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Best of 2015: Screening Prospects Before a Showing

December 21 2015

There's just 10 publishing days left in 2015, and we're continuing an annual traditionannual tradition of counting down our top 10 articles of the year. The following article is part of a 12-part series on Realtor safety that originally ran back in September. It's #10 in our countdown:


question mark faces 1"Always bring someone on an appointment." Nice idea, but unrealistic. When something is ALWAYS important then it becomes NEVER important. However, understanding how to evaluate the prospect, property, and circumstances is the first step in assessing the overall risk of an appointment so you can make better decisions about your safety and the safety of your colleagues.

Evaluating a Prospect

Evaluating a prospect in your initial conversation is easily done with a sales technique you are probably already using – Active Listening. Simply put, Active Listening is a conversational style that allows you to gain the trust of the prospect and gets them to provide additional information. In addition to allowing you to gain a deeper understanding of a legitimate prospect's needs and wants, it also allows you to uncover inconsistencies and red flags if a prospect is not legitimate.

Let's take a look at an excerpt from an initial phone conversation:

Prospect: I saw this house online and I'd like to see it.

Agent: OK, what about the house appealed to you?

Prospect: I just liked it.

The prospect's answer should serve as a red flag. If someone liked a house enough to take the time to see it, there should be at least one specific thing that was attractive to him/her.

Agent: OK, I like to make sure I can answer any questions you may have during the showing. Is there anything about the house or neighborhood that's important for you to know?

Prospect: Not really.

Once again, the prospect's inability to specifically answer reasonable questions should act as a red flag.

Agent: That's easy then, I know you found the house online; how did you locate me?

Prospect: Online, the same site as the house.

Agent: Great, it's nice to know that I'm getting some attention. Sometimes it's difficult to evaluate what sites are getting my name out there. What site did you find me on?


In this part of the conversation, there are no red flags until the agent compares it with information only she would know; for instance, whether or not she pays to promote her alongside properties in that zip code. If she doesn't, then that's an obvious red flag.

Agent: I understand that also recommends mortgage providers. Have you already been pre-qualified?

Prospect: Yes.

Agent: Great, who have you been working with? (You may even tell them it's because as a matter of policy you need to have the pre-approval paperwork)

Prospect: I can't remember.

Obviously, not being able to remember the name of the company or individual that pre-qualified him/her would be a red flag. Notice that each question built on some aspect of the prospect's answer to the previous question, sending the clear signal that you are listening to what the prospect has been saying, which is the first step in building trustbuilding trust.

Remember to be fluid in you conversation, not mechanical; don't turn it into an interrogation. The primary reason for this is that the vast majority of prospects are legitimate and you don't want to scare those off. This fluidity can be seen in the following:

Prospect: I found this house online and I'd like to see it.

Agent: OK, what about the house appealed to you?

Prospect: I've seen other houses in the neighborhood and wasn't thrilled, but I liked the looks of this house.

Agent: Sounds like you've been putting some time into this. Have you seen those houses with other agents?

As you can see, the agent adjusted her line of questioning based on the prospect's response, and followed up with a question that was relevant but would still obtain important information for a legitimate sale, as well as possibly uncovering red flags.

The above conversation was kept short for time consideration. However, in a real situation, if the prospect was a threat, he would often be more talkative and inquisitive, because he would be trying to increase your comfort level and obtain information he could use, thereby making you an easier target.

Read the next article in this series now: Evaluating a Property and Neighborhood

Read More Articles in this Series

September is Realtor® Safety Month. Throughout the month, RE Technology will be publishing excerpts from an educational course on Realtor Safety in partnership with safety app creator Real Safe Agent. Here's the list of articles that have been published to date:

Please consider sharing this important information with your colleagues, your agents (brokers), and membership (MLSs and associations)!