"You Hate Me, Don't You?"

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Of course not. I just question the choices you are making. 

On the heels of the “hard-hitting” report presented by 60 Minutes this past Sunday, there has been renewed on-line chatter about alternative real estate business models. I am dangerously close to tiring of the subject, but before I move on to more worthy topics, I want to  fulfill my promise of last week to revisit our recent encounter with the customer of one of these rebate brokers.

I am not bringing this up as an argument for or against, this is not a rant, and I am all for the consumer’s right to choices and to chose. I bring it up because we found ourselves in a bit of a conundrum this past week, and I am sincerely interested in hearing opinions from other agents, but mostly from sellers on how to address these situations in the future.

I am considering writing an offer…

By way of background, I received a call over a week ago concerning one of our new listings.  It was a Sunday evening.

Him: My wife and I are considering making an offer on (the home). In retrospect, and I am embarrassed to say, much later, I recognized this as an actual line from the Redfin script.
Me: Have you seen the home?
Him: I saw it when it was the model. It was indeed a former model for the builder.
Me: I would be happy to schedule a time for you to see the home. Are you working with an agent?
Him: I will be using Buyside Realty.
Me: That’s fine. You should know that another agent called this afternoon and said he would be submitting an offer for his client tomorrow. When would you be available to see the home?
Him: I am busy this week. Maybe next weekend. We will submit an offer in the next day or two. We will probably make it contingent on seeing the home later.

The eagle’s in the nest…

The following day, I do indeed receive an offer from the other agent. As our client’s fiduciary, I feel it is my obligation to pursue every lead on their behalf. I leave a courtesy message for Buyside Guy, and I suggest to the seller that we delay responding for a day until we have given him an opportunity to submit his own offer.

A full two days later, I receive a return call.

Him: We spoke on Sunday about (the home).
Me: Yes, that is why I called you. We received the expected offer on the home and are in counter offer.
Him: (An aside, to his wife, “Oh, they have an offer and are in counter offer”). We would like to see the house, but I am very busy this week. I can only see it tonight.
Me: I have an appointment (across town, during what is now rush hour). How about tomorrow?
Him: I can only see it tonight. Now.
Him: You hate me, don’t you?

So, here is the conundrum. Showing another agent’s client was not, strictly speaking, my job as the listing agent, but I was willing and even happy to do it. Yet, the other agent’s client was now dictating the terms of the showing and had me over a barrel. I could drop everything, rearrange my schedule and accommodate him, or I could say that I wasn’t available (which was the truth). Either way, I lose. My impetus to move the earth and the stars to meet him during his 1-hour window (he is, after all, a busy-busy guy) was solely to provide service to my clients. If he indeed writes the offer, we now are in a multiple offer situation, and the resulting competitive offer scenario could very well result in a better price for my clients. If I refuse to drop everything to get him in the door, we could very well be merrily in escrow by next weekend when his schedule frees him up to see the home on my terms, and we will never get the opportunity to know what he might have been willing to pay.

 I’m a sap, and my sense of duty to my client prevailed, so I did what any self-respecting agent would do. I kept my appointment and made Steve open the home. Steve consequently canceled his appointment, and our children were told to “forage” for dinner. The punch line: Buyside Guy showed up 15 minutes late and stayed for about five minutes. We never heard from him again.

I’ll use my lifeline…

So here it is – I will Ask the Audience. These are not loaded questions. I am sincerely looking for answers. What is a listing agent to do?

  1. Sellers – How should I have handled this? To what extent do you expect me to do another agent’s job on the outside chance that an opportunity may be missed because they aren’t doing their job? When you authorize, or more correctly, instruct me as a term of our listing agreement to offer a designated percentage to cooperating agents, does it matter to you that the income is unearned, or is it immaterial so long as the goal is accomplished? As a person and as a professional, it bothered me tremendously that I was relegated to the role of Pop Tart by a person with whom I had no agency relationship and to whom I owed nothing. I did it for you, but I compromised my principles in the process. Did I make the right decision?
  2. Agents – What would you have done? To what extent do you believe we are morally and ethically obligated to be on call to serve at the pleasure of another’s client so that that agent at the on-line call center can turn a profit?
  3. Buyers – This will be more of a rhetorical question, I suppose. If you are opting to use an on-line, limited services model, and if you feel compelled to ask, “You hate me, don’t you?”, how can you argue that you have not put yourself at a competitive disadvantage? If you find yourself in a multiple-offer situation, or even if you have submitted the lone offer, do you think you are negotiating from a position of strength when you have inconvenienced, shown a lack of respect for, and generally pissed off the other side? And, as a caveat, this particular buyer clearly didn’t understand the process in general and the implications of multiple offers in particular. Unless you are going to blind the seller with the shear largess of your checkbook, how might an offer “contingent on seeing the home some time next week” be viewed by the seller compared to a competing offer from someone who has actually walked through the front door? Finally, wouldn’t it have been a good idea, under the circumstances, to at least show up on time?

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