Realtor Rules of Etiquette Buyers and Sellers Should Follow

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Remember the “Golden Rule?” Do unto others as you would want others to do unto you. Even though it has been a while since the rule applied to more than just sharing your toys in the sandbox, etiquette is a very real thing in the agent-seller relationship. In order to ensure a professional and effective partnership it is important for both the agent and the seller to be respectful and considerate of one another. While some “rules of thumb” are more obvious than others, it only makes sense to adhere to all of them equally.

It goes without saying, be respectful of one another’s TIME.

Time is the only currency you cannot give back, and when it comes to selling your home it is something to be highly valued and respected. It also is no secret that time is money. Both of these points are guiding principles in defining the etiquette for sellers and their agents.

As much as you have a life to live and a home to sell, so does your agent. If your agent is good at their job they most likely are proportionately busy too. While your Realtor should be reasonably accessible and attentive to you and your property’s listing, you may not be the only client who equally deserves their time and attention. That being said, it behooves you to be respectful of your agent’s time.

Instead of constantly emailing, texting, or calling your agent about questions, perhaps set aside a reoccurring time to speak or meet with them to go over your questions and concerns. If your Realtor sets the precedent that you can contact them whenever you have a question, do not abuse their generosity.  Instead, check with them at the most convenient times for them to pick up your call or be prepared to leave a message—if they generally spend all Sunday doing open houses then you can take note of that to set proper expectations.

Conversely, your agent should understand that they are your consultant and therefore should anticipate some level of “hand-holding” consistent with your time schedule.  All agents should be respectful of your time and your privacy; therefore, they should be contacting you—especially via phone or text—at reasonable hours of the day. Additionally, when showing your home they should be considerate of your time in scheduling showings around your schedule. Be clear and give advanced notice about when you can be available to let the agent show the property to make it easy for both of you.

Speaking about showings—be flexible!

A key part of getting your property sold is showing it. As a seller, etiquette dictates that preparing the house to show is an absolute must. Keep in mind that while it is on your agent to show off the best facets of your property in an effort to get it sold, it is the seller’s responsibility to give their agent all the ammunition necessary to do just that. That means tidying spaces, hiding distracting elements and/or belongings (i.e. expensive personal property), and corralling pets. Additionally, allow your agent to do their job—don’t hang around open hours or show up at their showing appointments.

Your Realtor, as a professional, should be sure to communicate what they need from you prior to any showings or open house. A good agent will also work with you on scheduling showings so that your time and personal space are being respected. That being said, both the agent and the seller need to understand the importance of flexibility, especially when it comes to showings. You often may hear that you must be prepared to show the property at all times. For the majority of the time that does ring true, and that is particularly the case in the opening push of your home being listed. As interest is generated and at its peak in the very beginning, you should be flexible and prepared at all times. What your agent needs to do on their end is be upfront and set expectations properly so there are no true surprises.  However, you must be prepared for last-minute showings.  When you combine your scheduling requirements with your agents AND the buyer’s, last-minute showings happen.  After all, it’s in your, and your agent’s best interest to get as many interested buyers in your home as possible, even if it is short notice.  You never want to prevent a showing opportunity.

Do your due diligence

When it comes to setting expectations your agent should know how to do this at the outset. That does not mean you shouldn’t also come in knowing what to expect. At the end of the day, you are entrusting your listing to a professional who knows more and knows what’s best, but do your homework. Agents should do their own due diligence ahead of trying to win your business, but as a seller know who and what you are working with—invest time and energy into getting to know your agent, their business history, and the market you are selling in. As your Realtor, he or she should come to the table with all the information you need to know they know their stuff.

You are selling your home—likely your largest and most valuable asset—be prepared to give your agent the information they need to put your house in the best possible position to sell fast and at a highest possible price.  You want to do your own due diligence as your agent should afford you the same so each time you communicate it is to help move the process forward and get your home sold for the best price, in the shortest amount of time.

Track Performance and Be the Boss.

Be sure to set standards and performance levels for your agent and make sure they are followed.  Make sure communications and updates come regularly and remember it’s your job to manage the agent that’s managing your listing.  If you allow your agent to just sit on your listing, then you’re partly to blame for the house not selling.  If your agent doesn’t meet the agreed upon levels of performance then you need to hold them accountable, and if the problem isn’t corrected, you should fire them.

Last, but not least…be honest.

Next to respecting time, honesty is the best policy. Your agent has an obligation to you to be honest and bring every offer and piece of information, good or bad. Conversely, you should always be honest and upfront with your agent especially as it affects your relationship and the sale of your home. Withholding information in either direction will only delay, or worse, completely stall the process.

While the relationship between an agent and a seller is a professional one, it is ultimately a partnership that requires both parties to be considerate and collaborative.

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8 thoughts on “Realtor Rules of Etiquette Buyers and Sellers Should Follow

  1. I have made a verbal agreement on an offer for my house but have not signed any paper work at this time. A new interested party has shown interest in my home and could come in with a better offer. Is it appropriate for me to put the signing on hold till party has viewed the house and made an offer. Should my realtor ( I gave new party name and number of my realtor) pursue this.

  2. If your word is bond you should honor the first offer and take a back up offer. Always get everything in writing. Also make sure you get copies of everything you sign. Also you gave your realtor the go ahead, in the mean time he or she is preparing the purchase contract. You did right by giving the number to your agent. Rule of thumb never let others know your business. You do not want the higher bid person to go lower due to you telling them you have a offer in and disclose the amount. The first offer may fall out of escrow due to financing. So the back up higher offer will then take place of the first. Good luck with the sale of your home Aloha.

