Three Important Words A Realtor® Needs To Know

Real Estate Agent with Integrity Real Estate Group

Learning To Say
It's painful but there are times when we need to pull out these three simple words; "I Don't Know." 

This past weekend a lender asked me for information on a condo association.  My brain wasn't operating on all cells and I started to give him an answer off the cuff.  Then it dawned on me the best answer was  "I don't know." 

There was no sense sending him on a wild goose chase with incorrect information.  Instead I asked for 15 minutes to look up the answer to what he needed.  Sure enough if I had given him the answer that first popped into my head it would have been the wrong one.  Though this question was easy there are times when the wrong answer could come back to haunt us.

Is any development scheduled for behind this property?

Is the septic approved for 4 bedrooms? 

Is this property in a flood plain?

Can I keep chickens on the property? 

Though a quick answer may seem innocent enough, if a buyer has made a purchase decision based on your answer and it is wrong the liabilty for the wrong answer may come back to haunt you.  It's better to say "I don't know" and give yourself time to track down the answer than set yourself up for an ethics complaint or lawsuit later on.

Start by admitting you might not know everything and accept that it's okay to say "I don't know."



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Re-Blogged 3 times:

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  1. Marte Cliff 01/08/2014 08:18 AM
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Edward Gilmartin
CRE - Boston, MA

the best response is "I am not sure but let me find out for sure and get back to you"

Jan 09, 2014 04:21 AM #55
Stephen Proski
RE/MAX Scottsdale, AZ Real Estate - Scottsdale, AZ
Scottsdale Homes For Sale

You are absolutely correct.  Too many times agents try to answer questions that clients have which are not in are specific area of expertise.  Answer the questions you are an expert in and refer those other questions to the appropriate expert.  Rather be safe than sorry

Jan 09, 2014 04:52 AM #56
Tom Arstingstall, General Contractor, Dry Rot, Water Damage Sacramento, El Dorado County - (916) 765-5366
Dry Rot and Water Damage Mobile - 916-765-5366 - Placerville, CA
General Contractor, Dry Rot and Water Damage

I would much rather hear that you don't know then to find out you've been feeding me a bunch of assumptions and guesses Cindy.

Jan 09, 2014 05:29 AM #57
Jeff Pearl
RE/MAX Distinctive / LIC in VA - Lovettsville, VA
Full Service Full Time Realtor

I've said " I don't know" many times, usually followed by something like" I'll have to check and let you know". Obviously, the other person doesn't know either or they wouldn't be asking, so they'll understand that we can't possibly know everything.

Jan 09, 2014 08:52 AM #58
Doug Van Etten
Cherry Creek Properties - Grand Junction, CO
Make your goals a reality with my help.

Do you use that as an opportunity to collect an email address if you do not already have one for the person and offer to send them what you do learn or a link to a resource where they may learn more? 

Often times I have found that when a person asks things like 'will that road be expanded to 4 lanes' or 'will there be more construction back behind these houses' it is a good idea to find a web &/or phone resource they can connect with directly. That way I have provided a vlaue added service yet I have not hung my neck out telling about a project that may have been (or not been) planned for 5 or 10 years and may or may not happen within the next 5 or 10 years.

Jan 09, 2014 10:48 AM #59
Andre R. Aragon
Greater Tampa Real Estate Photographer - Tampa, FL
Real Estate Photographer

Hi Cindy - An old boss told me it was better to use 7 words if you don't know an answer, "I'll get back to you on that"!

Jan 09, 2014 12:12 PM #60
Praful Thakkar
LAER Realty Partners - Andover, MA
Andover, MA: Andover Luxury Homes For Sale

Cindy, great advice. I remember a case where the listing agent 'agreed' that refrigerator was included in the sale - which actually was not. Guess who paid for the refrigerator....

Jan 09, 2014 12:45 PM #61
Claude Labbe
Real Living | At Home - Washington, DC
Realty for Your Busy Life

and another set is "I'll find out"....

