Sellers: Showings Can be Risky Business!
As a listing agent, I have learned and stumbled along the way when it comes to discussing showing expectations with my sellers. What is a normal for me as a buyer's agent is not everyone's normal procedure, even in the same market.
Ultimately, the homeowner hired the listing broker to keep their home safe. The responsibility falls directly on the listing agent. So I let my sellers know ahead of time the following:
1. The buyer's agent may or may not leave a business card. (depending on the market)
2. All or some of the lights may be left on. (I prepare them for this inevitably because it will happen at some point and I am managing expectations.)
3. And if they come home and the door is not locked, they should not enter the home but call the non-emergency police number for a police officer to walk through the property first. (This is a rarity and in 13 years, it has only happened a handful of times.)
4. Not all agents will provide feedback. The best feedback is an offer. Again, managing the expectation is the key.
For instance, the act of leaving a business card after a showing is not to be presumed as required. In the Cedar Rapids area, I would say over 50% of agents will leave a business card to show the seller that they were in the home as a courtesy. And it used to be that they left a card so that the seller knows that the agent showed up. Now, I can see if the keybox was accessed, so I know whether the agent was there or not.
Since I work in two different markets, the rules are different. Because in the Iowa City area, it is against the MLS rules. Leaving a business card is considered a solicitation of an active listing and is an offense that could result in a fine. Two very different ways of looking at the same practice.
Another expecation of the seller: The lights to be left on or turned off, the doors to be locked and secured, or windows to be left as they are. There are agents that will leave a home as it is found, meaning that if the lights are on when they arrive, they will not turn them off unless they were specifically instructed to do so by the showing confirmation. Or there are those that will turn them off during the day, or leave them on in the evening so the sellers are not coming home to a dark house.
Here is a practical example: If I arrive to show a home and it is starting to rain, and the windows were left open, I am most likely going to call the listing agent to let them know that I am closing the windows. I would not want the seller to come home to a mess. But that is me and not every agent would do that.
What about vacant properties? The expectation that I provide to my sellers is that I will go to the home if they cannot and turn on lights, open shades/blinds/drapes, and check on the temperature and overall condition of the house prior to the showing. I then will go over to the home after the showing has occurred, since I can see the access through the lockbox, and make sure that lights are off and all doors and windows are secured.
I am shocked by the number of times that lights were on or doors were not locked....especially on vacant houses. It is clear that no one lives there and yet no extra care is taken by many of the agents. Disappointing to say the least.
In order to assist myself with this process, I enlist the help of the immediate neighbors by providing my direct contact information in case a light is left on at night. That way the seller knows that there are people watching out for their home. It takes a village (or in this case, your neighbors) to sell your home and keep it safe! A vacant home is much more likely to receive attention from vandals or burgulars so I can use all the help that I can get!
If the buyer's agent is careless and the home is left unsecured, who is responsible is someone that is not authorized to be in the home finds their way in? It is the responsibility of the listing broker. Accidents happen and short of the listing agent or seller being present for every showing and not using a lockbox for access, there are no perfect scenarios to make sure that everything is locked and shut off after every single showing.
We do our best for our sellers and mitigating their risk is one of our largest responsibilities. When we put photos of a home online for sale, it is not just the buyers that are seeing what the seller has inside. By talking about the showing expectations with the homeowner upfront, a light or two that was not shut off does not result in the cancelation of the listing for the agent.