Does Your Agent Not Know or Will They Just Not Say?

Real Estate Broker/Owner with Waters Realty of Brevard, LLC BK3064647

In business there is a concept called risk mitigation.   What is risk mitigation? It is defined as a systematic reduction in the extent of exposure to a risk and/or the likelihood of its occurrence.

In the real estate business there are multiple steps and processes real estate agents take to reduce exposure to risk.   

One of the easiest ways is to minimize being the source of all answers and practicing being the source of the source rather than the primary source.... i.e. telling the buyer where they can find the answer.

I caution prospective buyers to not assume their agent does not know the answer but rather the agent is pointing you in the right direction for the answer.

I remember years ago I was showing a prospective buyer a beautiful condo on Cocoa Beach.  The lot to the side was vacant.  This particular unit had a side view toward the ocean.  The prospective buyer asked me about the lot remaining vacant.  My response was "I don't know."

The reality (or common sense) is prime oceanfront lots are likely a target for future development.  Either way I recommended the buyer consider the view likely temporary or assume the risk.

Another area of concern to many buyers is sexual predators ("Do any sexual predators live nearby?")  Read more about Florida Sexual Offender Database here.

An area that can get an agent in some real trouble - even inadvertently - is the Fair Housing Act.   The housing act exists to promote and hopefully guarantee equal housing opportunity and non-discrimination.

Questions relating to the character and demographic characteristics of an area is not something an agent should speak of - ever.

While a buyer prospect's questions may not be intended to denigrate any person, creed, religion or whatever, the answer can still be seen as a violation.

Responses to these types of questions are best answered by relying on the "source of the source" answer. 

This may entail referring a prospective buyer to the local law enforcement agency (What is crime rate?) or to the school board (How are the schools?).   Sometimes buyer prospects need to be encourage to drive around the neighborhood themselves or go for a walk or whatever (are there any kids?  How old are the people who live around here?)

Another are that many agents (myself included) shy away from are questions specifically relating to the homeowner or condo association.   The correct response, at a minimum, is to provide a way for access to the documents or even contact information for the association officers. 

I recall an agent I know was recently asked whether a fence could be put up.  She referred the buyer to the association.  Not only does a response like this mitigate risk exposure it, more importantly, allows a prospective buyer to access the best available answer.

And sometimes the answers to the questions, while potentially useful, are not known or can't be disclosed such as

  • "Are the neighbors nice?" 
  • "Why are they selling?" 
  • "How much do they owe?" 
  • "How much will they take?" 
  • "What are the other offer prices?"

So when you decide to buy a home in Melbourne, Florida, remember that your agent may not answer all your questions on the spot.  It is not because they do not know (sometimes we don't!) but rather, to protect you, the buyer.

Ready to buy a home in Melbourne, Florida?  Please call or text me at 321-693-3850 if I can help in any way.


Posted by

Gary L. Waters, is a Florida licensed real estate broker at  Waters Realty of Brevard, LLC, Melbourne, Florida serving Florida's Space Coast including the cities and surrounding communities of Melbourne, Viera, Rockledge, Suntree, Merritt Island, Cocoa Beach and Satellite Beach.

 Call or text me directly at 321-693-3850.



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Re-Blogged 3 times:

Re-Blogged By Re-Blogged At
  1. Ron Barnes 11/17/2017 06:47 AM
  2. Gabe Sanders 11/22/2017 11:55 PM
  3. Tony and Suzanne Marriott, Associate Brokers 11/24/2017 03:10 AM
Home Buying

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Lisa Von Domek
Lisa Von Domek Team - Dallas, TX
....Experience Isn't Expensive.... It's Priceless!

Gary L. Waters, Broker Owner, Waters Realty of Brevard, LLC 

Congratulations on the well deserved Feature for your post!

