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.

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