Calling a Seller Directly About a Home Listed by an Agent

A woman calling the seller of a home and not the agent
Photo: Noel Hendrickson / Getty Images

It's not unusual for homebuyers to sometimes think the world of real estate would be a whole lot easier if only sellers and buyers could just sit down together and discuss an offer. There are a lot of reasons to hire real estate agents. It is also entirely possible you could alienate the seller if you try to bypass the listing agent and call the seller directly.

Key Takeaways

  • By bypassing the agents and contacting the seller directly, you risk alienating or upsetting the seller.
  • Sellers often feel uncomfortable talking about the terms of an offer, and they may be unwilling to bypass their agent, because they believe that their agent knows more about real estate.
  • If you feel your agent is incapable of representing you to the extent that you feel a need to bypass them, you should probably hire a different agent.

Why Sellers Feel Uncomfortable

While sellers may feel comfortable showing you around their home and talking about their home improvement projects, most do not want to discuss terms of an offer directly with a buyer. If they wanted to sell as an FSBO, they would not have hired an agent. If you call the seller, you take the risk of alienation.

Not only do sellers tend to feel uncomfortable talking about the terms of an offer, but they also don't want to bypass their agent because they believe their agent knows more about real estate than they do. They trust their listing agent. A real estate agent offers a seller knowledge, experience, and a fiduciary relationship.

The Role of an Agent

An agent acts as a buffer between the parties because, let's face it, a buyer's goal is probably to buy that home for the lowest price possible, and the seller's goal is to sell that home for the highest price possible. Those are opposite goals. The seller could view your position as adversarial, and if you try to call the seller, you could solidify that viewpoint.

A buyer chooses a buyer's agent to represent their best interests. Even though the seller ends up paying the buyer's agent via a commission split, the buyer's agent is still responsible only to the buyer. It is the buyer's agent's job to present your offer to the listing agent. If you'd like your agent to present your offer directly to the seller, your agent can ask the listing agent for permission to do so. In those situations, though, the listing agent is still usually present with the seller.

The Dangers of Bypassing an Agent to Call the Seller

If you feel your buyer's agent is incapable of representing you to the extent that you feel a need to bypass the agent, you should probably hire a different agent.

A few years ago, a buyer wanted to buy a Colonial in Midtown Sacramento. They felt that the listing agent did not want them to buy the home, for unknown reasons. The buyer believed that the listing agent might have drawn a counteroffer and asked the seller to sign the counteroffer without explaining the ramifications to the seller.

The buyer went to the seller's house, knocked on her door and expressed his concerns. The seller was polite but distant. After the buyer left, the seller called their agent to complain. That made the listing agent upset. The listing agent was uncooperative from that point forward, and the buyer did not buy that home.

Breaking Protocol to Bypass the Listing Agent

In another transaction, a listing agent explained to a buyer's agent what the buyer needed to do to buy a short sale. The buyer did not believe their agent and fired the agent. Then the buyer went directly to the seller.

The buyer was a younger man and the seller was an older, single woman. The seller interpreted the buyer's exaggerated excitement for aggression, and she relayed her fears to her listing agent, who, in turn, contacted the buyer's agent.

The buyer asked whether he could work directly with the listing agent. By that time, his tactics had alienated everybody involved, including the listing agent. The buyer sabotaged his own transaction. In the end, nobody wanted to work with him, much less sell the home to him.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can the buyer's agent contact the seller directly?

Ethics rules established by the National Association of Realtors require agents to contact other agents. It would be unethical for a buyer's agent to directly contact a seller. The only exceptions are when the seller initiated the contact or when the buyer's agent sought permission from the seller's agent.

How much commission does a buyer's agent charge?

Commission structures vary, and they are negotiable, so it's difficult to determine an average. The seller sometimes pays the buyer's commission, the buyer sometimes pays it, and other times, the two parties split the costs. On average, real estate agents earn about $60,000 per year, and most of that income comes from commissions.

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The Balance uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. California Association of Realtors. "Quick Guide: Offer Presentation."

  2. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Real Estate Brokers and Sales Agents: Pay."

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