Listing Agents Who Don't Want You to Buy The House

--- by Osman Parvez


Conventional wisdom is that sellers hire listing agents to sell the house. Every once in a while, I run into a situation where it seems like an agent is doing everything they can to sabotage it. 

Last week, my clients wanted to see a historic property in Longmont. For some reason, the agent required a phone call to discuss the house prior to allowing a showing, instead of utilizing a showing service.  

The vast majority of showings in our region are scheduled by the same showing service. It doesn't matter which brokerage - Re/Max, Coldwell, WK, Goodacre, Porch Light, Keller, House Einstein, 8Z... Most of us use the same service because the company employs an army of people to handle showing approvals. They also manage showing instructions, track feedback, and most importantly - they make it quick and easy for the buyer's agents to schedule showings.  

For buyers agents, it makes a difference. The ability to schedule multiple showings in a few minutes - either with an app or a phone call - is high value add. On busy weekends, we're scheduling 18-20 showings (for multiple clients). Forcing a buyers agent to listen to a vague and incomplete list of issues with the house to obtain verbal approval for a single showing creates a hurdle. Every hurdle thrown between a buyer and a sale is (almost always) a mistake. 

Bottom line: busy agents don't have time for phone tag. 

After multiple text messages and voicemails, I finally I got her on the phone. She proceeded to throw down more hurdles. The first was the time my buyer requested; it couldn't be accommodated because she, the listing agent, was required to be present at all showings and she had another appointment at that time. She then said the house was not a good choice for families because it was not safe for children (this comment was likely a violation of fair housing law by the way, but that's another topic). Finally, she put a bow on it by telling me that the house wouldn't qualify for conventional mortgage financing. When I asked why, she said she didn't really know but it "might be the heating system." 

While I was on the phone having this unbelievable conversation, I pulled up the listing on the MLS and noticed it had been under contract twice before. Each time, the buyer had terminated.  

"Were you given an inspection report by a former buyer?" I asked.

She confirmed she had. "I also have a structural engineer's report," she said. 

"Oh... is there a problem with the foundation?"

"I don't know, I'm not a building inspector inspector."

"OK.... But what did the report say?" 

"I only glanced at it." 

"You don't know what the report said?"

"No. Like I said, I only glanced at it." 

That's right. The listing agent required this phone call to discuss the house prior to allowing a showing but couldn't describe the problems with the house. Despite having a duty to disclose, she also couldn't tell me what was wrong with the house. At the end of our conversation, I asked her to send us the inspection and the structural engineer's report.  She agreed to do so, and we hung up. 

So there you have the insane story of an agent hired to sell a house who does the opposite, and makes it harder to sell. Is it any surprise my buyers decided to pass on a showing?

What would I do if I were hired to sell a house with serious issues? Fair question. 

I would advise the seller to fix the issues prior to listing. If they were unwilling or financially unable, I would obtain estimates for repair, provide these documents to buyers, and summarize it with a disclosure notice. I would also strongly recommend that my seller require the buyers signature on this disclosure prior to accepting their offer. 

Repair items that make it so that a mortgage is unavailable, in particular must be addressed. Lack of financing currently limits this home to only those with cash resources, which removes a large percentage of potential buyers, and will likely hammer the sale price.  

Remember: transparency and clear communication engenders trust, which facilitates a transaction moving forward and increases the sale price. Homes can be repaired, it just takes money. The question is how much. The lack of clarity around that cost creates risk. As every MBA student learns in their first year, there is a relationship between risk and return. 

Note: The exception to the hurdle rule is for high-end listings where it's wise to require proof of funds prior to allowing a showing. The particular listing in this story was not high-end. Not even close. 

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The ideas and strategies described in this blog are the opinion of the writer and subject to business, economic, and competitive uncertainties. We strongly recommend conducting rigorous due diligence and obtaining professional advice before buying or selling real estate. 

image: Kyle Glenn

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