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Have your own agentSome Silicon Valley home buyers do not want to have their own buyers agent, but instead expect that they can find properties in the San Jose area that they want to see and request that the listing agent show it to them in a private appointment.  These same potential buyers may be surprised that the listing agent may refuse to show them the listing outside of a regularly scheduled open house – that is, if the seller is permitting open houses.

What’s going on?

In earlier articles we’ve discussed the need for a buyer broker agreement (verbal at the least, but possibly in writing) and why you, as a buyer, ought to have your own representation at the negotiation table.  (If you missed these, see the links under “related reading” below.)   Today I want to dispel the myth that the listing agent is required to open up and show condos or houses for sale to anyone who calls and requests seeing them and explain why that’s the case.

Showings of homes for sale are determined by the listing agreement or contract between the home seller, the listing agent or Realtor and the broker

The most important thing for buyers to understand is that the accessibility of the home for viewings depends upon the agreement, verbally or in writing, between the owner of the property and the agent/brokerage hired to market, negotiate, and sell the real estate.   It’s not an “on demand” situation where an interested buyer can insist on seeing the property as desired. Here are some of the expected scenarios and reasons why showings are somewhat restricted most of the time:

  • Some properties are tenant occupied and it may be the case that you cannot even see the house or condo until after your offer is accepted. Most often it will be challenging to see homes with renters in them, but it is possible, usually, to see them prior to purchasing. (This is less true with duplexes, triplexes and four plexes. Apartment buildings are always sold “subject to inspection”.)
  • Other times there may be a restriction such as 24 or 48 hours notice required for showings when homes are owner occupied.
  • Most of the time, the seller has requested that any private showings, by appointment, involve ONLY pre-approved buyers. The sellers don’t want to waste their time with tire-kickers.  They want serious buyers.
  • Most of the time, a seller will not want the listing agent to also represent the buyer and will expect serious home buyers to have a buyer’s agent.  If you are working with your own agent, that’s who should show the home to you.  If you have your own buyer agent, he or she can see what is involved in showing the property to you by looking at the agent version of the MLS (which includes showing instruction information and restrictions)
  • Some sellers want open houses, some don’t.  For those selling a home during the holidays, often the for sale sign and lock box are removed and it becomes harder to get into these properties.
  • Safety is a HUGE concern, both for home owners selling on their own and for realty professionals. Each year, Realtors and other real estate professionals are injured or killed in their line of work. If this surprises you, ask yourself how smart is it to meet total strangers at an empty house? It’s not.  If you want the listing agent to show you the house, expect to be asked a lot of questions (are you preapproved? if so, with who? how can we verify that?) and usually expect to meet the agent at the office first. Many Realtors will ask to photo copy your driver’s license prior to taking you to the home – this is for personal safety reasons. We realize that you will feel uncomfortable but please remember that real estate is risky for us and we absolutely must be cautious.

Realtor Safety Banner

Related reading:

Do You Need a Buyer’s Agent? Or Should You Find a Home, Then Use the Listing Agent?

Silicon Valley Home Buyers: Should You Use a Buyer Broker Agreement?





  • Silicon Valley Realtor, selling homes in Los Gatos, Saratoga, San Jose, Silicon Valley, and nearby since 1993. Prolific blogger with a network of sites.