Do you remember the movie Pretty Woman?  Of course you do.  Rags to Riches, Sin and Redemption, Prostitute Becomes Damsel in Distress … particularly the shopping.  Ah, the shopping.  Remember the first time Vivian goes out to find a cocktail dress, sporting her hooker boots and crop top, snubbed by the boutique sales staff?  She simply doesn’t fit — from her garb to her makeup to her mannerisms.  Since she doesn’t fit in such an expensive (and, admittedly, pretentious) world, the genuinely good things offered by that world are inaccessible to her.

They look so young.

Most folks, if asked, would say that it’s generally not okay to burp directly into someone else’s face.  Or cut in line at the supermarket.  Or talk with food in your mouth, or interrupt someone while they’re speaking*.  Everyday manners are pretty widely acknowledged, or at least understood. (Whether they are practiced is another discussion.)

If this is your first time buying a home, however, there may be points of etiquette with which you are unfamiliar.  We’re going to discuss how best to fit into the world of buying and selling houses, so that the good things offered by this world — a pleasant transaction that brings joy and not anxiety, a home you’ll be happy in, a “great deal” — will be much more accessible to you.

DO know the difference between SHOPPING and HUNTING.  Shopping is a hobby, a pleasure, a way to pass the time.  I enjoy it, too — even home shopping.  Hunting, however, is time-limited and goal-driven.  REALTORS® are hunting guides, not shopping partners.  If you just enjoy browsing through houses, Open Houses are made for you.  Parade of Homes, Showcase of Homes, etc. are all great ways to get your “fix”.

Oh, you did NOT say that about my mama!

DO your homework before you start; DON’T start hunting before you know what you need (and can get).  Get a good idea of what your personal goals are in the transaction.  You know this.  What must you have?  What can you afford?

DO be honest from the get-go.  What challenges may you, yourself, bring to the table?  Do you get angry, frustrated, impatient, or defensive easily?  Do you have a huge amount of trouble making decisions?  Are you the only decision maker, or will you need someone else’s go-ahead?  Don’t blindside the people who are trying to help you.  If we know you have an issue, we can help you make a good decision despite it.  If we don’t, we can’t.

Be Honest. There's Less to Remember.

DO respect others’ time and work, just as you want others to respect yours.  Whether we admit it or not, much of the work of Real Estate is done on the evenings and weekends.  Many of the people who buy houses work for a living (surprise!) so their time to house-hunt is limited.  However, that doesn’t mean that evenings and weekends are open season.  Ask your agent and lender when the best time to call will be, and try to keep evening and weekend appointments to a minimum if possible.  If that’s the only time available, then make each appointment count.

Don’t expect everyone else to be on your timeframe.  There are deadlines on a contract, and there are other buyers looking at the same houses you are.  The phrase “time is of the essence” means that it’s important to get ‘er done.  You don’t have forever to deliberate.

Don’t ask your agent to take you to houses that don’t meet your criteria; you’re wasting your own time and theirs.

Time is of the Essence.

Don’t be surprised or upset if your agent gives advice you weren’t expecting.  You’ve hired an agent to help you through a difficult and complicated process.  They are trained and experienced in it; you are not.  Acknowledge the limitations of your knowledge and keep an open mind.

Advice From Whom?!

Don’t give up easily, but also don’t expect perfection.  It may take a while to find a great house that you can be happy in, but be sure that you can recognize it when you see it.  Keep your must have criteria firmly in mind during showings, and remember that most of the things that make a house “feel” exceptional, beautiful, and welcoming are the easiest to change.  Those are the colors, the lighting, and the finishes (oh, right, and the CLEANLINESS).  Sometimes there’s a beautiful girl hiding behind the glasses and 80’s hair.

Ah, the Potential.

Good hunting.




*emergencies excepted – if they’re about to be attacked by a crocodile or their plaid polyester pants are catching fire, for example.



  1. Holly Moss says

    If I give my email address to an online realtor site so I can look at what is for sale online only, and they then begin sending me daily email listings, am I obligated in any way to work with that agent if I decide I want to view/purchase a property that happened to be emailed to me?
    Thanks for your input!

