For most people, buying a home is one of the largest purchases they will ever make. This is often a daunting and complicated task and, as real estate agents, we are relied on to do everything in our power to provide them with the best possible experience. This puts a tremendous amount of pressure on us to ensure that every client is completely satisfied.
There are many factors that could potentially derail a real estate transaction. As agents, we must be conscious of avoiding unnecessary complications whenever we can. Although this isn’t always possible, by dedicating ourselves to a few rules of etiquette, we can establish a solid foundation for sustained success:
1. Communicate clearly and consistently
Poor communication can often lead to increased stress and confusion. To better streamline the homebuying process, it’s essential to place an emphasis on effective communication. One of easiest ways to do this is to identify your client’s preferred method of communication (phone, email, etc.) prior to starting anything.
This quick step ensures communication will be both clear and consistent throughout every interaction. Additionally, agents should speak directly with the title, mortgage and cooperating agent at least once a week to ensure everything outside their direct control is progressing as planned.
2. Always be honest
Creating a circle of trust between you, your clients and colleagues is crucial to your overall success as an agent. Even if you need to share information that is not necessarily ideal, it’s imperative to always tell the truth.
Simply put, nobody benefits from dishonesty, and ruining your dependability can be incredibly detrimental to your career as an agent.
3. Don’t pre-judge agents
“Don’t let other agents’ opinions of other agents influence the way you treat them … Just because someone may have had a bad experience with somebody does not mean that you will,” Framingham-based agent Jennifer Juliano told Inman in “29 rules of etiquette for agents.”
Truly get to know the agents you’re working with before you make judgements.
4. Don’t trash-talk
In that same vein, you also shouldn’t speak poorly about colleagues or clients.
“Never, ever speak poorly of any agent, lender, escrow or anybody in the business, to anybody,” Kim Steel McCullough, a Fallbrook, California-based agent told Inman.
And that goes for clients, too. McCullough said she’s seen agents post comments like, “Can this freaking guy just pick a house already?” and “Ugh, my client’s breath was so bad today it stunk up my whole car.”
“If people see you’re willing to snark behind your client’s back, why would they want to do business with you?” she said.
5. Remember, a bit of kindness goes a long way
In an industry built upon personal interactions, respect and kindness are exceedingly important.
Few things disrupt a transaction more than unnecessary tension between you and a fellow agent or client.
Be respectful, and avoid preventable drama to ensure everything progresses as efficiently as possible. Furthermore, if working with a newer agent, take the time to mentor them through the transaction.
Not only does this kindness benefit them, but it also offers you the opportunity to reflect internally on areas you can improve.
6. Try to work out differences before involving others
Even though you’re trying to kill ’em with kindness, you may run into agents who behave in ways that you find unacceptable.
If an agent does something you find objectionable, consider discussing your concerns with the agent before bringing others into the equation.
Oregon-based agent Jill Schuster told Inman that agents should talk to the opposing agent directly in a disagreeable situation before involving other agents, brokers or boards.
7. Take responsibility
Nobody is perfect, and we all make mistakes. What will set you apart from everyone else is a willingness to take ownership of these mishaps.
If something goes wrong, don’t continually try to blame another agent, the mortgage lender or the title company. Take responsibility for your mistakes, and use them as an opportunity to grow as an agent and a person.
8. Promptly answer texts, phone calls and emails
This may be common sense, but all too often, agents leave their colleagues or clients hanging. If you’re clients are trying to buy or sell a home, they are likely waiting on the edge of their seats to hear from you. Don’t leave them in the dark. Keeping them in the loop even when there’s no news will create a better customer experience.
And also make sure you answer the phone in a professional manner. This is as simple as saying, “Hi, this is X,” Roger Morris, a Seattle-based agent told Inman.
9. Under-promise, and over-deliver
Anyone involved in real estate understands that the industry can be quite tumultuous at times. As a result, it’s crucial to stay humble and realistic about the services you can provide.
Don’t boast or over-promise to your clients because if you fail to meet their expectations, it will create an adverse experience for everyone involved. You will gain more respect by staying modest and under-promising, which also offers the opportunity to over-deliver and have a happier client.
10. Provide (constructive) feedback after showings
Cara Ameer wrote in “How to give listing feedback tactfully — even when it’s negative,” that you should be brutally honest, but you should also phrase it carefully. Agents should:
- Be honest
- Get specific
- Give suggestions and recommendations
- Offer pricing feedback
- Consider the timeframe
- Let the listing agent know what your buyers choose
Dan McCarthy wrote in the Inman article “How to give (and get) the most valuable listing feedback“:
“To leave helpful feedback, we need to have the frame of mind that we are helping our industry colleagues. This means being honest.
