Your home is for sale; real estate agents will make appointments to show to their clients. Just what are their responsibilities when in your home?
Today, I had an agent leave a home unlocked -- and email me about it after they'd already been gone from the house for 20 minutes (I didn't know this until I called him to try to help him be "creative" and get the house secured before leaving, which is when he told me that he'd left 20 minutes ago). If you're wondering, this is NOT acceptable behavior for a real estate agent.
And then (to quote Carrie Bradshaw), I got to thinking: do consumers really know an agent's responsibilities when that agent is showing a home? Vacant or not, a home is usually that owner's largest asset (or one of them), and Respect for Property is one of the three pillars in the REALTORS®Pathways to Professionalism.
When we list a home for sale, we spend a good amount of time explaining the showing process to our sellers. Whether the homeowner occupies the home or it's vacant, the safety and security of the home (and the owner's belongings) is a top concern -- not just for the owner, but for us, too.
So just what are the Showing Agent's responsibilities when showing your home?
Secure the home when the showing is finished. Even though this happens at the end of the showing, it's first on my list. Real Estate 101: you lock the house as you're leaving, and you check all of the doors that you and/or your buyers might have opened during the duration of the showing. It's likely, when you list your home, that your agent will put a lockbox at the door, and inside will be a key that the Showing Agents can access (here in Georgia, it's most often via a bluetooth-enabled, secure lockbox from Supra, and only licensed real estate agents with an active lockbox key can access the key -- it's very secure). What happens if, for some reason, the agent cannot lock the front door? There are a number of options: exiting through another door for which they can lock the handle, exiting through the garage, etc. Any of these options should also include a call to your Listing Agent to alert them to an issue with the key in the lockbox.
Enter a home only with a confirmed appointment. Entering a property without a confirmed appointment -- or without verifying that the Listing Agent has noted in the listing that a formal appointment is not needed -- is trespassing, plain and simple. I treat every listing -- vacant or occupied -- as appointment-only; in other words, if the property is my listing, the showing instructions will explicitly require an appointment for every person who enters, which includes home inspectors and appraisers.
Never allow a buyer to enter a property unaccompanied or to explore a property without supervision. In other words, the agent is responsible for accompanying their clients through the property. The most egregious violation of this happened to me once on a rental listing, when the Showing Agent took the key out of the lockbox, hid it under the mat for her client, and told her client to "lock up when you leave" -- all because the agent was running late for her hair appointment (I believe that agent is no longer allowed to practice real estate in Georgia). Bottom line: your job is to be there with your client and supervise the showing, period.
Speaking of supervision: children should be supervised if they are along for the showing. Parents can be easily distracted during showings, but their agent knows to keep an eye on ALL of the people who are along for the showing. Being in someone else's house can be exciting, but that doesn't mean that small hands should be touching things that aren't theirs. This includes toys. If you have children or grandchildren and you have their toys in your home, it's not okay for the children of potential buyers to treat those things as theirs, and the Showing Agent knows this.
Never allow a buyer to bring their pet into the home. Unfortunately, this happens all too often (way more than you'd think). If a buyer brings their dog along to showings, they need to be prepared to have someone who is with them stay in the (air-conditioned) car with the dog or walk the dog outside (keeping in mind, they need to pick up after the dog, too). And this "someone" cannot be their agent, because as we've already covered, the agent should be supervising the showing.
Never allow a buyer to bring food and drink into the home. Also: never allow a buyer to smoke in a home or dispose of their trash in a home. Common sense? Should be. Do I see it happen? All the time.
Never track dirt, mud, water, leaves, etc. into the home...and clean up after yourself if you do. Take off shoes when it's wet and/or muddy or when requested by the seller (as there are many shoe-free households). If you do track in wet footprints, clean them up.
Leave the property as you found it. Were the lights on? Leave them on. Were the drapes or blinds closed? Close them again if you opened them to see the natural light. Unless otherwise instructed, agents should leave the property as they found it, unless...
If there is something amiss, call the Listing Agent immediately. If there is evidence of a break-in or vandalism, if you smell a gas leak or see a water leak, if something isn't right, the Showing Agent should call the Listing Agent immediately. It may turn out to be nothing, but "see something, say something" is always a good policy!