When you visit a public open house and an agent asks you to sign the "sign-in sheet" what should you say? What should you write down? What are the rules for who can represent you if you decide that the Open House is, in fact, your future Dream House?
Many times the agent holding the open house states the seller is requiring a list of everyone who walked through the house as a measurement of interest and to get feedback on the price and condition of the property. Some agents state that their company policy, brokerage and/or seller require the list of visitors for security reasons in case something ends up missing from the house.
While these are legitimate reasons, if you have ever provided your real contact information at an open house, you have probably experienced being contacted for something other than the explained reason. Most likely you were solicited to see if you wanted an agent to show you a different house or if you needed pre-approved for a mortgage.
In defense of the agent at the open house agent, when an agent shows a potential buyer a home, the first thing they should ask is whether the visitor is working with another real estate agent. Here are legitimate examples of ways a potential buyer may answer that question:
"No, we’re not working with an agent at this time, but when we’re ready to buy a home, we’ll find a buyer’s agent to represent us."
"Yes, we’re working with an agent. Would you like his/her contact information?"
"No, we don’t have an agent. Would you consider representing us?"
Agents ask the question to establish an agency relationship. If you are working with an agent, and state so, the agent should gracefully let it go. A real estate agent’s loyalties and responsibilities change depending on who the agent is talking to. That agent at the house has a responsibility to the seller unless a buyer's agency relationship is established with a potential buyer. Here’s a quick summary of roles an agent can play in any one transaction.
If there is not an open conversation about agent relationship or representation and you do end up buying that particular home through a different agent, it could lead to a possible "procuring cause" claim made by the agent who showed you the home. When you ask an agent to show you a house, unless you tell them otherwise - the agent will most likely assume you will write the offer with him or her.
You may believe it is unreasonable or unfair for the agent to just "assume" you will be using him or her, but you must keep in mind the human element of a salesperson. The agent most likely is not getting much (if anything) for the time he or she is spending to show the house and or conduct the open house. The attractiveness to that agent of possibly receiving the buying side of the commission is financially appealing. This is in addition to the listing side of the commission too if he or she is the listing agent.
Ultimately, having a buyer’s agent show you homes will insure your interests are represented and protected. Otherwise, keep in mind that when you speak to an agent at an open house, call an agent for information from a advertisement or ask an agent to show you a home, you might be opening a can of worms for yourself if you don't intend to buy a home through any of these agents.