To soften feedback, you can also frame a comment through your buyer’s point of view: ‘The buyers mentioned it felt dated to them and expressed concern that the property would need too many costly upgrades.’
Another helpful and easy way to leave feedback is by comparing the property to the other houses you saw. Direct competition can spur thoughtful adjustments through comments like ‘Buyers liked the layout, but preferred two comps with similar floor plans and square footage that were lower in price and had better amenities.’
At the end of the day, the feedback loop comes down to the need to recognize how important professional courtesy is to our industry. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
If you get into the habit of leaving feedback, you will gain a reputation for professionalism that opens dialogue, broadens your network, and ultimately, boosts your bottom line.”
11. Make arrangements when you’re on vacation
Everybody deserves some time away from the job. But if you plan on taking a vacation, make arrangements well in advance for another agent to handle your clients and files in your absence.
Agents should change showing instructions on the MLS to divert calls, and all parties should be notified of your time away, as well as receive contact information for the colleague replacing you.
12. Don’t try to sweep defects under the rug
If you are aware of defects in the home, you must reveal them. Going back to the aforementioned importance of honesty, it is unfair to all parties involved if an agent has a cancellation of contract due to inspection issues on a home he or she has listed.
These problems are further complicated if it is then immediately back on the market without disclosing the issues discovered during the previous inspection.
13. Update listing info promptly
Agents who fail to update listing information in a timely manner can set buyers and agents up for major disappointments.
“Teach listing agents to update property info in a timely manner so buyers don’t fall in love with a home that’s under contract,” Amanda DeBord, an agent in McKinney, Texas, told Inman.
Because some agents drag their feet in updating listings, buyer’s agents are well-advised to contact a listing agent to verify a listing’s status before trying to show it, Las Vegas-based agent Aaron Mazza told Inman.
14. Read broker remarks and instructions before scheduling a showing
By doing your research, you won’t have problems gaining access to the property, and you can avoid hassling listing agents or sellers with dead-on-arrival showing requests.
15. Leave clear broker remarks and instructions
On the flip side of that, listing agents should hold up their end of the bargain and provide clear guidance for showings.
“When it says ‘call listing agent, use showing button, vacant electronic lockbox, easy to show, listing agent must accompany,’ I have no idea what’s going on there,’ Saint Petersburg, Florida-based agent Lisa Avila told Inman. “Or when the instructions say ‘go and show, combo box’ with no combo.”
16. Don’t park in a property’s driveway at an open house
Whether this holds for private showings may be up for debate.
17. Take off your shoes
This should go without saying, but when you’re in other people’s homes, take off your shoes.
18. Leave a home the way you find it
Generally, you should make sure doors are locked, windows are closed and lights are off, as clients may have forgotten to cover their tracks, Phoenix, Arizona-based Shirley Coomer told Inman.
But, as Spokane, Washington-based agent Jennifer Gumm Shupe told Inman, leaving a home as you found it doesn’t always mean the house should be dark when you move on.
“As a new agent, I always turned off the lights,” Shupe said. “Little did I think that there would be a showing to follow.”
19. Contact listing agents about problems with a property
If you uncover an issue with a property, reach out directly to the listing agent about it. After all, you would want to know if there was an issue with one of your listings, right?
20. Be fair when there are multiple offers
If you are the listing agent and several different options come your way, it’s your duty to be fair. If there is already an acceptable offer and the sellers want to take it, they have that right.
But if the client wants to make the most of the opportunity, all parties should be notified that there are multiple offers.
Give them the opportunity to make their highest and best offers. Set a deadline for when these should be submitted and a date by which all parties will be notified of the results.
Stick to this timeline, and present all offers to the sellers. Disclosure of the other offers to agents within your office to give your agency an advantage is unethical: don’t do it.
21. Cancel appointments
A client goes through a great amount of inconvenience when listing a home. They have to keep the place tidy, put the dogs in crates, turn on all the lights, spritz some air freshener, put food away, load the kids in the car and leave their home so strangers can walk through to decide if it’s right for them.
If you have set an appointment to show a home, and the client cancels the appointment, doesn’t show up or simply decides they don’t like the neighborhood, contact the listing agent immediately so that the sellers of the home can go on with their evening.
At the end of the day, there is no perfect method for guaranteeing real estate success. However, every agent can benefit from taking a moment to step back and assess how they can improve.
By making a conscious effort to follow a few simple rules of etiquette, agents can build a formidable foundation to propel their success.
For even more etiquette tips, check out Teke Wiggin’s: “29 rules of etiquette for agents.”
Debra Haskell is a Real Estate Broker in Central Florida. She operates Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Olive Branch.