Real Estate Agency, and Why I Can't Help You

Yesterday afternoon, Daughter #2 informed me that she wasn’t feeling well. “You may have to stay home from school tomorrow,” I told her.

“Gosh. Thanks, Mom… since tomorrow is Sunday!” she retorted.

Ah, such is the life of a real estate agent. Days are days, just like our purchase agreement says. They all count, and time is of the essence.

Escrows, banks and title companies are open weekdays; our clients are generally open evenings and weekends. And as Steve waited anxiously Friday night, PDA in hand, for a contingency removal that was promised to us by midnight, we were reminded that we live by different rules.

I heard a rumor that the 478th Academy Awards will take place tonight. “Should we watch it?” asked my husband. And I am wondering what the point would be. The last movie I saw at the box office featured a size 8 Elizabeth Taylor. I’m a little behind, at least where pop culture is concerned, but, boy, can I talk a blue streak about HUD Mortgagee Letter 2009-46 B or the pros and cons of buying a home backing to the busy road.

And yesterday, while Daughter #2, convinced that she had contracted the Ebola virus, was entertaining herself by drafting her last will and testament and selecting the music to be played at services, I was taking a frantic call from a home buyer. A new listing had hit the market, and she wanted to see it “immediately.” I was aware of the listing — had already called one of my clients to give them the heads up, in fact — but I learned that this woman’s own agent was unavailable.

“We have an offer in on another property, and we need to make a decision today. I am out of town, and I just need someone to run over and take a video for me so I can see if this one is better before I commit,” she begged.

Now, I am all for pro bono work. We do it all the time, in fact. We advise people on ways to stay in their home when it is appropriate, we provide market analyses and “comps” for those wanting to appeal their property taxes, and we recommend renting versus buying when it makes more sense for our clients, thereby making any possibility of a paycheck go “poof.” But, this request was both a bit over the top and, more importantly, pushing the ethics envelope.

Our code of ethics includes language to the effect that we shalt not solicit the business of another agent’s client lest we get smited in mediation. In the case of a buyer, a bit of a gray area exists if no written buyer-broker agreement exists, yet most agents will take the safe bet and avoid discussions with a customer who has already established a relationship with another.

Typically, we think of agency being established when the agency disclosure is signed. The reality is that agency can be established by actions absent a written agency agreement. If an agent takes on responsibilities on one’s behalf that are typically associated with an agent’s duties, or if a customer asks for advice or actions associated with an agent’s duties, then an implied relationship can exist.

“Blah, blah, blah. Boring-ville,” you are thinking, and you are right. But there is a point. If you are working with an agent, whether or not they have written and submitted an offer on your behalf, whether or not they are on vacation when you need them, I have to back off. Which brings us back to the full-time, no rest for the weary, nature of this job. Whom you select to represent you is critical. They need to be available when you need their assistance; and they need to be responsive on your terms to the extent that reasonableness dictates. (Note: Insisting that we meet at 8:00 on a Friday night in the pouring down rain because you are planning to kick back all weekend with a cold one and don’t want to be inconvenienced with any stoopid listing agreements during the big game is not reasonable. And I am not suggesting this has ever happened to me.)

Prologue: It turned out that the woman who called was inquiring about a property for which I had been the listing agent the last time it sold, four years ago. What are the chances? So, as luck would have it, I still had twenty photos cozied up in my hard drive. In a moment of weakness, I sent them to her. If you are her agent, I promise I did not solicit her business. And when you return from your vacation revitalized, I wish you all the best in getting that offer accepted.

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