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Should Buyers Agents Give Feedback to Sellers?

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Crocus-HillThis is something that has been rattling around in my brain for some time.   I show a buyer a home and I get a message back from the listing agent asking for feedback. They want to know what my client thought about the property.  Sellers appreciate feedback and agents in my market are aggressive about collecting it, I guess I am too.

Yet it causes a dilemma. One of the questions on most feedback forms asks about pricing. If my clients are interested in the home, I may be doing them a disservice, and even violating my contract with them, by letting the listing agent and sellers know that my buyers think the pricing is great. I may also be doing my buyers a dis-service by reporting that the house exactly fits their needs and that they like it as well as or better than the other homes they have seen.

If I give negative feedback about the property and my buyers later decide to write an offer the sellers may have formed a negative opinion of my buyers and that could make the negotiation process more difficult. I have had this experience when representing sellers where they disliked the buyers  in part because of some  feedback the buyers agent provided.

My contract is with the buyers, not the sellers. I don’t have any obligation to do anything for the sellers other than to make sure that I remove my shoes, turn off the lights, lock the door, leave a card and refrain from letting the family pet out. Giving feedback to the sellers on the property is outside the scope of my contract with the buyers.

When I sign a buyers representation agreement I am agreeing to confidentiality, and I am also agreeing to act in their best interests.   The right thing to do when representing buyers is to ask their permission to provide feedback to the seller and have a conversation discussing the implications of giving feedback.  If the buyers say no, then my response to the agent who is asking for feedback has to be no.

Full time REALTOR and licensed broker with Saint Paul Home Realty Realty in St. Paul, Minnesota. Author of StPaulRealEstateBlog.com, Columnist for Inman News and an avid photographer.

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28 Comments

28 Comments

  1. Benn Rosales

    December 4, 2007 at 9:03 am

    Assuming that all states are the same, in Texas, it is always assumed that the buyer agent represents the seller in a transaction until representation is established. Given that rule, it is always proper to ask the buyer agent for feedback.

    Having said that, once agency is established your representation agreement becomes the law of the land and what you say could present problems down the road- you’re doing a disservice to the buyer by giving any information not authorized.

    Having said all of that, you normally know at this point whether there is a chance in hell the buyer would even consider the property and once again the gray area would be, at what point are you representing the seller again…

  2. Teresa Boardman

    December 4, 2007 at 10:06 am

    Good point. Real estate is regulated locally. Here in MN, with a buyers contract I am only representing the buyer, and not the seller unless the listing I am showing is listed by me or my broker. If it is dual agency then I still have the responsibility of confidentiality.

  3. Steve Belt

    December 4, 2007 at 11:12 am

    What I dislike the most about feedback requests are the online ones, where an email points me to a website that asks 4 or 5 canned questions.

    In my opinion, none of those canned questions are useful to the seller, and/or answerable by me. For example, “Is my buyer considering making an offer on the home?” I’m not going to answer that question ever. Along with the one you mention, “What do you think of the asking price?” I should probably answer that it’s too low every time…just to point out how much I dislike the question.

    More important questions are, “How was the showing experience?” “Were there any funny odors?” “Did the home show well?” “Was it easy to get in?” “Were there any questions about the home I can answer?” “Did your buyers notice XYZ special feature about the home?” “How much time did your buyers spend in the home?”

    I think focusing the questions on the quality of the showing, rather than items that would relate to a contract negotiation are where we miss the boat most often.

  4. Teresa Boardman

    December 4, 2007 at 11:20 am

    Great points Steve. Answers to those questions would provide useful information. What a concept! 🙂

  5. Jeff Brown

    December 4, 2007 at 11:27 am

    I found the exit door from the home selling side of the real estate business a little over 30 years ago. I realize it’s probably changed more than my little pea-brain might imagine. 🙂

    When, after reading the post, and the comments, I realized all were serious as a heart attack, all I could think was — wow.

    My hat is off to you guys. If this has really become an issue in your market, can’t even begin to fathom what other issues out there are waiting to ruin your day.

    I didn’t get out a minute too soon.

    Thanks, Teresa, for a timely reminder.

