Photo Credit / Dan Zen

Q.  I'm just starting to look for an apartment and going to a lot of open houses. I'm not working with any particular agent yet and would rather not put down my personal information on a sign-in sheet and risk being bothered by a bunch of random brokers. 

Do I have to sign in? What about putting down a fake name--any potential consequences I should know about?

A.  You're certainly not alone in your reluctance to sign in, say our experts.

"I know people are concerned that an agent will call who may bug them by trying to engage them and also hope to sell them something else," says real estate broker Deanna Kory of the Corcoran Group.  

However, she notes, "for me, the more important reason is to get feedback on the property from the buyer/looker. This is part of an agent's job. Sellers always want to know people's reactions after an open house. And because it is a service to sellers and buyers alike for an agent to hold an open house, it would be quite considerate to provide constructive feedback."

While you won't be escorted out the door if you refuse to sign in, you may start out on the wrong foot if you wind up wanting to make an offer on the place, particularly if your refusal is defensive or defiant.

Similarly, putting down fake contact information could come back to haunt you.

"What happens if you actually end up liking that apartment and want to try to proceed with it?" says New York City closing attorney Adam Stone of Regosin, Edwards, Stone & Feder.

"If it comes out that you were playing games right off the bat," he says, "a seller or broker may not want to do business with you. A better idea may be to start a new Gmail account to give out specifically at these open houses. Then you can sift through any follow up emails at your leisure without disturbing your regular email inbox."

As a courtesy to the agent and the seller, suggests Kory, if you are adamantly opposed to signing in, see if you can get the agent alone and out of earshot of other buyers and give some constructive feedback prior to leaving.

"That will cover most agents' concerns and allow us to give sellers what they need to be proactive in the marketplace," she says.


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Ask an Expert puts your toughest NYC real estate questions to the experts