Stone stepsThe odds are good that if you are looking to hire a real estate professional, one of the criteria you seek is “responsive”. Those of us who sell real estate for a living know that consumers want to hear back from us as soon as possible when they call or email (or text, in some cases).

How responsive should your real estate agent be?

  • Most real estate agents will return phone calls within a half day regularly, or at the end of the business day worst case scenario
  • Some will answer the phone when it rings every time, unless they are with clients or otherwise crunching on something urgent, such as writing or reviewing offers
  • For emails, the response times can be similar – often within a few hours, but not more than 24 hours
  • When consumers text, the response may be faster since it seems urgent to the recipient. You’ll want to see if your agent wants texts outside of certain hours or not, or if texting should be reserved for things that demand a quick response.
  • Some agents may have a dedicated day off and will not return messages until the following day. It’s good to ask ahead of time about how time off is handled.
  • Be sure to ask about your agent’s schedule and communication style (when and how they’d like to hear from you). Make sure you let your preferred method be known so you can be on the same page not just for when to communicate, but how!

Responsiveness and phone calls

If not with clients or otherwise tied up, many Realtors (yours truly included) will pick up the phone when called during business hours. (Some won’t. Some do time blocking and return calls at set times, such as between 11am and noon and 4 and 5pm. Those who time block in this way will often put a message on their voice mail explaining when they will call back. Hopefully, that works for the caller!). 

In general, Realtors and real estate sales people will not take calls or return phone calls while they are with other clients unless there is a really crucial event happening – and if that’s the case, they’ll let the folks they’re with know about it upfront. Depending on how long the appointment is, then, the return call could be an hour or two or, in the extreme, at the very end of the day (if with relocating clients and doing a crash course in the area that goes 8 hours – it can happen, but is exhausting for all).

If I am at my desk and doing something like writing a blog article or updating a market post, I’ll pick up when a current or past client calls. I get a ton of junky, spam calls, though, so if I don’t recognize the number, it will go to voice mail. Real person? I’ll call back immediately, even if it’s a wrong number.

Once in awhile, a voice mail or text simply won’t be delivered by the wireless carrier in a timely manner. This is extremely embarrassing and upsetting to everyone impacted by it.  So please keep in mind that it’s always possible that your message simply wasn’t delivered. My suggestion: if responsiveness is missing, try another venue, for example, such as texting or emailing if the phone message isn’t returned in a timely manner.

How responsive should your real estate agent be with emails?

How quickly should your  Realtor reply to your emails? If your realty professional is “in the field” with buyers and sellers, she or he may not be able to reply until the appointments are done for the day. Normally an email can get an answer in a few hours, but in some cases, research is needed and it could be longer. At a minimum, you should get a quick note back “working on it!”

As for me, I start looking at my emails at around 8 each morning and normally will get to anything that came in overnight at that time (and if there are a bunch, I start with the oldest one first and work my way up). Throughout the day, I’ll get back to my clients as fast as possible, but there are times when it is a few hours, depending on my schedule.


Texting expectations may vary, but to many real estate professionals, a text is a bit like an email with a pager. The pager part suggests immediate responsiveness is required. If it’s not  truly urgent, an email may be more appropriate.

Similar to emails and telephone calls, if your licensee is with other clients, working on an offer, receiving an offer, or negotiating something, you may need to wait a little to hear back.

Often times, the typed communication is longer and is better suited to email than to texting, too.

In my practice, Texting is fantastic for short communications, and especially if something is urgent, as when you’re running late to an appointment but didn’t forget and are on your way. A blast of 5 or 6 text messages in a row feels aggressive and demanding, though, so for me, I would prefer one email (and if it is urgent, text to say you’ve emailed something that needs to be looked at asap).

If something big is going on, check in ahead of time with your Realtor

If there is some momentous event or report looming, talk to your buyer’s or seller’s agent ahead of time to learn his or her schedule and availability. This is key for reducing everyone’s stress!

Agents do sometimes take time off, too. Communicate with yours to know when he or she is off, and do your best to respect that time. Real estate licensees who get too burned out are less effective in the long run.

In my practice, often I can call back within a few minutes if I am simply on the other line when I miss a call. Most of the time, my appointments (listing or showing homes) last only about 2 hours, so I can get back to callers within 2-3 hours 95% of the time.  On very rare occasions, I’ll have a marathon appointment and be tied up all day.

In general

If your agent is really busy – and we all get at least some spells like this – know that he or she will probably respond to you within a couple of hours. If you don’t get a response and it’s some sort of emergency, try texting (many agents now communicate that way – I do) but know that you are probably interrupting so it may not be possible for your agent to call you back immediately.

It’s all about expectations: if you know your agent’s availability, it won’t be frustrating for you or her/him if there’s a small amount of phone tag.

Improve your odds that you reach your real estate agent quickly

Do you urgently need to speak with your Realtor or licensee?  It may be good to let him or her know ahead of time (by text or email) that you’ll be calling.  It’s also tremendously helpful if you have an unblocked number.  For many of us, a blocked caller equals a junk call.  If your number is blocked for privacy reasons, you can unblock it by simply dialing *82 before dialing the number

I should add that the best agents are not available 100% of the time!  You are not their only client, and their business extends beyond doing open houses and having face to face appointments. Some agents may work crazy long hours, but most do not. Even Realtors need a few hours off each day and a day off (or two) each week.

Finally, please remember, this concept of responsiveness goes both ways. If your agent ferrets out info for you, it’s good to respond in a few hours, too – not a couple of days. Slow responsiveness can erode the relationship.

What if your real estate agent is non-responsive?

This ought not happen, but on the off chance – what should you do if your buyer’s or listing agent suddenly goes radio silent on you?

My suggestion would be to reach out to that salesperson’s manager (assuming that he or she works with others and isn’t a one-person company) to see what’s happening. It’s possible that your agent has gotten ill or hurt. It’s also possible that his or her cell phone died or was lost and there will be a blackout period while that agent is scrambling to get a new one. If it’s not possible to get a manager or higher up in the company on the phone, you might visit the office in person and see if there’s someone present you can get help from. For instance, there could be an in-house transaction coordinator with alternate phone numbers or contacts.

It should not take long to reach a manger or someone working for the brokerage who can assist you.

Are you looking for a responsive agent to help you to sell or buy a home in Santa Clara County or nearby? Clair and I sell houses, townhouses, condominiums, and 2 – 4 plex units  across the county, and occasionally in nearby, adjacent counties such as San Mateo, Santa Cruz, Alameda, and Contra Costa. (We do not sell raw land, mobile homes, or most of the time homes in the remote Santa Cruz Mountains, as those are all specialties.)

Those include everything from Los Altos, Sunnyvale, Cupertino, Mountain View, Palo Alto, Santa Clara, Milpitas, Morgan Hill, Gilroy, Los Gatos, Monte Sereno, Saratoga,  and all points of San Jose in between.