Listing agents sometimes receive emails or calls from buyers’ agents with questions from home buyers before writing an offer. (This isn’t usually done by text.) Depending on how it’s handed or worded, this could help the buyers or hurt them.
A few years ago, I wrote an article on this blog about the real estate questions that consumers ask and the relationship between them and the ultimate outcome. Today we’ll again consider questions, but instead those which are posed to the listing agent by home buyers or their Realtor before an offer is drafted.
One way to think of it is this: when the questions are submitted, the listing agent will be sizing up those buyers and their agents. What kind of impression should a buyer try to make?
Getting noticed in a good way helps: questions from home buyers can be good
In the days or week prior to offer submission, the better Silicon Valley buyer’s agents will make sure that they show up on the listing agent’s radar (surprises are not usually appreciated, so getting a contract out of the blue without a phone call or email prior is a mistake which is likely to make that offer a little less likely to be the winning one if there are multiple bids).
This is a chance to ask some questions and also to let the seller’s agent know that there is progress on the buyers’ side.
Even if there aren’t any questions per se, it’s a good idea for serious buyers to have their real estate agent “check in” and express interest early on. This is helpful in cases where there’s a pre-emptive offer (you might still get a chance) but also with multiple offers since that agent who’s said hello will look more professional and better to work with. It can be a good first impression.
Some agents consider this contact “massaging the relationship” to establish that the buyer’s agent is knowledgeable, professional, pleasant, and would behave well in escrow.
There are many questions to ask when buying a house, but many of them will be answered by reviewing the disclosure package, so proceed carefully and try to avoid asking questions that are answered in the package.
Good questions from home buyers before writing an offer
Helpful questions from home buyers include these:
- Is the seller looking for anything specific in the offer?
- Such as a particular close of escrow date (or before or after)?
- Such as leaving behind anything they don’t want to move with them (potted plants, play structure, or?)
- Does the seller want or need a rent back? (if the property is occupied) Or any other terms?
- Does the listing agent (or seller) prefer a CAR or PRDS contract & forms?
- Is there anything not in the MLS or disclosure package that the listing agent feels that we should know?
- How much time does the seller want or need to respond to an offer?
Poorly worded or not thought through questions from home buyers before writing an offer
Sometimes, questions are not as helpful and could even come across as red flags, alerting the listing agent (and seller) that the buyer’s agent or buyer could be less than ideal to have in a transaction.
Unhelpful questions – that is, those which may hurt the buyer’s odds of success – can include these:
- Questions which are already answered in the MLS especially (for example, calling to ask how old the house is when it’s plainly listed online will make the buyer’s agent look like a lot of spoon-feeding may be required).
- If the home inspection was done on Monday, asking on Tuesday if the sellers have repaired an item listed is premature (and may make you look nervous). In this market, generally, sellers are disclosing the property condition but not doing repairs.
- When it will be multiple offers, asking if the seller “is firm on price” is a signal that you aren’t serious, and if you do write an offer, it will be low. They’ll still want to see your offer, but it won’t be preferred.
- You have your own agent but ask the listing agent to show you the property. That’s your agent’s job, and outside of open houses, your agent or someone covering for him or her should do that.
This time period initial contact between real estate agents is “the courtship” and they don’t want to come across as lazy, alarmist, annoying, belligerent, etc.
Should the home buyer contact the listing agent directly, or go through their own Realtor?
First, when working with one’s own Realtor, that agent should call or email the listing agent – not the buyer! In rare exceptions, a home buyer may need to reach out to the listing agent directly, but this is less than one half of 1% of the time. If the buyer’s Realtor is on vacation, having surgery, or attending a funeral of a loved one, someone else should be assigned to cover for that unavailable agent.
In that rare case that a buyer must contact the listing agent, it’s important to follow these steps:
Identify yourself and who you’re working with and why you are contacting the listing agent: “Hi, I’m Mary Smith. I’m working with Rob Jones of XYZ Realty, but right now he’s on a plane and I cannot contact him, and his backup agent is also unavailable. Sorry to bother you, but I had a couple of important questions on your listing. Do you have 5 minutes to chat?”
The same advice holds for emails as for phone calls. Texts are usually not ideal. If an email is sent, the buyer’s agent should be copied so as to be in the loop.
Because real estate agents are in the public view, we get a lot of scam calls, texts, and emails. Maybe they are bots, maybe ill intentioned people, who knows. It’s very important to provide transparency and to come across as genuine and polite. Weird texts like “Hi are you an agent in San Jose?” or “Can you show me this house?” as an opening line in a text may get a question from a stranger viewed nefariously. It may be discarded as spam, or perhaps answered but already viewed dimly. That’s not a good start.
The communication between buyers or their agent and the listing agent before real estate contracts are written and signed can either help or hurt your odds of success, especially in multiple offer situations. Be careful to consider what your question is saying, or implying, to the other side. In a market like this, everything counts.
Sellers will also have questions to ask before accepting an offer on a house. We will tackle that question in a later article.
Questions from home buyers: related reading
Contingencies (on our popehandy.com site)
The buying process (also on popehandy.com)