  3. I have had my house on twice with an agent. It did not sell. I am interested in using another agent from the same company. What is the etiquette and is this common?

    • Amy:
      It’s not uncommon, and is usually easier than going to another agency assuming that your agent isn’t the broker in charge of that brokerage. I suggest you contact your agent’s broker and voice your concerns with him/her. It’s in the broker’s best interest to help you find another agent in the brokerage than let you leave. The broker will still receive their same share of the commission if another agent in the office sells it but would receive nothing if you leave.

  4. After trying to sell our home FSBO as we have in the past, we finally had realized that realtors in our area were steering buyers away from our house and hired one who did show it a few times. My experience with realtors has been a nightmare but we wanted to sell so went with what would work in our area. She talked us into a contract we really didn’t like at peak buying season (yes we should have known better) and appears to be working for the buyer in every aspect. They offered us a contract the first day it was listed, they paid nothing for us to sit on it for a month because they have a VA loan, she set up an inspection date without consulting me and then told me to be gone at that time even though I had previous scheduled appointment with our pest control provider to get a inspection for the buyer, then told me she would handle it and for me to leave. We have no confidence that the buyer is really going to buy our house and won’t know for sure until closing. We have to be moved out more completely before closing and will have to move back if it doesn’t go through. No, we aren’t stupid people, it’s just that we trusted a “professional” who appears to be working full time for the buyer. Amazingly her company is also selling their more expensive house on the same day and they “need a place to go”. There is no under contract on our listing and we still have a lock box on our door. She has never shown the house to anyone else. Now we are just sitting here feeling dumb and angry and frustrated.

    • J Doty:
      The agent was able to help you sell your house in one day. That’s great. If it makes you feel better, in my experience, the first round of offers are usually the best priced. Not knowing your situation, I can only comment on generalities. Negotiations are a give and take nobody can get everything they want without taking it from the other party so most negotiations usually end with a little disappointment from both parties as negotiations end somewhere around the middle. Waiting a month for the closing to take place is pretty standard. It takes time for the title work, inspections, appraisals, and loan processing to happen and all of that must take place before closing. To protect your interests, your agent gave the buyers a limited time to inspect the property so the inspector’s scheduling takes priority over everything to make sure the transaction closes. And, the buyer schedules the inspectors, not your agent. Your agent’s job is to be accommodating to the buyer’s inspectors, and the bank’s appraisers. So yes, I wouldn’t let the pest control tech get in the way of an inspection either. Keep in mind that your agent’s job at this point is to help the buyer accomplish all the inspections and to help both parties meet all the deadlines in the contract, and to bring that contract to a successful completion. It sounds like your agent is doing her job. Also, it’s not amazing coincidence that the buyer is selling their house on the same day as buying yours. The buyer chose that date when they made the offer. Also that lock box will stay on your door until the last day, and while it’s under contract your agent isn’t going to show it to anyone else, and no one else will want to see it since it’s about to be sold. Regarding the “under contract” status on your listing, don’t worry about it. You have a fully executed contract with a buyer. That’s all that matters. Besides, it’s not officially under contract until AFTER the option period expires. Right now, it would be considered under option. Under Contract happens the day after the option period expires. From what I’ve read, I think you’re going to be OK. Yes, VA loans are more complicated and take longer, but it’s all part of the process and the seller is ever compensated for the time wasted in closing.

      I think the only thing your agent did wrong is not enough hand holding and explaining about the process. That’s not meant as an insult to you, but this lack of followup and reassurance has lead to your feelings of not understanding what’s going on, your anger, frustration, and doubts. The option period is a scary time because this is the buyer’s last chance to bail out, or lower the price due to issues revealed in the inspections. After the option period passes, and the appraisal price satisfies the bank, you’ll be able to give a sigh of relief. But in my opinion, your agent should have prepared you for all of this. In your comments, that’s the only think I see she did wrong.

      Hope that helps.

      Bill Petrey

  5. My realtor has a lock box on my property. She gave the code out to a prospective buyer without my consent. He went to look at the property without a representative being present, and without my knowledge. I found out later that she gave him the code because she didn’t want to drive out there to meet him. I have since taken the key out of the lock box because I don’t like the idea of a stranger knowing the code to get into my property. I have told the realtor that from now on she needs to notify me and I will meet them all at the property. Is what the realtor did legal? She claims that she showed him the property the day before (I was not notified that she was showing the property ahead of time) and he was a serious buyer. He didn’t buy the property so I’m not sure how serious he could have been, and I’m not sure when he became a serious buyer – before or after he got the code. I just don’t like the idea of people being able to come into my property at any time without me knowing or at the very least without the realtor being present. Thank you.

    • Louise:
      I don’t blame you. I wouldn’t want a stranger entering my house without supervision either. She should have escorted the buyer in if that was her client. I’m OK with someone entering my house if either my agent or their agent is with them. But no agent is totally unacceptable. As far as being a serious buyer, she probably considered his wanting to take a second look at your house as serious interest, making him a serious buyer. That’s fair. I’d agree with that, but she should have accompanied him. Not to scare you, but maybe he found something he wanted to steal during his first visit. You don’t know. She doesn’t either. That’s why agents accompany buyers. However, if a thief wants to steal something, they’ll do it even when the agent is there. I’ve seen many cases where a couple went with an agent to a listing, and while one of the buyers was with the agent, the other one was stealing something. I wouldn’t automatically suspect theft, but I would suspect a lazy agent. You need to have a serious talk with your agent. If it’s a lockbox with a 4-digit code like you mentioned, you also need to have your agent change the code. You don’t know how many people she’s given the code to.

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