They do want to talk to you! There’s two reasons why you often get asked this question.
One: Professional ethics. A good agent doesn’t want to “steal” another agent’s client. Realtors invest time and effort into their clients, and don’t want to interfere in another Realtor’s relationship with a client. If you decide the Realtor with whom you’ve been working isn’t right for you, talk to them and make sure you’ve ended the relationship or contract between you before beginning to work with another Realtor.
Two: Money! The Realtor is asking you if you are working with someone to find out if you are, in essence, offering earning potential, or if you’re asking for a “freebie”. Many clients either don’t realize that the only way an agent makes any money is when a sale closes. Everything they do for a buyer or seller until that closing is at their own cost. Essentially, agents work for free, hoping to close a sale so they can be rewarded for that hard work.
Many of the questions a buyer or seller ask take time and work to answer fully and well. If you ask to see a property, the agent has to schedule time for you. If you want to know if they have a listing that meets your needs, they have to do research and create a selection of several listings. If you ask for an estimate of your property’s worth, the agent must tour the property, research similar listings in the area to create a list of comparable listings and schedule time to present the estimate to you. No matter what the question, it takes time, expertise, and energy that cost real dollars and cents to answer.
Would you work for free? Maybe for a good cause, or a good friend, but on a regular basis for total strangers? Probably not.
Most real estate agents are either in business for themselves, or working entirely on commission. They work hard as listing agents to sell a property for the best price or as a buyer’s agent to find you just the right property in hope of closing the sale to get paid. Any buyer or seller can do the work themselves, but it’s a complicated, difficult, and time-consuming process, so most of us choose to work with an agent to make it easy and pleasant. That hard work and dedication is why an agent asks if you’re working with someone.
A Realtor asks that question because they want to be the agent to work with you!