When Less Is More: Why Listings Agents Should NOT Attend All Showings

Spying Realtor, Delayed Home Sale

By now, nearly every prospective seller in Scottsdale and the greater Phoenix area has been inundated with the well-worn advice that it is wise to make oneself scarce during showings.  If HGTV and its fleet of “Real Estate experts” haven’t gotten to you yet, your relatives have.  Or maybe you heard it from the co-worker who maintains a Real Estate license on the chance that one hapless acquaintance per year will allow him to practice on him or her.  It is a truth so pervasive in the sphere of collective consciousness that it has reached even the outer-most fringes of the industry.  As such, it seems pointless to belabor it further here.  Suffice it to say that buyers don’t like sellers looking over their shoulders when they shop.

Shoot, I still generally decline a store clerk’s offer of assistance despite clearly having no idea which bottle of red to pair with the flank steak atop my cart’s haphazard grocery selection.  Just a knee-jerk reaction to get the salesperson out of my space.  I am perfectly capable of bungling the choice on my own, thank you very much.

Which leads to the thrust of today’s discussion of a well-traveled suburban myth:  The (presumed) advantage of listing agent attendance at all property showings.

Some agents, either out of deference to demanding sellers or as a standard business practice, require they be present at all showings.  They show up, open the door and then go in one of two directions.  They either stand aside and let the buyer’s agent handle the actual showing of the home, or they commandeer the next thirty minutes; leading buyer and cooperating agent on a room by room tour, pointing out each frivolous nuance in painstaking detail.  The buyer’s frozen smile masking (or revealing, if the blithe monologist would bother to notice the glazed over eyes) the fact that mental check-out occurred shortly after exiting the foyer.

You say there are TWO electrical outlet receptacles along this wall?  Both GFCI protected?  Get the *%&^ outta here!

There may be two schools of thought on listing agent presence at showings, but one is simply promoting the wrong curriculum.  When the listing agent inserts himself into the process, he lacks the rapport to understand which items are important to the buyer and the ability to sell the home’s strengths from a position of trust.  Further, much as if the seller were in attendance, a buyer is less comfortable exploring a stranger’s home in the company of a stand-in stranger.  The idea is to allow a buyer the breathing room to open cabinets and linen closet doors.  To stand in the family room in silence for a few minutes and decide which wall is best for the sectional.  To visualize his artwork hanging above the bed in the master, or the family gathered around the breakfast table on a lazy Sunday morning.  It doesn’t work if an interloping chatterbox squeezes the breathable air out of the house.

Thanks for the fifteen minute demonstration of the pool’s waterfall.  I wasn’t sure if I wanted the hassle of a house with a pool … now I’m sure I don’t.

Even if the agent hangs out of sight, the unnecessary presence can trigger an internal stopwatch within a buyer.  While he may not care about wasting his own agent’s time (as well he shouldn’t), the stranger factor tends to accelerate the showing.  Humans are much more apt to “put out” those with whom they are familiar than the guy off the street.  Whether borne of politeness, the discomfort of feeling watched or a hesitancy to reveal any indication of interest to a salesman, the end result is a showing that is less likely to live up to its full potential.

Is the other agent still in the living room?  I wouldn’t mind calling my wife to have her come see the house, but don’t want to keep him from other appointments …

Showing quality aside, the other big knock on mandatory appointments with the listing agent is showing quantity.  The anticipated control and added security over the showing comes at the steep price of deterrence.  Not only do properties that are more difficult to access get thrown to the bottom of the stack by many agents (if an agent is paring 10 potential properties down to 4 to show a buyer, guess which ones get the axe first?), but listing agents are not always available to show the home when it is convenient to the buyer.  The ease of access issues with such properties can prove insurmountable.  Say a relocating buyer is in town for the day, but your agent is unreachable or booked through tomorrow.  You just lost your shot at that buyer.  With the number of properties from which to choose currently, the very last thing you want to do is erect needless hurdles.

As to the safety issue, the integrity of your home’s security is always an issue when you open the doors to the general public.  That said, with the state of the art electronic lockboxes that are utilized these days (please tell me your agent is willing to pony up the $80 per box cost), a record is kept of all agents who access the premises with clients.  Each agent has an individual keypad with a unique code.  Every time the key is accessed, that code is stored and available to the listing agent.  Further, agent keypads crash unless they are updated every 24 hours.  Thus, the threat of the missing or stolen keypad is not the cause for panic that it once was.  Put the valuables away for safe keeping, but one licensed professional per showing provides adequate protection without diminishing the quality of the showing, or precluding it outright.

In our experience, the most advantageous means of ensuring high-quality and high-quantity showings is to dial phasers back to “stun” and stay the heck out of the way.  Market the property to the nines, accompany unrepresented buyers on tours of the home, but don’t micro-manage the sales force.  Draping oneself over a potentially hot showing like a wet sales blanket may appease a needy seller, but it does not serve the interest of the actual goal:  selling the house.

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  • The only homes shown here with the listing agent present are luxury homes…$800,000 plus. Those often have customizations not obvious, and I think a quick tour by the listing agent who then leaves the property while we buyers slow down and look at the house is the best strategy for those luxury listings. 99.5% of homes, don’t need the listing agent present.

  • My team has recently been dealing with this issue during showings in a particular part of town. Apparently, the standard operating procedures of agents in the area is to be present for all showings and it’s been a nightmare trying to work around 3 different schedules to get a buyer into a home. While I realize that high end property owners are concerned about security, that concern shouldn’t preclude the ability to make their home accessible.
    .-= Lisa Heindel´s last blog ..Is Having Your Home Listed on Craigslist Worth It? =-.

  • Fairly standard procedure in the luxury market here (specifically Paradise Valley, million+ dollar homes) as well, Melina. It is more understandable in those instances, but I maintain it is more advantageous for the buyer’s agent to preview the home prior to the showing to acquaint him/herself with such custom features. This is where the listing agent would do well to walk a colleague through the house – out of eye and earshot of the buyer.

  • It can be a nightmare, Lisa. I’ll take it a step further and say that agents who are the point of contact for all showings (as opposed to having agents contact the seller directly for appointment scheduling) are often hindrances as well. Just adds one additional layer of insulation that can derail a potential showing. If an agent is out showing property, attending a signing/inspection, on the phone, etc, contact might not be possible. While it would be ideal to provide everyone with 24-48 hours notice of a showing, it just doesn’t always work that way in the real (estate) world. If an agent is adamant about fielding all showing calls, there better be someone ready to answer the phone in his/her stead 24/7. I know one group that does that right, but most are simply in the wind until they can get back to you. In a day or six.

  • Paul I know when I am going to show luxury homes I do go and preview. Often the homeowner gives me the tour, which is great.

    I am one of those that is a Call listing agent, by appointment only, kind of person. Most of my clients are techie who text and want to be texted and NOT called. Many agents here can’t text as they have just mastered email. We also have a lot of dog owners and parents with infants where we need to work around naps. Just easier to go through me. I do make it easy to get an appointment though and it is rarely an issue.
    .-= Melina Tomson´s last blog ..Sorry, I don’t do toilets… =-.

  • Far be it from me to contradict you as to what works in your market, Melina. Agent X’s albatross in Scottsdale is Agent Y’s boon in Salem.

  • Any additional pressure put on a buyer is a bad thing. Great article, Paul! I’m glad Dean put it on this week’s Top 10 on our blog.

  • I was honored by the inclusion, Joshua. Thanks for the read.

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Paul Slaybaugh is here to sell houses and chew bubble gum. He's all out of bubble gum. More About Me >>>

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