  6. Benjamin Bach

    December 4, 2007 at 11:43 am

    Great post Teresa.
    I always tell listing realtors the price is too high – and since 9.8 times out of ten my buyer looking at their house in an investor (vs an owner occupant), list price is almost always too high 🙂

  7. Jay Thompson

    December 4, 2007 at 12:19 pm

    I’ll be honest, I just ignore them or tell the listing agent, “Sorry, my client has instructed me not to provide their thoughts and opinions.” (assuming of course, that is true — which it is 99% of the time.) There is *no way* I’m going to compromise my buyer’s position.

    With our listings, we prep the seller long beforehand that agent/buyer feedback is generally worthless and they rarely ask for it.

  8. Benn Rosales

    December 4, 2007 at 12:58 pm

    I don’t know Jay, if I’m the listing agent then I’m going to be asking those questions that matter to the seller. As Benjamin pointed out, many agents just do not realize the position they may be putting their buyers in with even the most innocent of remarks- and that is great for a seller.

    I once got a simple feedback as simple as – if they would just paint an accent wall in that livingroom. so we did, changed the image in the VT and within a week had an offer- the new buyers reply? We love that living room, that accent wall just lights the room up (uh, okay, sign here and here)… I can make a case either way pro and con, but I guess what I am saying is feedback can produce tiny nuggets that win. Lets say it is price, and you respond with, “well, what would your clients pay for my listing?” and they respond with “x off the sales price” or “give some cash to paint that ugly bathroom” I then go to my seller with that information and suddenly I have a mini-floating negotiation going on based on a harmless comment.

    From the sellers side, there is nothing but another opportunity to start “something” with a buyer who maybe just needed a nudge, and now that buyer’s agent is required by law to deliver my sellers “nudge”.

  9. Charleston real estate blog

    December 4, 2007 at 1:23 pm

    Teresa, an excellent point and food for thought.

    I’ve always felt that the only good feedback was a contract, other than that, the home didn’t work for the buyers for whatever reason.

    If there are negative issues with the house, I hope I wouldn’t be the first to point it out to the listing agent to pass along to the seller.

  10. Mitch Canton

    December 4, 2007 at 1:27 pm

    Funny enough, I have a draft blog post going along these same lines. But, I am tackling it from a different perspective. That being the lack of professionalism in so many agents these days.

    Whether the Buyers agent feels providing feedback would compromise their position or not, at least have the professional courtesy to return the flippin’ phone call.

    72% of my business is on the listing side. In this market, I am diligently following up with buyers agents to generate feedback. Maybe it will help me in my discussions with sellers on what they need to do to sell their house. Maybe not. Regardless, at least provide the freakin’ professional courtesy to return my call, even if to say “no comment”. Finewhatever.

    I know when I receive a feedback request, a genuine phone call (that canned email crap is ignored), I am as candid as I can be, without violating any laws or jeopardizing any negotiating position… especially if my client is not interested. I believe it is helpful to the Listing agent in their relationship with the seller, and by doing so, I hope I receive the same consideration from other agents.

    (But as my Dad used to say “hope in one hand and s**t in the other and see what fills up faster”.)

  11. Benjamin Bach

    December 4, 2007 at 1:31 pm

    Interesting Mitch… You disregard the canned emails, but not the canned phone calls ?

  12. Benn Rosales

    December 4, 2007 at 1:33 pm

    Returning phone calls – amen on that one.

  13. Mitch Canton

    December 4, 2007 at 1:50 pm

    Benjamin, I don’t think I’ve ever had a “canned” phone call. At least not one that lasted over 15 seconds from my end.

    The email feedback shows a lack of genuine interest in discussing topics on the home. Too little dialog, no conversation.

    On the phone, in addition to the “feedback” angle, I can also get a good look at the competency, professionalism and personality of the agents in the market. Someday, I may have them on the other side of a deal, across the table for a friendly lunch or in my office as I try to recruit them to join my team.

    The insight from a nice conversation can go a long way, if they actually return the call.