    • says

      Holly, thanks for the question! There is no legal or contractual obligation at all to work with that Realtor unless you have signed a written agreement, called a Brokerage Relationship Agreement. It says you are hiring the agent to help you buy a house, and if you decide to buy something you’re going to use them. It doesn’t mean you HAVE to buy anything, and the agreement can be terminated at any point by either you or the agent. Also, the vast majority of buyers don’t pay their agents any form of compensation; the agents are paid by the seller when you actually close on your new house, as part of both agent’s agreement with the Association of Realtors.

      Most offices or agents who send you listings (including ours) do so in hopes that you will choose to work with them, but you don’t have to. The unofficial (and mostly unenforceable) expectation is that once an agent shows you a house in person, they are first in line if you decide to buy that house. However, it’s usually best to work with an agent OTHER than the one who has the property listed — the listing agent is most likely representing the interests of that seller, not you. (It’s kind of a tricky question; you can read more about the limits and ways agents can represent their clients in an article on my personal blog here.)

      I would talk with either the agent you’ve contacted through email or others you find through advertising or word of mouth BEFORE setting appointments to look at houses. Talking with them beforehand gives you a better feel for whether you’ll be able to work well together. If you feel that they are interested in your concerns and you’re comfortable asking them your important questions, it’s usually a good time to ask about the Brokerage Relationship Agreement. Until you have a written agreement, you’re a prospect; once you have that agreement, you are their client. It’s very, very helpful to work with the same good agent throughout the process, and the more they know about your goals and situation, the better they will be able to help you meet them.

      I wish you the best of luck in your home search! Please feel free to contact me if you have any further questions. The more you know about the process, the better!

  2. anon says

    I’ve got a situation where, we got a buyer broker as a recommendation from a friend. We gave them our ‘wish list’ and went and saw a few places. With our wish list, we gave them a few places we saw that we absolutely wanted to see. When we went to go see places, they excluded those places for (what turned out to be) arbitrary reasons.

    We asked to go see those places, and eventually did. Putting an offer on one of the places we absolutely wanted to see. The seller was in a short sale situation, and we couldn’t come to an agreement. We’re now stuck with our lease ending on our apartment (and it being rented out to a new tenant at the start of next month). I’ve emailed our agent twice, about two other places and gotten no response at this point. My last email to them was to say we were no longer going to search for a place to buy, since we don’t have enough time to close now (without having to move twice, and sign a short term lease somewhere else, which just adds even more expenses and stress).

    At what point was it reasonable for us to throw in the towel? We had told the agent from the get-go we had a tight timeline, but our financing was sterling and ready to go. In total we spent one day looking at nine places and put an offer in. Did we do something wrong? We’ve never heard back from our agent?!

    Thank you!

    • Mel Morgan says

      That sounds awful! Have you had the chance to talk with the agent’s broker? It’s obviously not every time, but sometimes things do come up — email trouble, family difficulties, etc. — that can prevent an agent from being able to call you back. I hope in your case that you’re able to find another, better, place.

  3. Kim says

    We have a realtor we’ve been working with however we ended up on our own finding a home for sale by owner. Our realtor does’t know we’re ready to make an offer to the owner (she was on vacation when all this happened). What is our obligation to the realtor at this point or at least the right or etiquette thing to do?

    • Mel Morgan says

      Of course, every situation is different; here are my two cents. If I liked and trusted my Realtor, I would want to keep her involved. I would call the agent, and let her know that I found a For Sale By Owner that I’d like her to write up an offer for. I’d let her know whether I’d talked with the sellers about the possibility of them offering a commission to an agent. I’d ask if she’d be willing to facilitate a meeting between the sellers and myself when we present and negotiate our offer.

      Good luck!

