Real Estate Etiquette

Proper Way to Conduct Yourself When Buying or Selling Real Estate

Couple meeting with realtor
Noel Hendrickson / Getty Images

Have you ever bought or sold real estate and found yourself in the midst of unnecessary drama? The stressful process can take its toll on you emotionally if you let it. Not only that the stress can cause you to react in a way that can jeopardize the transaction.

Whether you are the seller or buyer of real estate, there are certain guidelines you should follow to keep the experience positive and prevent legal issues later. It may be your first time shopping for a home, but it’s not the first time you’ve had social interaction. If in doubt, rely on basic etiquette rules, but it’s always a good idea to brush up on what is expected during the process.

Looking for Real Estate

Know when to contact a real estate agent. If you have no idea what you are looking for, where you want to purchase, or the size you need, you should probably do some research before calling a realtor.

Their time is valuable, and they shouldn’t be in the position of having to teach you the very ground-floor basics. Check out the area based on your personal needs, determine what size and style of house you want, and get pre-approval from a lending institution to save time later. Having a letter with the amount you can afford will help in the negotiation process.

Once you have a good idea of general location, neighborhood, and size you need, start asking people you trust for the names of realtors who specialize in your specific situation. Some realtors stick to listings and sales in certain price ranges, while others prefer to work with first-time homebuyers. Have a lengthy discussion with real estate professionals to make sure you’re a good fit before you make a decision. Doing so can prevent a disaster later.

Some things to discuss with a real estate agent:

  • Find out how much time the agent puts into the job – whether it’s full-time or part-time.
  • Ask how much time he or she has to work with you. Most buyers prefer not to be pushed into purchasing something they are unsure about. If an agent isn’t willing to spend the time necessary to find a home that is a good fit, you need to move on to someone who will.
  • Discuss your preferred methods of communication. If you are someone who likes to hear a voice and have back-and-forth conversation, and your realtor prefers quick emails, you may not be a good fit.
  • Ask if the agent works alone or as part of a team.
  • Ask about real estate fees.
  • Ask about familiarity with your preferred neighborhood or general location.
  • Ask if the agent provides a comparative market analysis so you can check the values of homes in your preferred area.
  • Discuss your preference for going to open houses and housing showcases such as a parade of homes. Some realtors don’t mind if their clients go without them as long as they make it clear to the listing agent that they have representation.
  • If you don’t know much about the agent, you may ask for references. Just remember that the agent will probably only give you the names of people who have had good experiences.
  • Maintain a professional relationship with your realtor. Respect the fact that this is his or her livelihood.

Don't expect the realtor to break rules stated in her professional code of ethics, such as withholding information about a property you are trying to sell. If she does so, she could lose her license. 

When house hunting, show respect for the property. Show up at the agreed-upon time. While in the house, you are expected to open bathroom doors, closets, and cabinets, but you should never inspect personal property such as dressers or nightstands.

It’s best to leave children at home with a sitter, but if that isn’t an option, never let them touch anything in a home you are looking at. Have a long talk with them before you look at a house and make sure they remember proper manners. Keep a close eye on your children at all times.


Be honest with your real estate agent. If you don’t tell your realtor the truth, you won’t get the best service. If you love a house, tell the agent what you like about it. If you can’t get past the first room, let the realtor know. This will help him or her to select a better property to show you next time.

If you are selling your house, expect honesty from your agent. She may tell you that the personal items need to come off the wall so prospective buyers can see themselves in the home. Don’t be offended. She is only trying to help market your property so you can have the fastest sale possible for the highest amount of money.

If you visit an open house or parade of homes on your own, make sure the listing agent knows you are already working with someone. Put your realtor’s name on the sign-in sheet so the host has contact information for follow-up.

Respect Time

Time is something most people don’t have enough of, and that includes real estate agents. Don’t call at all times of night and day with every little detail you can think of. Everyone needs a certain amount of personal space.

For anything that isn’t urgent, jot down your thoughts and ask your agent when would be the best time to call. Remember that your agent has to make a living, so he probably has other clients who need his attention. Respect that.

It is your right to interview real estate agents before agreeing to work with one. However, you are showing disrespect and bad etiquette if you ask an agent to do some legwork and then choose another agent. The one who has done the work has a right to be upset because you just cost him or her time and money.

Making an Offer

Real estate markets are like rollercoasters with so much up-and-down movement they can make you dizzy. If you like a property enough to make an offer, do so in a timely manner. Your agent will present this to the listing agent who in turn will show his or her client. Don’t expect to hear back immediately. Give the seller the full amount of time listed in the contract before asking your agent to follow up.

If you are the seller, show the same respect. When presented with an offer, be aware of the amount of time you are given to accept it. If you need more time, request it in writing. No one owes you more than what is agreed to in the contract.

After you have found a house, made an offer, closed, and moved, send your realtor a thank you note. Yes, he or she received commission, but seeing your personal appreciation in writing can leave a lasting impression.