The Importance of Agent Candor & Honesty With Questions & Suggestions w/ Buyers & Sellers
When a buyer or seller wants to do something, whether it's offer elements without any input from their agent or questions that they want to ask the other side via their agent, you would be surprised just how often it's a bad idea. If an agent isn't candid & honest with them about the negative implications of going forward with their idea (& some agents are much less likely than others to be honest), it might lead to things being fine between the agent and their clients, but often it will damage things for client that they represent. Often agents will try to save the relationship more than saving their client when the client has a bad idea that is against customs that the buyer or seller is unaware of, especially if they haven't sold or purchased many properties in the state where they're transacting.
How Questions Can Hurt Despite Being Good Questions
An offer isn't merely about the numbers of things. I've seen where a buyer I was representing with a superior offer to another buyer doing an offer, as admitted by the listing agent, accepted another offer because we were "asking too many questions" even when those questions were not unusual questions that a number of good agents ask that were for the benefit of the seller. For instance, they cited that my request of "are there any hot button issues that are important to the seller" put off the seller. An agent at my brokerage in a management roll advised that I regularly ask that question; he had done over 500 transactions. It's rare to get that response from a listing agent, and indicative of an agent who either doesn't know what they are doing or is lying about the reason why we lost the offer. That said, it's important to keep in mind as a possibility.
How Questions Can Hurt When They're Bad Questions Based on Inexperience &/or at Times Insufficient Logical Reasoning of Potential Collateral Damage
When asking questions that a listing agent might deem inappropriate based on privacy, custom, and possibly law, it tends to have a much more significant chance of hurting a buyer's offer. The listing agent isn't just looking at numbers when advising their sellers, but also considering non-numerical factors including risk & feel of the other side. It's not uncommon for a buyer to present me a question to ask the listing agent that I advise against asking and share with the buyer why I feel that way in many cases.
How Adam Balances Questions When He's Representing a Buyer
I don't recommend that buyers I am representing see properties that wouldn't be viable, & tend to ask questions that many other agents don't prior to showings because in my experience, it does more good than harm as long as they are targeted questions that I've developed over time or important questions from buyers according to their situation. It's unusual for an agent to heavily penalize a buyer's agent's offer because the buyer's agent was asking some good questions.
How Adam Fields Questions When He's Representing a Seller
Adam likes to be available for questions when representing a seller. He understands that time is of the essence, and that failing to answer questions about a property could mean the difference of whether or not he gets a showing & whether his seller receives an offer from a buyer or not. That's one of the reasons why in agent remarks in his listings you'll often find the language, "
Buyers Agents Often Ask Too Few Questions, Increasing Listing Agent's Dodging of Questions When Asked
One of the reasons why I frequently need to repeat questions is that listing agents are used to buyers' agents having few if any questions beyond property availability. Since they are used to few if any questions, in a text response a careless & apathetic listing agent might send a canned response without looking closely at what the buyer's agent actually asked. They know that it's unlikely that the seller they represent will ever find out that they are doing things like responding slowly to showing requests if they aren't using something like Showingtime. It's unlikely that the seller will find out that they are dodging questions (i.e. are video showings allowed for out-of-town sellers) that, if answered, could have a more positive than negative impact on the seller, in some cases meaning the difference of receiving a good offer or not.
How Questions Can Help Buyers & Sellers
By asking questions in advance of a showing, and more questions in advance of an offer, contracts are less likely to fall through. Buyers & sellers are less likely to waste money on inspections & time.
How Questions Can Help Sellers
Contract fall through from a buyer's failure to ask questions & a seller's failure to disclose potential issues can have a much more negative impact on a seller than it has for a buyer. There is often a stigma against properties where the prior offer has fallen through, especially if no home inspection is available, but even if it is available. Longer market time has a negative impact on marketability and the time that a home was under contract counts as market time. Contract fall-through can have a substantial negative impact on a seller, in some cases costing a seller over $10k. That's especially true in a depreciating market, such as the seasonal depreciation that tends to occur in Hampton Roads between June & January. Conversely, in an appreciating market, contract fall-through can be insulated from harm (at least to some degree) by the flow of the market.
Related: How's the Market?
How Questions Can Help Buyers
One of the most important parts of a buyer's agent's job is to help a buyer avoid buyer's remorse. Agent ethical standards vary substantially, but their fiduciary duties are supposed to compel agents to put their buyers' interests above their own. The more ethical the agent, the more they will do that. In many cases, the right question can lead a buyer to not even want to see a home, and if they have seen it, write an offer on a home.
I don't recommend that buyers I am representing see properties that wouldn't be viable, & tend to ask questions that many other agents don't prior to showings because in my experience, it does more good than harm as long as they are targeted questions that I've developed over time or important questions from buyers according to their situation.
For out-of-town buyers flying in for showings (which strengthens an offer vs a video showing), questions of listing agents can mean the difference of significant expenses of time & money for showings and not. Even for in-town buyers, if homes are shown that could be ruled out prior to showing if the right questions had been asked, or if an offer could be ruled out if the right questions had been asked, it could be highly beneficial for the buyer. An offer isn't a 1-page form but goes over many details. Typical offers in Hampton Roads have grown over the years and are currently 16 pages. Combined with various addendums, it's common to send dozens of pages to a seller in Hampton Roads, & for buyers who rely too heavily on their agent, without getting into the details too much of the offer, they will be far more likely to be unpleasantly surprised.
Most agents don't look for many negatives or ask the questions that I do prior to showings, but in doing so waste their buyer's time. For instance, when properties are in flood zones, I typically ask listing agents about if there was a history of flooding at a property & there's no mention of flooding history in the listing. The property was very distant from the buyer. The listing agent responded by admitting that around 5 years prior around $40k in reno was needed after flooding of the house. There were already multiple offers at the time of my question, and by asking prior, I was able to save the buyer a long drive, with the other buyers unlikely to be aware of the flooding history even though it's supposed to be disclosed.
In some cases, if a buyer were to get under contract on a home without asking enough questions, they could miss out on another property while under contract on a property that they would have never gotten under contract to begin with if their agent had asked the right questions in advance of an offer. Sometimes contingencies like home inspection contingencies on a contract have passed, and a buyer finds out for the first time about a problem when it's too late.