  4. Tanya says

    Hi Mel! We were interested in a home approx. 2.5 hours from our home and my husband did a ton of research online first to line up which homes we were going to see and when since we had a considerable amount of driving to do with 3 young kids in tow and on one of the snowiest weekends ever (by poor luck) if I might add. My husband contacted the listing agent of 2 bank-owned homes to request access to the home and she agreed to meet us there. I must say, her “proffesionalism” from the start was lacking in my opinion. Regardless, we reviewed the two homes with her and proceeded to our other destinations later that day and into the next. We found an amazing buyer’s agent that we chose to work with after evaluation all of our options and when we went to put in the purchase agreement, the listing agent bad-mouthed my husband to our agent saying she expected that she was working both sides of the deal and if he wanted to put the offer in she was not planning to share one dime with him. She proceeded to send a nasty email to my husband strongly suggesting that the offer go through her directly if we had any serious intentions of buying the place. I find this type of bullying highly unprofessional and rude considering we never committed to using her as a buyer’s agent, and my husband knew more about the homes than she even did! What is the protocol here…we don’t want to leave our agent out of the deal but we also feel like she will hurt our chances of getting this home to spite us. (I will add, that my husband and I have already discussed giving our agent something out of our own pocket if the deal closes and she is as nasty as she threatens).

    Thank you in advance for any guidance!

  5. Rachel says

    Whats the acceptable response time from agents?
    During our search for homes it took our current agent 1-2 days to respond for a tour and such unless there was a time constraint on the home.
    Now we are in the middle of an offer. We submitted and offer, got a counter offer from the seller which the agent passed on to us after 6 or so hours of getting the counter offer. We decided to counter the counter offer, emailed yesterday night, and our agent isnt available to do the paperwork and submit it till late today evening.
    The market is tight with low inventory and multiple buyers. so time “is” of the essence. Of course being the buyer I am more prone to frustration during the wait:).
    Thanks in advance.

  6. Julie Allen says

    I’m seeling my home & working with a great realtor. Today we had a showing scheduled for 2p. First, the people drove past my house a bunch of times about 20 minutes early-ok no problem, They come to the door & I introduced myself & excused myself. These people were not in my house for even 30 seconds & only looked in the hallway. I only knew they were gone by the door banging. I understand perfectly there are always things you will like/dislike, but this bordered on rude. Their realtor did not introduce himself to me either. Then they all stood in my driveway talking about my house in derogartory terms. They knew I had windows open, but they didn’t seem to care. I know you’ll get all kinds coming through your door when you’re selling a property. But people, at least be polite to the homeowner! Walk through the property. If you don’t like it after you’ve seen all through it, no problem. And do not stand outside my window & trash-talk what means a lot to me, even if it doesn’t to you.

  7. awalls says

    how do you politely end a realtor/customer relationship? we viewed several homes with an agent but her “curbside manor” isn’t working for us, the agent is too opinionated, rude at times, & we feel pressured. we did not sign any agreement with them & just are not happy with the overall service. we plan to look for a homes that are about 50 miles away in another city, can we find another realtor in that area & if so how do we cut the cord with this agent?

  8. mara says

    Hello ! I would like to ask: Does anybody know If I should take my realtor to lunch? Or buy her something? Here is the reason: I am looking for a house near Detroit,with my husband. His company is relocating us.The company is paying for our hotel expenses, gas and even found this realtor! She showed us more than 10 houses in one weekend and did an outstanding job! She is perfect and refined, to the point that in less than 24 hours she found one that I like but since my husband disagrees and still wants to look some more (just to make sure); I fear that we end up loosing the house and wasting the agent’s time. Then we will have to search more. She spent time and gas with us. Should I thank her with a nice perfume? Also, is it common that companies also pay closing costs and the realtors commission? I wanted to ask her but I am afraid of being rude!Tks.

    • Bill Wilson says

      It’s certainly not necessary to do anything, but is very nice if you do. It is common for companies to pay an employees closing costs as a part of a transfer. Commissions are a sellers expense and are paid by them. If you relocate again after buying, it is common for the company to pay most if not all of your closing costs as a seller, including commissions. The Realtor will be paying a substantial referral fee to the relocation company upon a sale.

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