  14. Teresa Boardman

    December 4, 2007 at 2:01 pm

    I have to agree that the polite thing to do is to return the phone call or email. The problem with the canned emails is they don’t give you the option of doing anything but filling out the form. The calls are a pain. They catch me in my car and ask me about a home I showed on a day when I may have shown 10 or more. I get them to describe it and sometimes I still can’t remember it. I only remember what I need to and some times I mess that up too. I do try to be considerate of other agents.

  15. Charleston real estate blog

    December 4, 2007 at 3:07 pm

    Actually, I prefer an email for feedback and I ignore the canned (and possibly) compromising questions and just give an opinion in the comments section.

    If you want to receive feedback, you should provide it when asked. You have to give to get.

  16. Jeff Brown

    December 4, 2007 at 3:47 pm

    Dad told me, as I was leaving for my very first day of work:

    “The president of the country can attempt to return your call, misdial, try again, and tell you he’s too busy now, how ’bout later?”
    You’re not the president. Return calls ASAP.

    Those who don’t, deserve any abuse they receive. And they get plenty me. In fact, I treat it as a sport. 🙂

  17. Chris Johnson

    December 5, 2007 at 11:34 am

    I would say that pricing is going to be an issue…otherwise there would be an offer. I think that the pricing is ALWAYS a concern for unsold properties…

  18. Dave Smith

    December 10, 2007 at 8:43 am

    I’m guessing many of you don’t show as many homes as I do. It is not uncommon for me to be in 100 to 150 homes in a week with various buyers.

    And then I’m supposed to have the curtosy to return more than a 100 phone calls? And you actually think I remember.

    There is really only one home I’m interested in. They one they want. The rest . . .

  19. Steve

    December 10, 2007 at 11:42 am

    Im currently using email to collect feedback at

    http://www.BuyerRemarks.com

    Works great. Less intrusive.

    The answer to that question is extremely easy.

    If your buyers are interested in the property don’t leave feedback. Or leave general feedback that opens the negotiation. For example “they were a few things that didn’t meet their criteria, but I think we may submit an offer and see if the price is right”

    And of course never leave offensive feedback. Bed tacktfull just in case they change their mind later and come back to it.

    If they are totally not interested and its obvious give them your opinion. Help um out. Markets change almost daily where I am. And dont be a knowit all.

  20. Pensacola Real Estate News

    January 2, 2008 at 4:12 pm

    Great and thought provoking post. I am generally polite when feedback is requested and offer it, assuming my buyers are not interested in the house. If they are, the contract is my feedback. I will have to rethink giving feedback based on what I’ve read here. Thanks.

  21. Jon Boyd

    November 11, 2008 at 9:18 pm

    …buyer agent represents the seller until representation is established..????

    I think somebody in texas needs a little review.

    Words have meanings.

    Buyer agent means agent for the buyer. If your state passed laws that say something else then they are wrong!

    Anyway, Teresa, you are right that when you are repesenting a buyer it is not proper to give feedback. (Unless there is a significant health and safety issue – that is another story.)

    We just try to be polite and sometimes will tell the listing agent “the home is no longer under consideration” or “the home is still being considered.”

    Regards,

    Jon Boyd
    Exclusive Buyer’s Broker
    Past President of The National Association of Exclusive Buyer Agents (naeba.org)
    The Home Buyer’s Agent of Ann Arbor, Inc.

  22. Dave Sulvetta

    November 22, 2008 at 3:56 pm

    Wow!
    I can’t beleive im reading this! People I have read before and respect…

    How could there be any question that feedback is ESSENTIAL.

    Listen fellow realtors…this is a cooperative business…if you are smart, you can give honest feedback without giving any advantage to the seller…JAY? you are kidding us right?

  23. Laura Jaffe

    September 3, 2011 at 10:33 pm

    I generally use feedback to let seller know of the negatives, what needs improving. I also hesitate to comment on price unless I know for certain that my buyer is not interested in the property. I try to take good notes as I'm showing so I can give constructive criticism to the listing agent. I think feedback of the kind : "My buyer bought elsewhere" without any reason perhaps as to why is really not helpful at all. Why did your buyer choose another property? Was it comparable and priced lower? Was it updated and in better condition so that even though it was priced higher they didn't have to do anything to move in? Give me some intelligent suggestions I can go back to the seller with. That's insightful feedback.

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