In the same way that I’m sometimes asked if real estate agents can refuse to take you on as a client, another question I hear from time to time is whether a real estate agent can refuse to show a property. I’m usually asked by someone who is incredulous as being turned down when they requested a viewing.
So, Can a real estate agent refuse to show a property?
Yes, a real estate agent can refuse to show a property. The buyer’s agent can say no when their client asks to see a specific home. Meanwhile, the seller’s agent can turn down a request from a buyer, or their agent, to view a home, as well as turning down a request from the seller to show the property to a potential buyer.
This usually comes as a huge surprise to people. After all, surely, an agent wants to earn their commission by finding their buyer a home or selling their client’s property?
Can A Real Estate Agent Refuse To Show A Property?
We’ve established that, in principle, a real estate agent can refuse to show a home, but there’s more to this than just a simple “yes, they can refuse.” What you really need to know is why a real estate agent might refuse to show a property. When you know the why, you can establish whether or not their refusal is reasonable, ethical, and legal as well as what you can or cannot do about being turned down.
Why Would A Real Estate Agent Refuse To Show A Property?
The reasons why a real estate agent might refuse to show a property depend mainly on which side of the transaction they are working.
Why Might A Buyers Agent Refuse To Show A Property?
The primary reason why a buyer’s agent might refuse to show a property is that they have an issue with the commission on offer. This might be that the commission split on offer is unfavorable or that the total commission being offered by the seller will result in a minimal payment to the buyer’s agent.
Issues of this kind are becoming an increasingly frequent issue because of the rise of discount real estate brokerage and for sale by owner listings. Both of these property deal structures have a tendency to result in smaller commission payments.
What You Didn’t Know About How Real Estate Commissions Actually Work
It all comes down to how the commission is paid and split. It goes like this:
- A seller signs up with a sellers agent and agrees to pay a 1% commission.
- The house sells for $350,000, so the total commission amounts to $3,500.
- This $3,500 is then split between the brokerages on each side of the sale. Therefore, if they have agreed on a 50/50 split, the seller’s agent’s brokerage gets $1,750, and so too does the brokerage of the buyer’s agent.
- On each side, the $1,750 is further split between the broker, the broker’s office, and the real estate agent.
Consequently, the buyer’s agent, in this case, might end up being paid as little as $600 or less in commission, and things are even worse if the seller’s agent is offering less than 50% of the commission to the buyer’s agent.
Why This May Result In An Agent Refusing To Show A Property
A buyer may find their agent does not bother to share property listings that will result in a minimal payday and refuses to show them properties with unfavorable commissions.
Other Reasons A Buyers Agent Might Refuse To Show A Property
Not every buyer’s agent who refuses to show a property is doing so because of the commission. Other reasons for refusal include:
- The buyers are not qualified to buy the property. While an agent may be happy to show you around a home at the top end of your budget, they are likely to decline a request to view a home that is way past your upper price limit.
- There are issues with the property. Real estate agents often know more about a property that just what is written in the listing. If the agent feels strongly enough about it, they may refuse to show a buyer a property they know to have issues, especially if there is a problem over which the agent knows the seller will not budge.
- They won’t work with the seller or their agent. There are buyer’s agents who, for a variety of reasons, may refuse to work with a particular seller’s agent. In this case, they may refuse to show you a property represented by that person.
Why Might A Sellers Agent Refuse To Show A Property?
A seller’s agent may refuse to show a property for reasons connected to their client, the property, or the potential buyer.
If a seller’s agent is having issues with their client, they may refuse to show the property until those issues are resolved.
Sometimes a seller’s agent may temporarily refuse to show a property because repairs, general maintenance, etc. are needed.
The Potential Buyer
The most frequent reason for a sellers agent to refuse to show a property is to prevent wasting time and effort escorting unqualified buyers around a home. For this reason, many sellers agents now request a pre-approval from the buyer before agreeing to a showing.
Agents may also refuse to show a property if they feel there may be a safety issue. For example, a previously unknown, unrepresented buyer calling the office and asking to be shown a home.
Is It Legal For A Real Estate Agent To Refuse To Show A Property?
Whether or not the refusal of a real estate agent to show a property is legal or not depends on the reason for the refusal and the details of the contract they have with their client.
An agent who filters which properties they are willing to show their buyers according to the size of the commission available is potentially illegal, depending on contract wording. Still, it is definitely contrary to the National Realtors Association code of Ethics.
What Can You Do If An Agent Refuses To Show A Property?
If your request to view a property is turned down, the first thing you should do is ask why.
If The Buyer’s Agent Refuses To Show A Property
If it a buyers agent who is refusing to show a property because of commission or because they won’t work with a particular seller or agent, you can contact your state real estate board and ask if this is something they can deal with. In the meantime, you should probably consider finding another agent.
On the other hand, if the issue is around a problem with the property or your qualification to purchase the property, you can either accept the professional advice of your agent and move on, or consider another agent.
However, an agent who is willing and able to steer you away from making significant mistakes is much better to have on your side than an agent who will, in the pursuit of their commission, allow you to make mistakes.
If The Seller’s Agent Refuses To Show A Property
If you are the seller and your agent refuses to show your property, establish why and consider whether or not you are willing to fix the issue or move onto another agent.
For buyers who come up against a sellers agent who turns down your request for viewing, again ask for their reasons. Some agents do not excel at pro-actively sharing their reasoning.
For instance, I know of one person who was refused a viewing because they did not have a pre-approval letter. The potential buyer had not told the sellers agent that they were a cash buyer, and the agent didn’t explain the reason for the refusal.
A single sentence sorted out the issue, the buyer was shown around and ended up making the purchase.
An Issue Of Discrimination
If you believe that the refusal to show you a property is a result of discrimination, then you will need to carefully document your request and the reasons you were given for the refusal. You are then in a position to speak with a human rights lawyer about whether or not you have a strong enough case to go to court, should you wish to.
A real estate agent can refuse to show a property, but whether or not that refusal breaks any laws or professional guidelines, and whether or not you can do anything about it, will depend on the reason for the refusal.
About The Author
Geoff Southworth is the creator of RealEstateInfoGuide.com, the site that helps new homeowners, investors, and homeowners-to-be successfully navigate the complex world of property ownership. Geoff is a real estate investor of 8 years has had experience as a manager of a debt-free, private real estate equity fund, as well as a Registered Nurse in Emergency Trauma and Cardiac Cath Lab Care. As a result, he has developed a unique “people first, business second” approach to real estate.
This article has been reviewed by our editorial board and has been approved for publication in accordance with our editorial policy.