Buyers and Sellers – Plug your ears (or, rather, close your eyes); we are talking about you. Ardell at the Rain City Guide is at it again with her recent post on how to pick a client, directed toward real estate agents of course. Let me preface my remarks by saying that Ardell continues to be my blogging hero in that her comments are almost always inciteful, thought-provoking and likely to incite riots. 🙂 This most recent post, however, had me taking exception, if not to the “spirit” of the message then to the overall tone and premise.
Ardell explained that her ideal business plan as a real estate agent involved working with only a few clients at a time and only clients with “good hearts”. She justified this by doing the math on what number of clients would produce an acceptable income level. I do not disagree that life would be rosier if all of our clients were of like mind, with values, personalities and ethics most in line with our own. However, I find this mindset not only impractical (and not from a money-making standpoint), but perhaps irresponsible. Let me explain.
First, I do not profess to be the perfect judge of “character” upon meeting potential clients for the first time. We all know that colors can change dramatically when the going gets tough. A good, healthy relationship built on professed mutual respect and shared goals and ideals can go south quickly when a transaction takes longer or becomes more difficult, or when it becomes clear that an adjusting market is not going to allow price expectations to be met. I have seen “good hearted” people turn on agents in a nanosecond under these circumstances. Second, what a buyer or seller says is not always what they mean. Many, many times, I am afraid, we have been assured by the seller, for instance, that they understand the market for their home is $x only to find out after months of costly marketing that they have no intention of selling for a penny less than $x plus a gazillion. Third, I find it dangerous for an agent to put themselves in a position of judging character and accepting or rejecting a relationship on these potentially flawed judgements. Even assuming I am correct in my initial assessment that a potential client lacks goodness, does that mean they are not entitled to my (superior, if I do say so myself :)) representation? And assuming that the good-hearted agents can filter out the bad-hearted buyers and sellers with 100% certainty, is it fair to leave the others to work with the agents of lesser caliber/moral decency? We are in a service industry, like the guy who owns the local muffler shop. If only good-hearted people got new mufflers, where would that leave us? (In a pretty noisy neighborhood, I think). Finally, I take offense that the decision to filter clients should be earnings driven. We all know the adage, “Work like you don’t have to; the money will follow”. Most successful agents will agree that they share one thing in common; they love this business and are ever respectful of the impact they have on the lives of the people who choose to work with them. They do not see their clients as dollar signs, but as consumers who need assistance with a very complex, emotional transaction.
Having said that, I confess that we have on several occassions chosen not to work with a seller, generally due to unrealistic price expectations; if a client would be better served by another agent, we are not afraid to say so. We have also “fired” a couple of clients over the years when it became clear that they were not truly serious about selling or purchasing. Many, many more times, however, we have successfully closed transactions with people with whom we might not choose to socialize on weekends. People are different, and this is a people business. Different does not always equate to bad, and as professionals, agents should be able to divorce their emotions from the process. I consider this “professionalism” and, without it, all agents would be created equal (which they aren’t).
P.S. Continuing my Zillow watch, some good news this morning! The value of my home is up $10,000. Yippee!