inc., Brokerage - Pickering, ON
Durham Region Real Estate Blog

If it is public record then fine.  Too often I find that when the Seller is interviewing REALTORS® I find they don't realize that their information is not confidential.  Admittedly, I work almost exclusively by repeat and referral business so there is already a strong relationship established.  Thanks for your thoughts.

Jul 10, 2012 11:13 AM
Shannon Milligan, Richmond VA Real Estate Agent/Associate Broker
RVA Home Team - Richmond, VA
RVA Home Team - Winning with Integrity.

Some very good points. I had a potential buyer start to send me his financials and such and I stopped him from doing anything until we had an agreement in place. I told him "if you tell me you would pay $200K for the house even though it is listed for $189K, I have no obligation to you to keep that private UNLESS we are in an agreement." It is difficult for many people to understand but an important thing to grasp.

Jul 10, 2012 11:47 AM
Wayne Zuhl
Remax First Realty II - Cranford, NJ
The Last Name You'll Ever Need in Real Estate

Until they've signed, there's no fiduciary responsibility. Sellers, and everyone, should keep their private business private or risk having it public. Good advice, Rick.

Jul 15, 2012 04:39 AM