Interviewing Multiple Agents? Be Careful What Information You Share

You're ready to list your home.  Although a particular agent was highly recommended to you by a trustworthy friend, you've decided to interview them as well as 2 other agents so you can compare their marketing plans and how much they feel your home is worth.  

This is a good idea, if you have the time, but there are a few things you need to be careful of during this preliminary question and answer process . . . things that can negatively affect your bargaining position later when your home is marketed.

Some information about your home is public and can be found by researching the county auditor's website, such as the names of the owners, how much your taxes are and if they are paid up, how much you paid when you purchased the property, deed transfers, possibly mortgage information, as well as other details about your property. If you have received certain kinds of default notices from your lender, those may also be public, but not always.

However, there are certain things that are private and if known by a buyer may affect the price and terms they offer.  Things like you're planning to separate and/or divorce, you may be heading for a foreclosure situation, or you must relocate because of a job and need to move quickly. Any private information about your current or future family situation, or a financial or personal urgency that may make you a 'very motivated' seller, should NOT be shared with the agents you're interviewing.

Why?  Because, unless you sign a Listing Agreement and hire them to represent you, they are under no obligation to keep your information private.  The agents that you interview but do not hire, can share anything that you talked about in your interview with future buyer/clients.  You can see how certain private information about your situation, if shared, may negatively affect future negotiations with a buyer.

For an explanation of how real estate agents work with buyers and sellers in New Jersey, and who they represent in different situations, here is a link to the Consumer Information Statement on New Jersey Real Estate Relationships.

Your goal when initially interviewing agents should be to learn what services they can provide, their depth of experience, and whether they are someone you trust and would enjoy working with on the sale.  They should be able to provide you with accurate up-to-date information about your marketplace and be able to accurately estimate what your home is worth through a “CMA” (Comparative Market Analysis). 

Once you’ve selected an agent, then only tell that agent your personal information and motivations. The agent you hire to represent you has legal obligations, called fiduciary duties, that they owe to you, the seller.  These include reasonable care, undivided loyalty, confidentiality and full disclosure. Your agent has a duty to keep your sensitive information confidential, and cannot share information that may be of disadvantage to you.  

If you have questions about the agency relationships in New Jersey, or about listing your home, please Contact Us.  We have been helping sellers and buyers in Central Jersey for nearly 30 years, and we would be happy to help you too.