Why “Just Previewing” (Usually) Serves Sellers’ Interests

A Realtor showing is when a Realtor takes a prospective Buyer through a “For Sale” home.

No competing Sunday open house traffic, no busybody listing agent (representing the owner) present, and — perhaps most importantly — no owner around.

The convention is to set up the showing online anywhere from a few hours to a day or two beforehand, and to block out a one hour window (since Covid-19, 30 minutes is now standard in many markets).

“Preview,” Defined

So, what’s a Realtor preview?

When the client isn’t along.

As a courtesy to the homeowner, the convention is to allow them to stay put while the previewing Realtor takes a look.

That’s significant because the owner can forego the whole “lights-on-vacuum-clean-the-Kitchen-sink” fire drill (that’s only appropriate if the Realtor brings the client back).

Practically, previewing can also mean that an owner with a bunch of little kids doesn’t have to bundle them up and divert them at the mall for an hour-plus when it’s 10 below in Minnesota in January.

Previewing can be appropriate for many different reasons, but the three most common are:

One. Busy or out-of-town clients.

Especially with relocation Buyers who have perhaps a weekend to make a home choice (in a brand new city!), time is of the essence.

Rather than squander precious showing time on homes that aren’t “best of class” at any given price point, a good Realtor will preview as many as 20-25 homes in order to find 8-10 to show the client (that number allows time for second showings at the 2-3 finalists).

Two. Narrow(er) Buyer criteria.

Some clients have broad criteria, e.g., “any style, in the West “burbs, with around 2,500 FSF in good condition for between $300k and $400k.”

Some clients . . . don’t.

When clients are looking for a truly unique or hard-to-find property, it can save everyone time for the Realtor to preview, and determine if something is in fact billed as advertised on MLS.

“Water View” or “Water . . . Glimpse?”

For example, I recently previewed homes for a client who has a strong preference for a water view.

Out of 8 properties (so far) that checked “water view” on MLS . . . only 3 actually did (the others had what I’ll charitably call a “water glimpse”).

Amazingly, another property that had a water view neglected to market that fact.

Which leaves the third reason, and the one that most frequently irks Sellers, what I’ll call . . .

Three. Listing agent “due diligence.”

Yes, agents about to list (and price) a home want to see what their competition is — and how their client’s home stacks up against it.

Why should home sellers be OK with this?

Because, in a few weeks, when the listing agent hosts an open house, and a prospect passes on their listing, the agent may very well double-back to the home they previewed (and which may actually be a better fit for the Buyer).

Of course, for every home seller who’s disappointed to hear that an agent is “just previewing,” there’s also usually another agent — the one listing their home — who earlier previewed on their behalf in the course of doing a Comparative Market Analysis and preparing to list their home.

They just may not have emphasized that to their client.

Four. Curiosity/Rubbernecking.

So, what’s an improper motive to preview a home?

George Clooney and Oprah don’t have homes in the Twin Cities (at least as far as I know), but plenty of celebrities do.

The list includes Bob Dylan (actually, northwest of the Twin Cities), Garrison Keillor, and a bevy of Twins, Vikings, and Timber Wolves.

Of course, as the headquarters to a slew of Fortune 500 companies like Target, 3M, General Mills, and Medtronic, the Twin Cities has (more than) its share of marquee homes.

When such properties are for sale, you’d suppose that there’d be at least a few curious Realtors who’d want to check it out ” client or not.

It’s also the case that such homes are usually (way) out of the price range of most Buyers.

Which is why their owners (and listing agents) invariably screen — and financially pre-qualify — all prospective Buyers.

And frown on Realtor previews . . .

See also, “Real Housewives of the Twin Cities”; and “Is Andrew Wiggins Leaving the Timberwolves?.”

About the author

Ross Kaplan has 19+ years experience selling real estate all over the Twin Cities. He is also a 12-time consecutive "Super Real Estate Agent," as determined by Mpls. - St. Paul Magazine and Twin Cities Business Magazine. Prior to becoming a Realtor, Ross was an attorney (corporate law), CPA, and entrepreneur. He holds an economics degree from Stanford.

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