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It's a free country

Posted by Rona Fischman October 5, 2010 01:55 PM

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When we were discussing sellers without agents LanceStapleton recommended that buyers contact sellers directly. He commented:

… this is a free country and despite the Realtor's(TM!) "contract with the seller" you as a buyer are free to contact the seller directly at any time and for any reason. Do you just tell the Realtor(TM!) to "stick it" (which I have done on several occasions)... Or have you found a more socially graceful way of handling this?

As a consumer, you are free to contact anyone you want. It is a free country. As a buyer’s agent, I must not contact with the seller. The seller is someone else’s client. The seller’s agent should not be calling my buyer, either. It would be like your ex’s attorney calling you about the custody agreement.

My opinion about whether the buyer should approach the seller depends on a number of factors. First, the buyer needs to understand what information may influence the negotiation (as Sam discussed just yesterday.) If the buyer is personable and has a good feeling about the seller, it can help to circumvent the agents. But, some of the time, it backfires big. I have seen both happen. Some sellers hire an agent to buffer them from the buyers of their house. Some sellers welcome the buyer. It frequently comes down to the seller’s attachment to the house and their neighbors. I try to find out as much as I can about the seller, then let my clients decide whether they want to contact the sellers.

I had quite a few clients who developed mutual affection for sellers. It added to the goodwill and made for a good transaction. I make a point of not getting in the way.

The worst backfire I was involved in was when a listing agent’s ego got bruised. The listing agent told my client to “get the )&(*^ out of that house.” The seller spent the rest of the transaction under lock and key, for fear that that the evil buyer would be tempted to chat again. It was an unhappy transaction.

A graceful way for a buyer to talk to a seller is for the buyer to say “hello” to a seller who is in the house. It is a good way to take the “temperature” of the potential relationship. When this is happening, I fade into the woodwork.

Another dicey social contact is when a potential buyer needs to talk to the other half of the condo association before buying into a little association. I have found a hand-written note works well for this. Either contact is established or a rude answer or no answer speaks volumes!

As for gracefully discussing it with your agent, I suggest an interview question: “Would you allow me to contact the seller?” An agent who “doesn’t allow” is one you may have to tell to “stick it.”

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Scott Van Voorhis is a freelance writer who specializes in real estate and business issues.

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