Can you hear me now? The importance of discretion in real estate transactions.

Old IntercomDiscretion is not a trait that we Americans are well known for, but with real estate transactions, whether buying or selling (or more obviously, working in the business), it is keenly important.

Home buyers want to exercise caution about expressing much when viewing homes in the presence anyone other than their own party or their own Realtor.  Many intuitively know to say very little in front of the seller, the listing agent, or other buyers or other agents at an open house except for their own.  Since many of our Silicon Valley residents originally hail from another country, the temptation can be to switch modes and converse in their native language.  But that, too, may not always give the confidentiality you’d hope for, as many people here speak two or more languages, and you might be surprised to find out who speaks which one(s).

My blonde haired, blue eyed younger sister is fluent in Spanish after studying at the language institute at Cochabamba, Bolivia and later living in Venezuela for several years.  She tells a very funny story about later studying and living in New York and hearing, loud and clear, some young men say rude things in Spanish, mistakenly assuming that she didn’t understand a word of it.  Apparently, her Irish got the better of her, and she told them off using Spanish that would make a sailor blush.  I bet they didn’t make that assumption about language capabilities after that!

Home sellers will want to be discreet also.   They are usually best served when they are absent during showings – it heads off all kinds of problems at the pass.  Their listing agent should be present during conversations with potential buyers or buyers’ agents to keep that seller from saying something that might be harmful to his or her negotiating position later. (And in fact the buyers’ agent is not supposed to ask the seller any questions unless the listing agent is also there – that’s part of our Realtor code of ethics.)   (more…)

Working with another Realtor? Don’t ask me for advice: I cannot interfere.

Interference - Realtors can't do itSometimes a  friend will call or email me and say that he or she is buying or selling a house, has a Realtor but wants my advice about the real estate purchase contract nuances, analyzing comps, or any other real estate related question. Usually it’s someone out of my Silicon Valley market area, though a few times it’s been someone closer to home.

Most professionals don’t want to be asked to give professional advice when they aren’t going to be compensated – this is true for lawyers, doctors, and many others.  But it’s also true for real estate professionals, too.  The problem, though, is not really that some folks overstep the bounds of asking for a favor. Instead, it is a matter of ethics.

I cannot interfere or meddle if you or they have a Realtor.  This is part of our Realtor Code of Ethics:

Code of Ethics
The Code establishes time-honored and baseline principles that come from the collective experiences of REALTORS® since the Code of Ethics was first established in 1913. Those principles can be loosely defined as:

  • Loyalty to clients;
  • Fiduciary (legal) duty to clients;
  • Cooperation with competitors;
  • Truthfulness in statements and advertising; and non-interference in exclusive relationships that other REALTORS® have with their clients.

Non Realtor real estate licensees also have boundaries on what they can and cannot do, too.  One big area is that we are not supposed to advice outside of our areas of competency.  I feel pretty good about a lot of areas ranging from Santa Cruz to the south to Redwood Shores to the north and Fremont, Pleasanton or Livermore on the east bay plus all of Santa Clara County.  But I don’t know Sacramento real estate, Santa Barbara Real Estate or San Diego real estate, so it would be wrong for me to suddenly delve into those arenas.  Even more so if that friend or relative asking “for a favor” were working with a Realtor or other real estate licensee and my commenting would constitute interference.