Social Etiquette in Real Estate, "Can I use the John?"

Real Estate Agent with The MJKelly Team BRE#: 0645724

Social Etiquette in Real Estate—“Would the Seller mind if I used the bathroom?”

   This happened to me showing property one time. The Buyer’s teenage girl absolutely needed to use the bathroom. The buyer asked if this was o.k. and I said sure, go ahead. Remember that commercial where the "date" is at the guy's house and goes to use the bathroom. Curious, she opens the medicine cabinet to see what's in there and the shelves come crashing down! Ooops! Yes, the teenage girl got “curious” and down came the shelves. It was a mess. We spent the next 15 minutes replacing the shelves and the contents. I had to call the selling agent and explain to her the incident. She was a good sport and smoothed over the accident. 

  Over my 35+ years as a Realtor exclusively in Sonoma County, California, "The Wine Country", I’ve developed a certain keen sense of “Realtor and Client” Etiquette (like using the bathroom by a buyer). Much of it is based on common sense but also the proprieties of conduct we Realtors have established over the years. Our Realtor code of ethics comes into play but on occasion we need to think on our feet.

  In a recent Realtor on-line forum I posed the question which led to the medicine cabinet caper; “Can I use the bathroom?” Many Realtor replied by stating absolutely not—wait until we go to a gas station. But there where those who said, “When you got to go you got to go”. All had one comment in common, “Make sure the water is on.”  Yes, I won’t bore you with some of the stories they shared. Most Buyers ask to use the bathroom because there is a need at hand.  However, I had ONE client who was VERY particular as to the proper "height" of the toilet. To him it was very subjective. Measurements would NOT work so he insisted on the "test"--he sat on each toilet in the house to see if it had the proper fit. If not--his offer would REFLECT a credit for a new john; an Interesting guy.

  Remembering the medicine cabinet incident, a fellow Realtor friend of mine insists all “Prescriptions” be removed from medicine cabinets prior to placing it on the market. We’ve had incidents of open house visitors going through contents of cabinets. Be safe and place them in a secure spot. But if you got to go-you GOT to go! I show aging boomers property and when THEY ask to use the bathroom--LET THEM! A Millennial can hold it longer.

Here is “showing etiquette” examples and tips—some do’s and don’ts. Most Realtors follow these guidelines but like any industry we do have some challenged folks.

·       Don’t open up drawers.  And beware opening closets.—Drawers are considered taboo—don’t do this. Closets—sure as many homes have luxury walk-in closets. I have a Realtor friend who can determine if a divorce is going on by the empty second closet in the Master bedroom. Most folks have a propensity to “fill” all closets so an empty Master Bedroom closet tells him a divorce is in the works. He feels you can negotiate a better deal with a couple in the throes of a divorce.  So he always advises his divorcing clients to keep clothes in the empty closet.

·       Don’t address either the Buyer or Seller directly—Of course, if the Home Seller is present you can say hello but peppering them with questions as to why they are selling, where they are moving, what did they pay for the house originally and how much do they really want for the home is not acceptable.

·       On the flip side, if you are a Seller don’t descend upon Buyers and literally lead them by the hand on a tour of the home. I know you want them to see the new laminate flooring, custom counter tops and manicured backyard but give them space to really see the home. An occasional question by the showing agent on features of the home is o.k. However, showing agents should not be grilling you as to how much you’ll take for the property either. Remedy this by having a thorough and professional prepared property flyer describing all of the improvements you’ve made on the property. The more thorough the better. Buyers love to buy a home from a seller who can demonstrate a long record of maintenance. Make sure the flyer has plenty of color photos as showing property can be a blur for Buyers. The more thorough the package the better the chances your property will be remembered in a positive light.  

·       Never have your buyer ask for the seller’s phone number or have the Seller ask for the Buyers phone number.  I showed a property only to have the Seller brush by me, shake my Buyer’s hands and lead them on a tour of his home. He then proceeded to tell them to contact HIM directly to write an offer! This creates all manner of problems for the listing and selling agent and usually turns the buyers totally off.

·       Never send buyers directly to a listing unaccompanied. I know these sounds like a no-brainer, but as newer agents come into the marketplace they do not understand our code of conduct. Many are very busy and can’t be with all of their clients and send them out to a property directly after making an appointment with the Seller. This compromises the agency relationships between buyers/sellers and listing/selling agents. Expediency is NO excuse for such behavior.

·       Do leave gates as you find them. IF the home has all lights on and curtains open—leave them be. Don’t pet the animals—this is not a petting zoo. Do restrain your children. Little hands have been known to grab shiny objects from tables. Keep these out of reach of kids. Yes, I did have a little one, when the day was done; empty his pockets of all manner of “shiny objects”. I spent the evening calling the sellers of each home asking if they were missing a crystal lion, silver ring, ceramic bell, etc. Do enjoy the home buying and selling experience.




Comments (5)

Gary Mellott
PIC Internet - Phoenix, AZ
Internet Guru

Great info Mike! This should be required reading for all new (and some old) Realtors® entering the business.

Jul 10, 2015 10:48 AM
Rosemarie Heindel
Harry Norman Realtors - Big Canoe, GA
Rosemarie Heindel

That's an interesting stoy about the teen girl who got curious. I do remember that commercial too! And another one about the guy that had to test the "johns." I guess you meet all kinds in this business but it makes for interesting stories.

Jul 10, 2015 04:05 PM
Nicole Doty - Gilbert Real Estate Expert
Zion Realty - Gilbert, AZ
Broker/Owner of Zion Realty

I was at a showing last year and my buyers six year old needed to use the restroom BAD so I felt like I had no choice but to authorize it. Well, I'm not sure what that kid ate the day before but that whole house stunk to high heaven when we left so I had to text the listing agent my apologies. 

Jul 11, 2015 01:23 AM
Mike Kelly,CRS,CIPS
The MJKelly Team - Santa Rosa, CA
"One of Sonoma County's Natural Resources"

Nicole, OMG! We did many REO's and agent's constantly NEVER checked to see if the water was on before using the facilities. Needless to say, it wasn't pretty!

Jul 11, 2015 03:36 AM
Judy Coleman, ABR, CRS, GRI
Coldwell Banker Paradise - Melbourne, FL
"Let Coleman Light Your Way!"

Yes, thanks Mike........excellent advice!   After 35 yrs I've learned to check the tank to make sure there's at least one flush left!   Also, check for toilet paper!!  I've carried a roll in my trunk for years.    

Another lesson I learned is to turn off the toilets at the wall.   Flooded, vacant listings are no fun!   

Aug 05, 2015 05:59 AM