Telephone Photo with dialogue between a caller and listing agent - Doesn't the listing agent have to show it to meIf a buyer wants to view a property, does the listing agent have to show it to him or her outside of regular open houses? The answer might surprise you!  Here’s a quick overview:

  • The listing agent and seller decide about showings that the listing agent is expected to do. Does the listing agent have to show it privately, or during open houses, or only on one weekend before offers are reviewed?
  • The listing agent will make showings possible for buyer’s agents with instructions on scheduling in the comments that members of the MLS can read.
  • In many cases, the real estate licensee working with the home seller will hold the property open for the public on the weekend and sometimes mid-week as well. It may or may not be the listing agent holding it open.
    • For safety reasons, many listing agents will not have private showings with buyers whom they don’t know and who aren’t clients of theirs. Realtors are harmed every year in the line of duty.
    • For agency reasons, a listing agent who plans to only represent the seller may not want to have an appointment with a buyer who plans to write the offer with someone else.
    • There are many other reasons why the listing agent will not personally show the home for sale outside of open house times, but may be able to arrange for the buyers to see it with another agent.

When does the listing agent have to show it?

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 as to whether or not the seller’s agent is obligated to show it privately.

It’s not an “on demand” situation where an interested buyer can insist on seeing the property as desired. To make an absurd point, no one would say “doesn’t the listing agent have to show it to me at 10 p.m.?” Without any thought, we know that’s unreasonable.

Does the listing agent have to show it to a total stranger who only provides a first name and called on a restricted phone number a property 2 hours away in a remote area? Doesn’t that seem dangerous? It is! “Don’t you have to show it to me anyway?” Do you think home sellers expect their agents to put themselves into a dangerous situation?

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.

Most listings have showing instructions that include some restrictions. The restrictions may be for safety, for accommodating a large number of showings, for the home owner’s privacy or security, for the listing agent’s safety, for baby’s nap time, for tenant rights in rented properties, or many other reasons.

Here are some of the expected scenarios and reasons why showings are somewhat restricted most of the time, even beyond the question of “doesn’t the listing agent have to show it to me” when “me” is a stranger:

  • 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 fourplexes. 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.
  • The seller may have 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.
  • Often, 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 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. I have my own horror stories to tell in this career, unfortunately.

At times I’ve had strangers phone me, tell me that they want to see a listing, and be surprised that I don’t have to show it to them outside of open house hours. Some have insisted “but you MUST show it to me!” I encourage them to come during one of a few open houses. If that doesn’t work, I’ll offer to introduce them to a Realtor in my office who can do the showing (and who will expect to represent that buyer should they write an offer). We will always make it possible to see the home.

Why don’t all buyers have their own agents?

In earlier articles we’ve discussed the need for a buyer broker agreement (verbal at the least, but possibly in writing) and why buyers ought to have their own representation at the negotiation table.  (If you missed these, see the links under “related reading” below.)

Some 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. Some don’t!

They might also be surprised that the big web portals only have 85% or so of available listings. Work with a Realtor who’s a member of the MLS and he or she can provide more options than consumers have who are going it alone.

The best way to have a successful home buying experience is to hire one’s own agent.


Doesn’t the listing agent have to show it to me? – 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?





  • Mary Pope-Handy

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

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