Customer Relationships: Questions Real Estate Agents Should Avoid Asking

By The Real Estate Book Staff

In your real estate training, you're always encouraged to ask clients lots of questions – and rightly so. Questions tell people that you're focused on their needs and interested in what they have to say.

What educators often fail to mention is that not all questions are good. Some don't say “I care about your needs”; they say “Let's close this sale quickly!” That's a turn-off for clients.

Here are a few of those red-flag questions:

1. "Do you have an agent?"

There are a lot of problems with this question. First, it's a closed-ended question. It asks for a “yes” or “no” answer. Those kinds of questions don't keep the conversation going. You want to ask questions that call for more in-depth responses.    

In this case, neither a “yes” or “no” answer is good for you. If they say yes, that means they probably don't need you. If they say no, you're stuck thinking of what to ask next, and it shouldn't be “Can I offer my services?” Not yet, anyway.

What to Say Instead

“What are you looking for in an agent?” 

“What do you need your agent to do for you?” 

Both of these open-ended questions put the client at the center of the conversation, while also affirming your commitment to service.

2. "Are you pre-approved for a mortgage?"

This weighty question can scare away even confident buyers. Imagine that the buyer has to say “no.” It's going to be tough to salvage that conversation, not to mention the buyer's self-esteem. Even a “yes” can be awkward; again, it leaves you both sitting there silently while you try to think of a follow-up question.

What to Say Instead 

“Tell me about your housing budget.”

It's technically not a question, but it's very open-ended. It also lets you determine how savvy the buyer is about home ownership. Do they know about property taxes? Utilities? Mortgage insurance? When you know how much they know, you can guide them more effectively.

3. "How did you find me?"

Questions like this imply that you're focused on growing your own business. That’s not a bad thing, but you don’t want to be too obvious about it. There'll be plenty of time later for you to ask for referrals or reviews. At the beginning of the process, it's better to keep your focus fully on the client.

What to Say Instead

“What's your home search process been like so far?” 

With this question, you'll get much more information than just how the client found you. You'll learn:

  • If they prefer to research online or in person 
  • What kind of homes they're looking at 
  • Why they're buying 
  • What their price range is 

All of this information will help you offer quality service and build strong customer relationships. 

  1. "Can I give you a call tomorrow/next week/on Tuesday?"
     
    You may have heard that a specific time frame makes people more open to follow-ups. That’s true, but there are better ways to phrase this. First of all, “Can I call?” encourages people to hesitate. Buyers are protective of their time, and you don't want to make it easier for them to say “no.”

You also don't want to rush the buyer. That's another great way to scare them away. Instead, gently direct their responses while giving them control over the process.

What to Say Instead

“How do you prefer to be contacted?” 

“What's a good time to reach you?” 

Both will give you the client's contact preferences and are less likely to get a “don't contact me” response. And don't run away if they don't answer your first call. It can take a couple of tries to reach a buyer!

The Takeaway

As a real estate agent, one of your most important tasks is building customer relationships. Any questions you ask should build a conversation, strengthen your connections, and communicate your commitment to service.

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