I write this article from a position of knowing the Real Estate Industry as a seller and as an Agent. I have worked as an Agent for over a decade now, both as the proprietor of my own little Agency and as an Agent within a few large property groups, including one that claims to sell more Real Estate internationally than anyone else. While I have, at best, always been an average Agent despite all the latest training techniques available, I have seen some Agents and Principals of Agencies that have puzzled me. Despite all the best training on how to approach sellers, buyers and their fellow Agents, they will still do their own annoying thing and thrive at it. I draw the conclusion that successful Estate Agents have an X-factor, a true belief in themselves and persistence that often has very little to do with diplomacy and technique.
I take some examples of Agents that I have had the ‘pleasure’ of working with. On one occasion I went to see a property with a middle-aged lady Agent who was making waves in her area like the top Agent. We all had magnetic stickers on our cars but there is this perception that the more permanent branding that you can place right across a perfectly good luxury vehicle, the more that you are perceived to be successful. Needless to say, she arrived in her branded status symbol that put my modest Hyundai to shame. As the owners of the house opened the front door she briefly greeted them, introduced me and then walked in as though floating on air and while waiving her jewellery laden hands she breezed into the lounge. She spoke loud enough to be able to scare a budgie off its perch and chase small animals and children from the room while she said “oh my goodness, what a wonderful view, blah, blah, blah… ” After proceeding through each room in a similar way, she abruptly told the owners to get rid of some of their clutter if they wanted to stand a chance of selling at all. Anyway, there is no accounting for people’s taste as a couple of days later she secured a three-month mandate to sell the property.
On another occasion, I worked with one of the principals of an Agency who insisted that we tele-canvass after 6 pm at least twice a week. While we sat at our desks calling homeowners, I noticed that this principle was drinking Vodka and orange juice which he poured in the corner next to his desk. After a while, he would end up slurring his words to the extent that he barely sounded coherent. One evening after managing to get a prospective client to go see, we set off immediately to see if we could get a mandate to sell his house. While standing in the open plan lounge of the seller’s luxury home talking to him and his wife, one could not help but notice the overbearing stench of liquor in the air. After a short while, the seller excused himself and stepped around the counter into his kitchen where he put something from the fridge into his mouth before coming back to join the conversation. I then realised that he had chewed on a neat clove of garlic in silent protest. Needless to say, this client did not use our services to sell his home.
Recently I saw greed from over-competitive Agents that caused bewilderment for both the buyer and seller of a property. We had a Sole Mandate to sell a property that was about to be placed on Sheriff’s Auction. Obviously the seller was under stress to sell as soon as possible and so I assured him as his Agent, that I would work with other agencies in the area if they had a buyer for his property, even though we were not an MLS Agency. I informed him that any offers for his house would have to be done via us and on our paperwork to avoid any commission disputes. We generated interest from our ads and after a while we had an Agent from another Real Estate group call us to ask if they could work with us and if they could bring their client to see the property. I called the Seller to inform him that we would be bringing the other Agent and her client to see his house.
The other Agent’s purchaser liked the house and wanted to submit an offer which the Agent promptly did on her own paperwork and without informing us, she went to the seller’s house directly to present this for his approval. The seller did not sign the Offer to Purchase but first called us to find out what he should do. I called the other agent and asked her what she as up to and despite the fact that we held the mandate she argued that they wanted to do the paperwork from their side but that they would cut us in for a 10% referral commission! My manager called her manager and there was a fall-out between our Agencies. In the meanwhile, the poor seller was stressing about needing to sell his house and the buyer was upset that she could not submit her offer. After some time the other Agency came to the party and agreed to a 50/50 commission split with us but still insisted on using their paperwork. To keep the peace and help the seller, we agreed.
Episodes like this where Agents and their principals do not adhere to the fair ‘Code of Conduct’ for the Real Estate Industry simply reflects poorly on Agents in general. When Agents contravene fair practice by overstepping the mark and encroaching on another Agency’s Mandate then this can place a naive seller at risk of a double commission dispute. For an Agent to knowingly place a seller under such risk is inexcusable.
The surprising thing is that these Agents are still going strong. What prompted me to write this article were the direct comments that I was faced with from sellers and buyers now and then as I worked as an Agent. Shortly after greeting you at the door, a seller would sometimes say “Thanks for coming to see me, I would like you to value the property but I must just tell you that I don’t really like Agents because the last one who sold us this place… “, and so upfront I was just another disliked Agent even though the seller did not know me. In such cases, it takes extra convincing before the seller will entrust you with the sale of their home. I had one extreme case where a very large lady and her daughter bought a house through me. She would say “Sorry, but I don’t like Agents” with such frequency that I began to get a complex. Here I was professionally and honestly doing my job and having to endure this! With both these clients, the problems that they experienced were related to bad service such as a failure of the Agent to take their calls after the paperwork was signed to bad legal advice that they had received. Often, on enquiring a bit further, I found that the fault that the clients found had nothing to do with the Agent but were sometimes related to a hold-up with the transfer from the Attorney’s side or an uncooperative seller or buyer.
Often a seller promises to do certain repairs as part of a sale but does not carry out this commitment until things get messy and ugly. Sometimes a buyer will move into a property that they adored at the time of signing the Offer to Purchase. If they take occupation of the property before it has been transferred into their name then they start to ‘nibble’ (i.e. want more value for their money). They become impossibly demanding and want every small flaw repaired before the property transfers, they frequently threaten to cancel the whole deal. In such cases, stress is caused by everyone but it is easy to point fingers at an Agent, even if they have limited control over such events.
The answer for a seller is for them to only work with an Agent who they like and trust upfront so that if things go a bit astray during the transfer process then it will be less stressful for the seller if they do not automatically perceive the problems to be caused by the Agent. Before listing your property get at least two or three of the more active agents in your area to visit you and tell you more about their services. Get any commitment to service such as the number of show days during the mandate period down in writing on the Mandate document.