Showing Feedback Directly to Seller a Bad Idea

by Steve Crossland, REALTOR in Austin TX on January 23, 2008 · 9 comments

Feedback I’ve been showing and previewing a lot of property lately – probably more than a hundred homes in the past week. After showing a home and syncing the MLS key each night, the lockbox owners (listing agents) are notified electronically that the lockbox was opened by my key. This normally results in what we call “feedback requests” from other agents. Typically, they will email or call and ask for feedback on the listing.

The other day I received a call from someone asking for feedback on a home. I asked if she was the listing agent, and she said “no, this is the owner”. She was calling from the card I left inside the property (which I always leave in occupied homes so they know that I have been inside).

This is rare, but not unusual. I said simply “I’ll be happy to provide feedback to your agent”. She said, “can you just tell me what you thought and if your buyer is interested?” Again, I said “I’ll be happy to do that if your agent calls me”. After a couple of more tries, she seemed frustrated but finally gave gave up.

Why not tell her directly that they’ve made way too many trips to Home Depot, over decorated the home, screwed up the balance of the home by installing really nice expensive granite counters but also the cheapest pergo flooring (lousy do-it-yourself job to boot), have too many different colors in the house, dog odor in the back room, too many pictures on the walls, and the home is over-priced?

Well, it’s just not a good idea to be saying those things directly to a seller. That’s the listing agent’s job, and the listing agent shouldn’t require my analysis to come to the same conclusion, though I’m happy to offer it. It’s always best to have all communication go through the agents.

Were I to provide feedback directly to the seller, there are any number of unintended consequences that could result. She could interpret my comments as being rude. The agent could, hearing the comments second hand, interpret that I was insulting both the seller and the agent. The seller could in fact take the comments objectively, but then start hammering the other agent with “why haven’t you told us all of this”, which could result in the other agent accusing me of interfering with his business relationship. Instead, in such situations, it’s best to remain cordially mum, offering no hint whatsoever to a seller about my opinion of the home.

Sylvia and I are obsessively diligent about requesting feedback from other agents on our own listings. Sylvia calls and/or emails every single agent who shows one of our listings. Sometimes we already know what the problem is with a home and have told the seller, but when we receive feedback from multiple agents telling us the same thing, it provides additional leverage to try to get the seller to understand that what we are suggesting is in fact important and it should be done. Other times, we’ll hear things that we didn’t actually notice or consider. We all have our blind spots, and feedback from others helps identify those areas. Also, if an agent does have a buyer who is interested, we want to follow up with the agent and encourage them to have the buyer send an offer. This is an important but often overlooked reason for requesting feedback. Sometimes a buyer needs prodding, and the agent needs to do the prodding, but requires some encouragement and motivation from us to do so. These little things do matter and they do make a difference.

Sometimes when previewing a home alone, the seller will remain in the property, thinking it unnecessary to leave as they would if buyers were with me (which is ok). Upon departure, they will sometimes ask “so, what do you think? Any feedback you have is welcome. Don’t worry about hurting our feelings. We want to know how the home compares to others”.

This is even trickier, as I normally have things I could say, but still have to cordially dodge the question. “Gosh, I’ve seen so many homes lately my brain is starting to fuzz over. Are you guys moving out of town…?” If you’re a parent of young ones, you recognize that technique as “redirection”. I’d really love to share what I know with the seller, but they are not my client and it just wouldn’t be prudent.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Dave Blockhus January 24, 2008 at 12:17 am

Steve,

Great post. One of the strategies that some agents in our area employ is to leave business cards in only the houses that their buyer’s are interested in. The buyer’s agent pretends that their buyer is disinterested, but the reality is the buyer is ready to make an offer immediately. I guess the buyer’s agent believe that if the listing agent calls first, the buyer will be in a better negotiation position. Weird, because it has been a seller’s market 8 out of the last 10 years.

2 Tom O'Meara January 26, 2008 at 7:18 am

Steve,

This is excellent comment. I would like to publish it to all the KW agents in the country.

