This post by Tarris Rogers, broker at Becky Breeze & Company Real Estate in Bend, Oregon, was originally published on ActiveRain.

My first experience as a real estate agent came when I received a call in my office from a gentleman who had a gruff, smoky voice. He said he wanted to take a look at a lot that our office had listed. The parcel was located about 30 miles from my office in an area that I was not familiar with. I agreed to meet him at the property and answer his questions.

When I arrived, I was greeted by an older gentleman whose appearance I can only describe as a cross between Santa Claus and a mountain man. He was good-natured and had lots of questions about easements, setbacks, water source, electricity hookup and homeowners association (HOA) fees.

Don’t answer questions you don’t know the answer to

I realized I was ill-prepared to answer his questions and felt stupid that I couldn’t. Thank goodness my principal broker had advised me not to answer any questions I was not reasonably sure on. When you are showing your first property, you don’t realize just how little you know about real estate until you’re thrown into the mix. It is so tempting to try to answer questions with your “best guess.”

I had my trusty pen and paper and I began writing his questions down like my broker told me to do, with the promise that I would get him answers. Honestly, there were only a few of his questions I was able to answer at that moment. I’m grateful that the man seemed to realize that I was a newbie, but still allowed me to work at getting answers to his questions.

Disclose! Disclose! Disclose!

In the process of getting answers to the man’s questions, I learned that that particular area had issues with high water tables and that some of the lots in that area experienced trouble getting approval for a home site because of it. This, of course, was a big negative that could potentially derail my chance at getting my first real estate sale. However, I’ve always tried to live my life by the golden rule, which is to treat others the way you would want to be treated. I told him about the risk of the high water table and the possibility of running into issues with getting permits to build a residence. He took the news in stride, and decided to move forward with writing an offer using me as his agent.

He closed on the sale and began working on getting building permits. During the course of construction, he found out that his lot was affected by the high water table and he was forced to spend thousands more dollars to reinforce the foundation against settling. He called me to tell me about his misfortune and the additional cost of building his home.

Lessons learned from my first real estate transaction

Right then and there I was so grateful that I had disclosed what I had learned about the water tables in that area. If I hadn’t, my first real estate transaction might likely have ended up with a complaint being filed against me, and/or a lawsuit. The lesson I learned from that experience besides treating others the way you want to be treated is: Disclose, disclose, disclose anything that may be important for a buyer or seller to know that you have knowledge of.

The second point that was reinforced to me, which I’ve carried with me these 18 years later, is never answer questions you are unsure of. Had I answered his questions “off the cuff,” I likely would not have gone back to get sound answers to his questions and learned about the issue. In the end, I still came off as the expert, by getting him solid answers to his questions, and in doing so, protected myself from potential liability.

I’m glad to say that years later Mr. Santa Claus mountain man sold the property for well over what he had invested in it, so everything turned out good in the end.

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