There's a Difference Between Helping and Steering

Real Estate Agent with Mapleridge Realty, CT 203-206-0754 REB.0759001

There's a Difference Between Helping and Steering

As real estate professionals we learn to find other professionals in necessary businesses to make our client's transactions flow smoother. It could be loan officers that we trust, lawyers that can handle closing properly, as well as inspectors and even tradespeople if repairs are needed.

We also need to be mindful to have a few of each to give clients options and to also keep ourselves out of trouble if a question of steering arises.


In real estate, steering refers to an agent who steers potential buyers to neighborhoods as a discriminatory measure. It also includes sending buyers or sellers to specific people, as there is some type of monetary kickback for the agent. All are illegal and could mean not only loss of license but also criminal charges to the agent.

Example #1 Steering to a Lender

There's a Difference Between Helping and SteeringI was working with a buyer that was looking for their first home. At the time, there were healthy incentives for first time buyers, here in Connecticut.

The buyer came with a pre-qualification letter from an online lender that had no physical presence here in Connecticut.  As we were doing our searches, I would ask if they were interested in saving money with their mortgage and even gave them a flyer that CHFA, Connecticut Housing Finance Authority, so they could read up.

They were insistent that they could get all from their online source and even said they had discussed it and were assured that they would be well taken care of.

We went through the process, they went to closing and as expected they received nothing in the way of an advantageous interest rate for first time buyers. When I later asked them why they were so insistent on using their lender and not one with a brick-and-mortar presence in the state, they said they were cautioned to not use anyone offered by their agent as they were just interested in helping the agent's friends.

Example #1 Steering to an Inspector

There's a Difference Between Helping and SteeringA crucial part of any purchase will be the home inspection. Once we have done enough sales, we get to appreciate that not all inspectors are equal and know which are fair and which tend to be self-promoters and want to impress with their knowledge to the extent that they can scare an already nervous client. I keep a few cards of inspectors that will do a good job.

With one buyer, they insisted they get someone on their own and wanted none of my recommendations. 

The day of the inspection, I waited along with the selling agent and the buyers to do the inspection.  Almost an hour later, their inspector shows up, and offers no explanation as to why he was late.

An hour later, which was short when doing a house of almost 2,500 sq ft, he is done, gives the buyer his bill and says he will send the report.

I hear nothing from the buyer regarding the report and all is proceeding to closing. The day of the walk through the buyer does a quick tour of the living area of the house, peeks into the basement and garage and goes to his lawyer's office.

A couple of days later I get an angry call and he's fuming as he went into the basement and on a wall that was blocked by the seller's possessions, there was mold. I was not surprised but I also had to remind the buyer that on that when we were looking at the house, I pointed out water stains near a door that came in from the outside and that they went across the floor towards that wall.

I also mentioned it to the inspector when he was doing his walk in the basement, but he ignored it.  The seller had moved out of state and all was closed so there was little recourse for the buyer. He also had never shared the report with me, so I don't know if the inspector wrote anything about the water stains.

The buyer wasn't satisfied and wrote a complaint to the state real estate board naming me and the listing agent as irresponsible and unprofessional.  I had to respond to the letter I got from the state board as did the other agent. However, the other agent was on the complaint review board so her being at the inspection and her reputation cleared both of us.


We all need to be mindful of not steering. When giving a recommendation never offer less than 2 and give good case for their recommendations. Insist that the client call all to satisfy any potential hesitation they may have.

There's a Difference Between Helping and Steering

Posted by


Edward (Ed) Silva
Broker Associate

Serving Central Connecticut Sellers and Buyers

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Comments (25)

Marte Cliff
Marte Cliff Copywriting - Priest River, ID
Your real estate writer

This is two posts in a row that I've read that made me think "You can't fix stupid." You also can't fix stupidly stubborn.

Mar 20, 2023 09:46 PM
Nina Hollander, Broker

Marte Cliff hi Marte... as John Wayne once said "life is hard; it's even harder when you're stupid."