3 Steve Crossland January 26, 2008 at 9:30 am

> The buyer’s agent pretends that their buyer is disinterested, but the reality is the buyer is ready to make an offer immediately.

I guess that sort of tactic can be effective, but I tend to take a straight line, right to it approach. If I have people interested in a house and ready to write an offer, we’re driving to the office and writing the offer, not waiting to see if the agent calls for feedback.

Steve

4 Michael @ The Stage Coach January 26, 2008 at 10:09 am

Steve:
Well said! I stumbled across your blog a couple of weeks ago and really enjoy your points of view on many topics. Thanks for having this online!

I run into similar circumstances as an ASP Home Stager where owners want an estimate to Stage, and then they think they can get my opinion from me by following me around and asking about every room. It’s to the point now where I feel like I sound insincere because every home is “lovely” – every room is “attractive” – every tacky drapery is “stylish”… Now, if I were on the clock for them, that’s a different story. And many times, I am technically the client of the listing agent – and since my contract is with the Realtor, I prefer to discuss the situation with them before the home owner and develop a plan of attack that we can agree upon.

The comment about the balance of the home is dead on! This is the HGTV effect – they saw some one do it on TV and it worked, so therefore, it must work in my home as well. If more people would enlist a Stager, a Realtor, or even a neighbor as a second opinion before starting the remodel to take their home to market. Many owners do not realize that they will never get back what they put into many home improvements if they plan to sell immediately after.

Additionally, I think there is a fear of Realtors out there: homeowners do not want to speak to a Realtor until they think their home is ready. Instead of enlisting a professional’s help, they try to get their home ready by themselves, then call in the Realtor. But the question becomes, Is it ready and by who’s standards?

Michael @ The Stage Coach

5 Janet Wehrer January 27, 2008 at 10:19 am

Michael,

You are so right! People are watching the HGTV shows and think they understand the staging concept.
As a professional stager, I have been trained to do so much more that de-clutter a house. People
are beig misled by these shows and by others that that is all it takes to stage a house. Not so. As with
other jobs, it is best to call in a professional.

6 Terrillific January 27, 2008 at 6:58 pm

Great post on the tricky situation we deal with feedback. As a rule I will NOT give feedback directly to a seller. I do like Steve and will tell them I need to leave it with their agent. I am still suprised how many homes are not in condition to be sold in this market. And I even more suprised how few agents follow up with feedback on the homes I’ve showed. I bet it’s less then 10% that do it. Jeez! That’s a lot of lazy agents!

I also like Michael says above in enlisting an expert to help the owner get their home ready to sell. I’m not a staging expert. Seller’s should hire or bring in someone that can tell them in no uncertain terms what they need to do to have their home Pop when it get’s shown by other Realtors.
- Terrill..ific!

7 Steve Crossland January 27, 2008 at 8:43 pm

Michael and Terril,

Thanks for the comments.

> I even more suprised how few agents follow up with feedback on the homes I’ve showed.

I think they hit me at a bit more than 10%, but what cracks me up are the feedback requests a week or two after I’ve shown the home. I don’t remember anything after that long. The fastest was day before yesterday when I synced my key in the middle of the day. An agent called me a few minutes later. That was fast! He was sitting at his computer when the email alert came and just picked up the phone.

Steve

8 John Tittle February 15, 2008 at 10:37 am

It seems like more and more sellers want feedback right away these days. I don’t like the idea of my sellers calling other agents for feedback.
Using an automatic feedback tool assures you, the listing agent, get the feedback right away. You can forward the information on to your anxious seller.
My Showing Log works really well and doesn’t cost anything. The web address is MyShowingLog.com.

9 Andy June 21, 2009 at 2:09 pm

John,

You are definitely right in that sellers want instant feedback regarding their listing. The firm I’m with tested several of these web-based showing feedback systems which provide transparency to the seller and help engage them in the sales process. MyShowingLog.com did not provide enough functionality though the price is nice. We decided to go with MyListingFeedback.com (http://mylistingfeedback.com) given it has so much functionality and is customizable per agent account. We have found that sellers have even initiated price reductions given the transparent feedback, which is nice for an over-priced listing in today’s market.

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