This last weekend I went to a family gathering with my wife's family. One of her relatives that I hadn't seen in a while was there and mentioned they were most likely going to sell their current home and move this next summer. I asked them where they were thinking they'd like to live and he mentioned they'd been looking at a beautiful new community called Seven Bridges in Platte City, MO.
Realizing that the Fall Homes Tour was going on just last month, I assumed that they'd been browsing around at different communities and simply looking at homes. "Actually" he said, "We've been out there two times and have chosen two homes we really like".
Knowing that they may have already spoken to the listing agents one too many times, I asked them if they'd ever thought to give me a call so I could go out there with them (since I'm 100% sure they would want me to represent them) and he said to me, "Well we were just looking at the homes and didn't want to bother you yet. We certainly would call you when we're ready to start negotiations in the Spring".
I asked him if he'd ever heard the term "procuring cause", but of course that's a real estate term that the general public wouldn't know about. I explained to both of them, "Procuring Cause is a real estate term that basically means 'the uninterrupted series of causal events which results in the successful transaction.' Of course I realize that's not the NAR official statement, but I read it somewhere and thought it was a little more basic terminology.
I explained a little further by telling them, "You have been out to this community twice, you've probably spoken with the listing agent both times, and she's most likely learned a little more about you and directed you in some way. If you've signed in during an open house tour, called a real estate agent for information about a property listing, toured one or more homes with one or more salesperson's, or provided your e-mail address over the Internet to receive property listing updates, you enter a gray area that may cause me to be left out of this transaction and not able to properly represent you.
This is a very typical situation that we deal with in real estate and since I am both a listing agent and a buyers agent, I can certainly sympathize with both sides of the debate. My client didn't realize that what they were doing might be a risk to their future opportunity to be represented by the agent of their choice.
Now that I've explained this to them they've agreed that it might be in their future best interest to call me the next time they decide to go look at more homes, even if they're "just looking".