Nov 16, 2017 04:01 PM #15
Margaret Goss
Baird & Warner Real Estate - Winnetka, IL
Chicago's North Shore & Winnetka Real Estate

My first broker drilled it into us that we cannot - cannot- put ourselves at risk answering certain questions. Buyers don't understand this and sometimes it seems like we're so uninformed. We are not - but in certain circumstances, there is someone else who is better served to answer.

Nov 16, 2017 04:11 PM #16
Debe Maxwell, CRS | The Maxwell House Group | RE/MAX Executive | (704) 491-3310 - Charlotte, NC
Charlotte Homes for Sale - Charlotte Neighborhoods

Fantastic post as always, Gary!

Yes, it's good to know, not only what we can't answer but, the resources for the buyers to find out themselves to those questions we cannot answer. 

On another note, one of the biggest surprises I get here all of the time from buyers' agents - they phone me, asking very specific HOA questions - NOT the HOA representative! I'm representing the SELLER - why ask ME?! When I'm working with the buyer, I'm phoning the HOA and giving the contact there and their phone number & email address to my buyers so they can also confirm. 

Nov 16, 2017 06:40 PM #17
Tammy Lankford,
Lane Realty Eatonton, GA Lake Sinclair, Milledgeville, 706-485-9668 - Eatonton, GA
Broker GA Lake Sinclair/Eatonton/Milledgeville

I don't mind being the resource and I don't think it makes me seem/look like I lack knowledge.

Nov 16, 2017 08:02 PM #18
Mary Jo Quay
Remax Results - Edina, MN

It's smart to point buyers to who has the capacity for a complete response. Once I represented a church that was hoping to annex a small lot across an alley. I called the city, they responded via email that it could be annexed. The client went to the city without me or the email and were denied. Their plans went up in smoke even though we had it in writing.  


Nov 17, 2017 05:48 AM #19
Andrew Mooers | 207.532.6573
Northern Maine Real Estate-Aroostook County Broker

Mind your P's and Q's ... more important than ever in the litigious society we live in and all the rules.

Nov 17, 2017 06:03 AM #20
Gabe Sanders
Real Estate of Florida specializing in Martin County Residential Homes, Condos and Land Sales - Stuart, FL
Stuart Florida Real Estate

Great post Gary.  Some questions are better left unanswered.

Nov 17, 2017 06:31 AM #21
Ron Barnes
Associate Broker at Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Georgia Properties - Jasper, GA
"Most agents claim they're #1 - I THINK YOU'RE #1!

Good advice. Don't wait to get "shopped" to learn the lesson!

Nov 17, 2017 06:47 AM #22
Tammie White, Broker
Franklin Homes Realty LLC - Franklin, TN
Franklin TN Homes for Sale

Many problems can be eliminated if buyers perform a little research. Buyers should always review HOA docs rather than ask an agent. I have a client who recently purchased in a new construction neighborhood. As it turns out, her new neighbor has 4 dogs. My client had reviewed the HOA docs prior to buying and knows the subdivision only allows 2 dogs. Guess what? She contacted the HOA to complain about the neighbor's 4 dogs. He had not reviewed HOA docs and now has to get rid of 2 of his beloved pets or move. (He just closed last week.) This could have been prevented had he reviewed HOA documents.

Nov 17, 2017 09:32 AM #23
Mary Hutchison, SRES, ABR
Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate-Kansas City Homes - Kansas City, MO
Specializing in Brookside, Waldo, Prairie Village

Informative post that all buyers should read!  They often expect us to have all the answers but sometimes we cannot answer specific questions about crime, development, schools, etc--we don't know the facts.

Nov 17, 2017 11:43 AM #24
Sam Shueh
(408) 425-1601 - San Jose, CA
mba, cdpe, reopro, pe

Give them what they want and point in the right direction.  A seller tried to sell her flooded home from a storm. I asked a few questions and the ans was ambiguous. I told her the home is flagged for retro as it was flooded. The seller who is a referral lied to me all the way. No, it is the homes across the street.   Can you sell it for me for 0.5%?   I have the city report. I am dummie?