Mar 25, 2023 05:28 AM
Kat Palmiotti
406-270-3667,, Broker/REALTOR® - Kalispell, MT
Helping your Montana dreams take root

Oh my - I lived through the inspection problem also. Someone refused my recommendations (and I did have more than one) and used a dolt. He looked at various things, muttering, "oh, how interesting" and gave them a checklist at the end of the inspection with things checked off that was meaningless. Argh.

Mar 21, 2023 04:46 AM
Brian England
Arizona Focus Realty - Gilbert, AZ
MBA, GRI, REALTOR® Real Estate in East Valley AZ

Steering is a big no-no.  I have had plenty of buyers send me listings in areas that I knew they wouldn't like but I would never tell them that.  I don't mind showing them the listings and letting them decide for themselves.

Mar 21, 2023 05:38 AM
Ed Silva
Mapleridge Realty, CT 203-206-0754 - Waterbury, CT
Central CT Real Estate Broker Serving all equally

Jerry Newman   It hit me hard as I was preparing for my license and stood with e. People get strange ideas and are aways so anxious to go for the quick lawsuit dollar.

Mark Don McInnes, Sandpoint-Idaho   We need to inform and also protect. ourselves.


Mar 21, 2023 05:43 AM
Ed Silva
Mapleridge Realty, CT 203-206-0754 - Waterbury, CT
Central CT Real Estate Broker Serving all equally

George Souto   Some of them feel that anything they do wrong is the mistake of the agent and do not accept their own failures.

Kathleen Daniels, Probate & Trust Specialist   Exactly. We give advice based on education and experience nd yet when it is not heeded, we are to blame.

Mar 21, 2023 05:45 AM
Ed Silva
Mapleridge Realty, CT 203-206-0754 - Waterbury, CT
Central CT Real Estate Broker Serving all equally

Patricia Feager, MBA, CRS, GRI,MRP  W drove I-95 through Georgia to Florida and it seems every billboard was touting a lawyer that got hundreds of thousands for their client. 

As we do our jobs, we see tradespeople and professionals at their best and the ones that stand out should be kept as reference partners so as to make the client's job easier.


Mar 21, 2023 05:48 AM
Ed Silva
Mapleridge Realty, CT 203-206-0754 - Waterbury, CT
Central CT Real Estate Broker Serving all equally

Marte Cliff  I do use the phrase stubborn to the point of stupid more than I care to but people just want to walk their own path and they refuse to listen when told thy are walking off a cliff.

Kat Palmiotti   As you were once pretty close to us, did that inspector look like he slept in his car?

Brian England  When I have a situation like that I suggest they drive by the house first to make sure they want to see it.

Mar 21, 2023 05:53 AM
Kat Palmiotti

Ed Silva - I don't remember that. I remember he was late and useless. I remember asking if he was going to test any outlets. "Oh no, that's not necessary" - I let my clients know this inspector was not doing what he should be but they didn't care. In fact, I think they called the first one they found in the "yellow pages" so it was probably something that started with an A

Mar 21, 2023 06:04 AM
Marte Cliff

My first experience with an inspector resulted in one mad as a wet hen client. The inspector said the attic fan worked when in fact there was no attic fan.

Mar 25, 2023 09:27 AM
Norma J. Elkins
Elite Realty Group - Morristown, TN
Realtor - Elkins Home Selling Team

Yes to all of this and a lot of agents sometimes cross that thin line without even realizing it.  Thanks for sharing and have a fabulous day!

Mar 21, 2023 06:38 AM
Lise Howe
Keller Williams Capital Properties - Washington, DC
Assoc. Broker in DC, MD, VA and attorney in DC

It is so hard to find a good inspector that when you do you need to cherish them like gold - finding two good ones is fantastic! 

Mar 21, 2023 06:54 AM
Nina Hollander, Broker

Lise Howe how right you are, Lise. I've fired more inspectors than I have on my list to recommend!

Mar 25, 2023 05:27 AM
Sheri Sperry - MCNE®
Coldwell Banker Realty - Sedona, AZ
(928) 274-7355 ~ YOUR Solutions REALTOR®

Hi Ed,

If a buyer does not trust his agent to provide solid advice and solutions, that is a sad dilemma. 

