Dear Monty: We went to look at a home that was for sale by the owner. When we arrived, the owner greeted us at the door and asked to see my driver’s license. I was surprised, but I complied.
My wife and I are wondering if this practice is something new. We saw a home earlier with an agent, and a driver’s license did not come up. We bought the house.
Why would a seller ask to see our driver’s license when the real estate agent did not?
Monty: In many areas of the United States, the real estate industry requires a driver’s license before a home showing. The practice began years ago in the real estate agent community primarily due to agents being robbed, assaulted and in several cases, murdered.
Criminals committed these crimes in vacant, isolated homes, putting the real estate industry on high alert. The sector developed several safeguards to protect agents from harm, and the driver’s license requirement is one such protection.
There are many areas where an agent does not request a driver’s license, sometimes even in areas where a driver’s license requirement is the norm.
Some real estate agents have acquired concealed carry permits if they are legally required, and others have armed themselves. The percentage of agents who carry a weapon may never be known.
Many businesses and government agencies require us to present identification to do business, so requiring identification to view a home is not unique. Banks, liquor stores, hunting licenses, gun shops and others require photo IDs.
The practice has spread outside the real estate industry to the growing number of home sellers selling without an agent as they mimic agent tactics.
Reasons for Requiring Photo ID
» Owner safety: Most homeowners rarely sell a home, so strangers coming into their homes are rare. A photo ID helps relieve any fear they may be feeling. Click here for a link to a previous Dear Monty column on ways to improve safety.
» An owner sometimes does not want certain people looking at the house for various reasons. A photo ID is proof of identity.
» In the rare chance of something being broken or missing, a photo ID makes people easier to find.
» Buyers sometimes use a false name for several reasons. They may not want contact if an agent is involved. The buyer may also not want anyone to know they are looking. Agents do not share their customers’ names, but home sellers have no reason not to share who looked at the house.
A Prospect’s Choices
Having read this article, you now understand why a home seller may want to see your ID. I believe showing the seller a photo ID demonstrates willingness and raises the seller’s trust level. Not respecting their wishes may elevate distrust or result in a no-look.
In any business circumstance, trust helps bring two parties together. It takes time to build trust — usually through one’s actions.
» A prospect may comply and view the home — a win/win resolution.
» A prospect may be turned away by refusing — a lose/lose situation.
» If a prospect is reluctant to offer an ID, a third outcome is to provide a reason not to share your ID with the seller they would find acceptable. In a sense, a counteroffer.
— Richard Montgomery is the author of House Money: An Insider’s Secrets to Saving Thousands When You Buy or Sell a Home. He advocates industry reform and offers readers unbiased real estate advice. Click here to ask him a question at DearMonty.com, or follow him on Twitter at @dearmonty. Click here for previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.