It’s OK to Say I Don’t Know the Answer
It’s really OK to say you don’t know the answer to a question asked by a buyer or seller.
Indeed, it’s probably far better to say you don’t know the answer rather than provide a response that is pure guessing, may be outright wrong, and/or possibly could create a problem for them should they listen to your advice.
We get questions all the time we can’t answer, and we must determine the right way to respond, in order to be helpful but also make sure we are not stepping outside our bounds…such as providing legal or tax advice.
Or telling someone the neighborhood is safe, or that it has the best schools, or that a road is public when in fact it’s private.
While our clients might hope, or expect, we know all the answers, and trust us to provide them with the responses they need, in reality there are plenty of times we can’t or shouldn’t be so all-knowing. There are liability issues for one, potentially, depending on the question and our response, especially if we are guessing.
Consider these questions: Is that adjacent lot buildable? Is that fence on the property line? Where IS the property line? No doubt you can think of many you have been asked.
Saying “I don’t know” and leaving it at that is probably not the best way to respond, even though that’s truthful. Our clients deserve better!
But it does provide the opportunity to let them know that while you don’t know the specific answer you will get it for them, or can find out who they need to talk with to get the information they need.
You might even have a suggestion of who to contact in order to do their research or get the correct answer, such as the HOA, the town building department, the local school or an attorney.
It goes without saying that following up with the answer is vitally important when you say that’s what you are going to do after you’ve said I don’t know the answer to your question.
The value we bring to a client relationship is having the answers to a myriad real estate questions, but also knowing available resources (e.g., organizations, people) and how to get the necessary answers to questions our buyers and sellers have. Knowing when to provide a specific answer, and when to say “I don’t know,” is part of that value.