Mar 21, 2023 09:04 AM
Kimo Jarrett
Cyber Properties - Huntington Beach, CA
Pro Lifestyle Solutions

Steering is helping resolve a solution, however, steering to increase one's benefit over another is unethical, and in some cases criminal. A referral is steering and it's also helpful, so knowing what is ethical and helpful should diffuse any conflation. 

Mar 21, 2023 11:56 PM
Diana Dahlberg
1 Month Realty - Pleasant Prairie, WI
Real Estate in Kenosha, WI since 1994 262-308-3563

Steering is wrong and it is so helpful to give the buyer (or seller) that has asked for a recommendation more than one to choose from.  I have made it a practice to give 3.  That way, they can choose who to call and I let them know based on the questions I had that they answered these are the 3 best choices of a local person who can fulfill their need.  I've not had a problem, however, I let them know if they have any issues to let me know so I can address it with the person to see how things can be rectified.

Mar 22, 2023 03:18 PM
Kathy Streib
Cypress, TX
Home Stager/Redesign

Well done, Ed!  It is in your best interest to provide more than one name of a vendor or service. Let your clients make the calls and decisions. 

Mar 22, 2023 07:22 PM
Charles Ross - (785)-819-6944
eXp Realty LLC Salina Group - Salina, KS
Love To Help People

Excellent Information. Thank you for sharing. Have a wonderful day and a blessed week.

Mar 23, 2023 01:40 AM
Patricia Feager, MBA, CRS, GRI,MRP
Selling Homes Changing Lives

Ed Silva - Congratulations to you for your well-deserved FEATURE on ActiveRain! You did a marvelous job educating others on the difference between helping and steering. I was proud to read it and hope you can write one more before the deadline to earn 3,000 points. 

Mar 23, 2023 06:24 PM
Wayne Martin
Wayne M Martin - Chicago, IL
Real Estate Broker - Retired

Good Morning Ed. Everything is fine until it is not. Funny how that works! Another fine example. Enjoy your day.

Mar 25, 2023 03:38 AM
Nina Hollander, Broker
Coldwell Banker Realty - Charlotte, NC
Your Greater Charlotte Realtor

Good morning, Ed... fortunately, most of my buyers as for recommendations to my best people and it's been a long time since one of them chose their own person (for a mortgage). After the home was closed they were the first to say they should have listened to me.

Mar 25, 2023 05:26 AM
Leanne Smith
Dirt Road Real Estate - Golden Valley, AZ
Relocation to NW AZ with elbow room & more freedom

Great examples. I give my clients 3 names to select for lenders, inspectors, etc. I will be asked about who do I recommend. My response is to interview all three and see who works best for you. I do encourage my clients to work with a local lender who knows the rural land market. If I am pressed specific to a vendor, I will share my personal experience.

Mar 25, 2023 08:51 AM
Jan Green - Scottsdale, AZ
Value Added Service, 602-620-2699 - Scottsdale, AZ
HomeSmart Elite Group, REALTOR®, EcoBroker, GREEN

There are some excellent comments on this thread.  Sharing referrals for services can be misconstrued easily in favor of a buyer.   Should we be putting those referrals in writing so that future claims can be dissuaded, yes!  Excellent entry for the challenge.

Mar 25, 2023 09:49 AM
Debe Maxwell, CRS
Savvy + Company (704) 491-3310 - Charlotte, NC
The right Charlotte REALTOR!

Like Marte Cliff said, you can't fix stupid OR stupidly stubborn, Ed. Great examples and I know you are thankful that the listing agent had some connections although, you did nothing wrong at all and I could not see them citing you on that one. 

As for the lenders (inspectors, attorneys, etc.) I always give 3 recommendations. It's next to impossible to keep 3 inspectors on my list though. I don't know why it is but, I only have one that has been on my list for at least 10 years! They're like painters - I can't keep them either! 

Mar 26, 2023 12:17 PM