Handling Disturbing Buyer Behavior

Unrepresented buyers can present risks to homesellers.

August 1, 2001

The sellers were two elderly women, a mother and daughter. When a buyer knocked on their door, waving a printout of their home from the Internet, they thought it was proper to let him in and let him look around the home. Lucky for them, they weren't robbed or physically harmed, but their security was definitely breached.

"The [person] didn't buy the property either," says a shaken Scott Watson, the women's listing salesperson. "I hope that we don't read about some nutcase talking his way into a property and hurting someone. But it could happen."

Unrepresented buyers pushing their way into represented sellers' homes is a disturbing new trend, notes Watson. Even though a sign in the yard could encourage the same buyer to approach the seller directly, somehow having printouts of the home is like waving a permission slip to unsophisticated or uninformed sellers.

In enabling buyers with more information, has the industry created a more independent or a dangerous buyer? "These buyers are bolder and more independent," says Watson. "I farm a geographical area. So my open houses are mostly in the same neighborhood. I see the same buyers over and over again. "They are coming to open houses on their own and I'm seeing more and more people with the data out on their own. They eventually buy, but on their own terms."

Information is power, and the Internet has given buyers confidence that they can find and negotiate the home of their choice. These buyers don't appear to understand or respect the protocol involved when a seller is represented by a salesperson.

Watson believes that these buyers are acting alone in the belief that they will save money. "I get calls every other week with buyers wanting to know when I was doing an open house on the property they want to see," he says. "These people have no agent and when they find a property they want, they use the listing agent, thinking they can cut a better deal. Sometimes it works, sometimes it don't."

A real estate professional's job includes protecting the seller by allowing only qualified, represented buyers to view the seller's home. Represented buyers tend to be more serious about finding a home quickly and are more willing to come to terms. They are more likely to be pre-qualified by lenders, so they can act when they find the home they want, particularly if they have a lock-in rate on a good loan that may expire. A qualified, represented buyer is more likely to close and with fewer glitches. In short, it simply isn't in the seller's interest to open the home to anyone who is not accompanied by a practitioner.

But that's not how the buyers view themselves - as security and closing risks. "A lot of the buyers I see don't need a nursemaid. They are smart, informed, and know what they are looking for. If they have been looking for some time, they know the comps," says Watson. "They know the neighborhood."

They just don't know why it's bad form to knock on a represented seller's door. It's simply an invasion of privacy.

Watson has taken to warning sellers that buyers may approach them and ask them to show their homes without an salesperson present. "I now have a warning speech prepared for my sellers. Do not let them in the house. Give them my card and tell them to call me, or their own salesperson," says Watson.

What else can salespeople do? They can ask their brokers, MLSs, and technology marketing service providers to pitch in. In the remarks section of any Internet listing, the following warning can be posted to Internet buyers.

"Notice: this home is represented by Your Name. For security reasons, only represented buyers who are pre-qualified by a lender may view this home. If you would like to know more, please contact your real estate broker or if you don't have one, contact Your Name at phone, e-mail address."

The warning can also be turned into a lead generation opportunity, "If you are unrepresented by a real estate professional, please e-mail me here and I will be happy to help you buy this home or another home of your dreams."

Brokers and salespeople must show all legitimate buyers homes when requested, but sellers do not. Educating buyers and sellers may not stop the boldest from knocking on represented sellers' doors, but it could encourage some of them to contact a professional.

(c) Copyright 2001 Realty Times. Reprinted with permission.

Blanche Evans is a writer/editor and CEO of evansEmedia. Formerly, she was a senior editor with Realty Times, where she was named by REALTOR® Magazine as one of the most influential people in the real estate industry.

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