What Should an Agent Say When Showing a Home?

male real estate agent talking to couple showing them a house
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A reader asks: "It's bad enough that my agent wants to kick me out of the house when a buyer comes over, but my agent lets other agents show my home. I don't understand this. Why wouldn't my agent be present when a buyer and buyer's agent is there? My agent knows more about my home and could be selling all of its unique features. Instead, he doesn't even say anything to buyers. He says it's better to be quiet. I think he's lazy. What should an agent say when showing a home?" -- Fed Up Seller

Answer: You sound like a home seller whose home has been on the market for a while. It's easy to feel a little bit frustrated when you have high expectations for a fast sale and nothing seems to happen. It's understandable that you would look to your real estate agent to perform. But what you expect your agent to do and what your agent feels is the right thing to do are quite possibly two different things.

Let's look at this situation from both points of view. You would like your agent to follow the buyer throughout the home and talk about its many features, right? Like those agents on HGTV who are told to say, "And here is the kitchen -- over there is the family room." They talk as though nobody has any eyeballs in their heads. That's not sales. That's talking to hear the sound of one's own voice.

When a buyer walks into a home, the first 3 minutes are powerful. It's during those first 3 minutes that buyers' senses are engaged with his or her surroundings. A buyer is thinking:

  • Is the home visually appealing?
  • Would I put a table in the entry?
  • The mirror looks good on that wall.
  • I would paint the far wall a darker color.
  • I do not like this rug.
  • Do I smell vanilla?
  • Is my sofa too tall to put by the window?
  • This feels homey to me.
  • What's that breeze? Is a window open?

All these thoughts and more are running through a buyer's head. A buyer does not want to listen to an agent yammer about square footage or the height of vaulted ceilings. A buyer wants to experience the home.

You might believe that there is something an aggressive agent could say to make a buyer purchase your home, but there is no free gift with purchase, no extra set of steak knives if you buy the blender today. Real estate sales are much more subtle and quiet. A real estate agent can only influence a buyer once a buyer decides he or she wants to buy the home. An agent cannot make a buyer fall in love. We have no fairy dust to sprinkle.

Some tactics an agent can employ when showing a home is to get the buyer to act in the manner of a homeowner. That might include offering the buyer something to drink such an iced tea or a hot apple cider, depending on the season, and asking if the buyer would like to sit down.

I used that approach with a buyer who did not want to buy a particular home in the Med Center in Sacramento. He didn't even want to go into the house because it didn't have air conditioning. But I felt it would be perfect for him. So I invited him to sit down in the living room and gaze out the windows. To pretend that this was his home, and he just got home from work. He liked it. He bought it. But he came to the conclusion himself.

An agent can ask a buyer questions to determine the buyer's amount of interest in the home. These questions should be open-ended and not the kind that can be answered yes or no. Some sample types of questions might be:

  • How do you see yourself living in this home?
  • What do you think of the kitchen appliances?
  • If you could paint the house any color you wanted, what color would that be?
  • What kind of price would you think of offering for this home?
  • What are your thoughts about the layout?

When showing a home, an agent really should let the buyer walk through at the buyer's own pace, and not interrupt the buyer's thought process. If the buyer has a question, the buyer will ask that question. Buyers don't want to feel pressured or pushed. A good real estate agent knows when to open her mouth and when to close the sale.

Moreover, in many communities, it is customary for the buyer's agent to accompany the buyer and make the appointment to show the buyer. The listing agent is often not involved in the showing process until it's time to negotiate an offer. But that can vary depending on your local custom. In California, for example, listing agents rarely show homes to another agent's client except for certain types of luxury homes.

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