Can I Bypass the Listing Agent and Call a Seller?

call seller not agent
It's not a good idea to call the seller instead of the agent. &Copy; Big Stock Photo

Question: Can I Bypass the Listing Agent and Call a Seller?

A reader asks: I'm uncomfortable with waiting for a listing agent to discuss my offer with a seller. I'm a buyer who isn't sure that agent will presenting my offer in  an accurate manner and would prefer to meet with the seller privately. I know where the seller works, and I could call him there. Am I allowed to do this? Can I bypass the listing agent and call a seller?

Answer: It's not unusual for home buyers to sometimes think the world of real estate would be a whole lot easier if only sellers and buyers could just sit down together and discuss an offer. But there are a lot of reasons to hire real estate agents. It is also entirely possible that you could alienate the seller if you try to bypass the listing agent and call the seller directly.

While sellers may feel comfortable showing you around their home and talking about their home improvement projects, most sellers do not want to discuss terms of an offer directly with a buyer. If they wanted to sell as a FSBO, they would not have hired an agent. If you call the seller, you take the risk of alienation.

Not only do sellers tend to feel uncomfortable talking about the terms of an offer, they don't want to bypass their agent because they believe their agent knows more about real estate than they do. They trust their listing agent.

A real estate agent offers a seller knowledge, experience and a fiduciary relationship.

An agent acts as a buffer between the parties because, let's face it, a buyer's goal is probably to buy that home for the lowest price possible, and the seller's goal is to sell that home for the highest price possible.

Those are opposite goals. The seller could view your position as adversarial, and if you try to call the seller, you could solidify that viewpoint.

In your particular case, you have hired a buyer's agent to represent your best interests. Even though the seller is most likely paying your agent to represent you, your agent is responsible only to you and not to the seller. It is your agent's job to present your offer to the listing agent. If you'd like your agent to present your offer directly to the seller, your agent can ask the listing agent for permission to do so. In those situations, though, the listing agent is still usually present with the seller.

The Dangers of Bypassing the Agent to Call the Seller

If you feel that your buyer's agent is incapable of representing you to the extent that you feel a need to bypass the agent, my suggestion is that you hire a different agent. I'll give you a couple of actual examples, and from them perhaps you can draw your own conclusion.

A few years ago, a buyer wanted to buy a colonial in Midtown Sacramento. He felt that the listing agent did not want him to buy the home, for unknown reasons. The buyer believed the listing agent might have drawn a counter offer and asked the seller to sign the counter offer without explaining the ramifications to the seller.

The buyer went to the seller's house, knocked on her door and expressed his concerns. The seller was polite but distant. After the buyer left, the seller called her agent to complain. This made the listing agent upset. The listing agent was uncooperative from that point forward, and the buyer did not buy that home.

It's Breaking Protocol to Bypass the Listing Agent

In another transaction, a listing agent explained to a buyer's agent what the buyer needed to do to buy a short sale. The buyer did not believe his agent and fired his agent. Then the buyer went directly to the seller.

The buyer was a younger male and the seller was an older, single woman. The seller interpreted the buyer's exaggerated excitement for aggression, and she relayed her fears to her listing agent who, in turn, contacted the buyer's agent.

The buyer asked if he could work directly with the listing agent. By this time, his tactics had alienated everybody involved, including the listing agent. The buyer sabotaged his own transaction. In the end, nobody wanted to work with him, much less sell the home to him.

At the time of writing, Elizabeth Weintraub, CalBRE #00697006, is a Broker-Associate at Lyon Real Estate in Sacramento, California.