Nov 17, 2017 03:32 PM #25
Francine Viola
Coldwell Banker Evergreen Olympic Realty, Olympia WA - Olympia, WA
Realtor, In Tune with your Real Estate Needs

Absolutely, and I also explain to the buyer why I can’t answer or say things so they know I’m not brushing them off.  Buyers like everyone else want answers now and therefore may not go to the best source to get their questions answered.

Nov 17, 2017 04:07 PM #26
Ron Saporito, Palm Desert, CA Real Estate & Mortgage Broker Since 2003
Ronald Christopher & Associates. Proudly serving Palm Desert, La Quinta, Indio, Coachella, Rancho Mirage, Palm Springs. - Indio, CA
Call (760)574-8486.

Hi Gary - these are great explanations for topics and questions that are fairly common in real estate. I can tell you are an expert and your clients are in good hands. Thanks for sharing. 

Nov 17, 2017 04:47 PM #27
Gita Bantwal
RE/MAX Centre Realtors - Warwick, PA
REALTOR,ABR,CRS,SRES,GRI - Bucks County & Philadel

 Congratulations on the featured post. Thank you for sharing . I hope others will read it too.

Nov 18, 2017 06:05 AM #28
John Wiley
Right Move Real Estate Group- EXP Realty - Fort Myers, FL
Lee County, FL Real Estate GRI, SRES,GREEN,PSA

I am often asked some of the questions you listed. When I respond that there are things I am restricted by law in answering, I get some real strange looks. I think having a sheet with the Fair Housing Law stated on it helps the consumer understand that we may know but are not allowed to discuss.

This is an important issue and thanks for the reminder.

Nov 18, 2017 02:00 PM #29
Debra Leisek
Bay Realty,Inc Homer Alaska - Homer, AK

Number one way to get in trouble is answering questions you shouldn't.... or trying to seem like you know all the answers when you shouldn't answer at all..

Congratulations on the well deserved feature! 

Nov 19, 2017 12:25 AM #30
Sally K. & David L. Hanson
Keller Williams 414-525-0563 - Brookfield, WI
WI Realtors - Luxury - Divorce - Short Sale

So many questions really not germain to the transaction...but it never keeps Buyers from asking them !

Nov 23, 2017 03:19 AM #31
Patricia Feager
Selling Homes Changing Lives

Gary L. Waters, Broker Owner, Waters Realty of Brevard, LLC 

This is a well deserved feature and one in which I WISH we'd see more of on ActiveRain. Thanks to Gabe Sanders re-blog, I read it today. You're absolutely right, there are agents sticking their necks out because of their belief in going above and beyond and they are teethering on risk and liability. 

During the past few months I was certain I was being tested by a prospective Buyer. The things the buyer asked me to do and the vague answers I got when I turned the question back and suggested legal counsel were very uncomfortable. I finally let that person go, but I know without a doubt, I did the right thing. No commission is worth the risk of a violation.

Thanks again, Gary. You bring value to our AR Community. 

Nov 23, 2017 08:40 AM #32
Tony and Suzanne Marriott, Associate Brokers
BVO Luxury Group @ Keller Williams Arizona Realty - Scottsdale, AZ
Serving Scottsdale, Phoenix and Maricopa County AZ

Gary L. Waters, Broker Owner, Waters Realty of Brevard, LLC "One of the easiest ways is to minimize being the source of all answers and practicing being the source of the source rather than the primary source.... i.e. telling the buyer where they can find the answer."

Right on target - and  - re-blog!

Nov 24, 2017 03:10 AM #33
Pat Starnes, Brandon, MS
Front Gate Real Estate - Brandon, MS
Broker Associate, ABR, 601-278-4513

Gary, these are fine examples of why a buyer should be referred to the primary source on certain questions, especially with the sexual predator question, future development, etc. Great post!

Nov 25, 2017 08:25 AM #34
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