I'd rather be told or tell someone I don't know, or I'll find out.  Much less potential to be wrong later on.

Jan 09, 2014 01:06 PM #62
Aaron Hofmann
Atlanta Communities - Smyrna, GA
aka Mr. Smyrna Vinings

We were always taught to say "I don't know, but I will check into it for you and call you back".

Jan 09, 2014 04:32 PM #63
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Gee, I say that a lot!  Because I don't know.

But as to chickens, hey, you sure we can't have chickens?  What!?

Jan 09, 2014 07:47 PM #64
Graziella Bruner
NCS Premier Real Estate - Detroit, MI
Associate Broker - Serving Wayne & Oakland County

Great post and so very true - Just say it!  "I don't know, but I will find out and get back with you"    And you have to know that it's ok not knowing something.  Some people think they have the answer to everything, I'm sure we've all come across someone we know that knows everything or everything has happend to them.

Jan 09, 2014 10:00 PM #65
Randy Shamburger
Movement Mortgage - Greenville, SC
FHA, VA, USDA and Conventional Mortgage Expert

Great advice, thanks for sharing.

Have a Big day,


Jan 09, 2014 11:05 PM #66
Dawn Maloney
RE/MAX Trinity Northeast Ohio Real Estate Specialist - Hudson, OH
330-990-4236 Hudson & Northeastern Ohio

Amen to this! No one knows everything and it's a big mistake to guess!!

Jan 10, 2014 05:27 AM #67
Connie Harvey
Pilkerton Realtors - Brentwood, TN
Realtor - Nashville TN Real Estate

Cindy, absolutely nothing wrong with "I don't know". Especially if you can find out and call them back.

Jan 10, 2014 06:58 AM #68
John Anello, Stamford Area Electrician
Safe and Sound Electric LLC - Greenwich, CT
Call Safe and Sound Electric at 203-536-0021

I called a car dealership about a specific used vehicle advertised. I asked if it was still available and the guy on the phose said yes. So, I drove over an hour there only to find out that it was not in fact available. If the salesman had said, "I do not know. Let me find out for sure," I would respect that organization. Instead, I will never ever do business with that dealership no matter what because they wasted my time.  

Jan 10, 2014 07:48 AM #69
Chris Ann Cleland
Long and Foster REALTORS®, Gainesville, VA - Bristow, VA
Associate Broker, Bristow, VA

"I don't know," is much better than riffing and being wrong.  There is nothing wrong with not knowing.  There is a lot wrong with speculating.

Jan 10, 2014 08:51 AM #70
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Usually guitar riffs are pretty cool Chris Ann.  When well done, gee, I just don't know how riffing could be wrong.

But I still don't have the chicken answer...

Jan 10, 2014 09:12 AM #71
Joan Fitton
Keller Williams Southern Nevada - Mesquite, NV
CRS, ABR, RSPS, kw New Homes Ambassador

Great post! I read it the other evening and it came in handy while I was showing a home yesterday, with a repeat visit today, and a couple asked me what was causing the ceramic floor tiles to "tent". I had several options running through my head and finished with--I feel like I am on the show Property Brothers. It could be something major, it may not be. I quite simply do not know. 

Jan 10, 2014 03:31 PM #72
James Downing - Metro DC Houses Team REALTORS®, CRS, GRI, ABR,MRP, MilRes
Real Living | At Home - Washington, DC
When Looking to Buy or Sell - Make the Right Move

So VERY true. I am always telling my new team members - if you don't know - don't guess!

Jan 14, 2014 09:58 AM #73
Margaret Rome Baltimore 410-530-2400
HomeRome Realty 410-530-2400 - Pikesville, MD
Sell Your Home With Margaret Rome

Just used the words again Sunday on my radio show. I don't know!

Jan 14, 2014 11:25 AM #74
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Cindy Jones

Pentagon, Fort Belvoir & Quantico Real Estate News
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