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Showing etiquette for agents

By Allen Norwood
Allen Norwood
Allen Norwood writes on Home design, do-it-yourself and real estate for The Charlotte Observer. His column appears each Saturday.

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A reader whose home was on the market emailed to complain that an agent had left the lights on and front door deadbolt unlocked after a showing – despite a sign on that front door to be mindful of the lights and both locks.

She suggested a column on Realtor etiquette when an agent is visiting a home with clients.

Turns out there are etiquette guidelines in the National Association of Realtors’ Code of Ethics for showing a home. (Switching off lights is right there in black and white.) Also, it turns out that etiquette can vary. And that rules are evolving, along with today’s digital technology.

Before I tracked down the rules, I spoke to Cynthia Sikorski, owner of Re/Max Executive Realty. Showing etiquette isn’t part of licensing law. It’s basically common sense, and left up to leaders at top companies like Sikorski’s.

If there were clear instructions to turn off the lights, of course, the agent should have turned them off.

But the agent who showed the house didn’t know whether another agent might be visiting shortly, Sikorski said. It might have been more than simple absentmindedness.

I confess, the lights wouldn’t have bothered me.

All of us have learned that our homes show better with the lights on and blinds open. If the owner didn’t turn the lights on, that means the showing agent probably did. And that means the agent wanted the house to look its best for prospective buyers. If I were trying to sell my house, I’d appreciate that.

Good point, Sikorski said. “I personally would be happier if they left them on,” she said.

On the other hand ...

When we were showing our house a couple of years ago, our biggest complaint – and it wasn’t very big – was that we occasionally didn’t know whether a showing had occurred.

We’d get a heads-up from the central showing desk that someone wanted to see the house at, say, 2 p.m. We’d straighten up, vacuum, turn lights on, then head out for a while.

Generally, the showing agents would leave business cards.

If they didn’t – and didn’t leave all the lights on – we sometimes didn’t know whether anyone had actually been there. Maybe they were running late. Maybe they’d show up at any minute.

We’d walk through the house, looking for telltale footprints on the freshly vacuumed carpet.

We always appreciated the card. But Sikorski said that leaving a card, in some cases, can be seen as trying to solicit business. And that would be improper.

I’d never heard that, but it’s in the NAR’s Code of Ethics, too.

Here are a few rules about showing etiquette from the NAR’s Code of Ethics and Arbitration Manual:

• Schedule appointments and showings as far in advance as possible. (As in, don’t call from the end of the driveway and ask for an immediate showing. Sorry. That’s another personal peeve.)

• When entering a property, ensure that unexpected situations, such as pets, are handled appropriately. (Pets are a column for another day.)

• Leave your business card if not prohibited by local rules. (Indeed, it can be improper.)

• When showing an occupied home, always ring the doorbell or knock and announce yourself loudly before entering. Knock and announce yourself loudly before entering any closed room.

• If occupants are home during showings, ask their permission before using the telephone or bathroom.

• When showing property, keep all members of the group together.

• When the occupant is absent, leave the property as you found it ... including lights, heating, cooling and drapes. (There are those lights.)

• Respect sellers’ instructions about photographing or videoing interiors or exteriors. (Interesting reflection on today’s technology, and probably another column, too.)

Special to the Observer: homeinfo@charter.net
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