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Buyer's Agent Must Let Buyers Make the Decisions

Dear Marie: As a buyer’s agent, isn’t it my obligation to advise buyers on what they should do or not do? I think that it is silly for buyers to pay for a lead-based paint inspection, for example. They may lose out on a house that they really like, and for what?

One of the common misconceptions is that an agent working for the buyer should actually make decisions for the buyer. According to Paul Locke, of the Environmental Law Institute, "real estate licensees often get into trouble when they make decisions that are not theirs to make." As we point out in the Certified Buyer Representative (CBR) course, the person who has the knowledge should direct the action, but the person with the stake in the matter should make the decision.

Agents working for buyers should:

  • be aware of all of the issues that a buyer should consider before entering into a contract
  • bring these issues to the buyers’ attention
  • stand back to let the buyer make the final decision.

One of the most effective tools for accomplishing this is the seller disclosure form.

The buyer’s agent can show the buyer a sample seller disclosure form before showing any homes. The agent can say, “Here is the form that is commonly used in our area. Please review each of these items carefully. If there is anything on the form that is especially important to you, then start to make plans to call for additional information.”

After reading through the disclosure, the buyer may request additional information such as the following:

  • asking the seller if anyone has died in the property in the last ___ months
  • requesting receipts and warranties for any repair done in the last ___ months
  • crime statistics for the area
  • location of registered sex offenders.

In the offer to purchase, the buyer can ask the seller for more information re: deaths and receipts. The agent can direct the buyer to the local law enforcement agency to compile crime statistical information. However, ultimately, the buyers must make decisions themselves.

Licensees should avoid imposing their beliefs onto their clients. A really useful response to learn to use is “That is not a decision that I can make for you because I don’t have to live with the consequences.” In other words, the licensee’s child is not going to get sick from ingesting lead-based paint although the buyer’s child might. The licensee is not going to live in this neighborhood.  


Marie S. Spodek, DREI, GRI is a highly regarded real estate educator and author. Her seminars have been attended by thousands throughout the U.S.

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