Not too long ago I was standing in a back yard of a beautiful home, articulating the benefits of the privacy and the gracious pool with a prospective buying couple, when an elderly gentleman emerged from the house, joining the conversation with, "I hate all realtors." The irony of the situation was that this man had nothing to do with the transaction at hand. No ownership interest. He just felt the strong need to voice his comment.
After an awkward moment followed by a forced and uncomfortable laugh from yours truly, he continued with, "all they care about is the commission." Considering the fact that the man was well into his 70s, I couldn't conceive an explanation that warranted me punching him in the mouth; so I did what most polite people do: I grinned and bore it.
But when you think about it, was the comment perhaps founded on some truth?
It is true that money can tend to drive realtors to do plenty of less than savory things and many, many agents have figuratively thrown their clients under the bus to make deals in ways that clients may never truly know -- actions like relying on what the other broker says will make the purchase happen, as opposed to truly negotiating for their clients' interests, or only taking a tepid look at a series of disclosures as opposed to asking probing questions to get to down to the truth.
But that's not even the half of it. If you think we have a tendency to treat you poorly, you should see how we treat each other. We steal clients from one another, playing upon the seduction of reduced fees and other assorted compensation methods. We bad mouth each other to rattle confidence while employing intimidating tactics to bully our way into living rooms and other diabolical deeds designed to get paid.
Often thrown into the comparative pool with "used car salesmen" - for which we apologize to our fine fellow sales professionals - realtors are continually regarded as occupying the bottom of the barrel, the despicable sots who are better off being discarded like gum on the sole of your shoe.
But wait a minute. All pond scum aside, maybe those casting the brick and mortar need to take a moment to walk a mile in a realtor's shoes to see what we face in the course of a day. Truth be told, realtors must rely heavily on the loyalties of our clients because we have zero assurance that we will ever get paid for our efforts after putting in countless hours of service and goodwill. Money drives not only realtors to take care of themselves - clients, both home buyers and home sellers, have been known to cast aside the diligence and hard work performed by a broker for the opportunity to get a better deal elsewhere by someone willing to offer commission discounts, or to purchase homes that are not yet on the market called "pocket" listings. These are among the many oft regarded vulnerabilities that agents face because we are easy targets perceived to be carrying deep-pocketed Errors and Omissions Insurance that make it almost sport to attach realtors to any potential wrongdoing.
When our livelihoods hang in the balance of whether or not the deal closes and where months and months of painstaking efforts to diligently work on behalf of a client without a penny of compensation all can be dashed at the eleventh hour with a simple declaration of "We've changed our minds," understand please that it is quite a harrowing business.
Sure, some make big paydays and can become prima donnas, cruising around in $100,000-plus luxury sedans, wearing $2,000 garments, which only adds to people's already existing disdain. For goodness sake, some realtors have taken to reality television, camping it up for ratings and stature. This Vanity Fair set, in my opinion, needs to be terminally canceled from the air because that sensationalistic garbage is purely mindless drivel. Not that it will happen anytime soon, but it's important to remember that "reality TV" is far from reality.
It is easy to pick apart the flaws of our industry and see how many ways the integrity of all parties, including buyers and sellers, can be compromised for self-serving gains. Not to excuse bad behavior, but when the business model is designed in such a way that unless you close, you don't get paid, there are sweeping latitudes that negatively impact the conduct and caliber of talent that engages in the real estate profession.
But, knowing what I do about this business, the benefits of an excellent realtor are worthy of both respect and compensation so long as the quality and care are demonstrated and articulated, front and center, throughout the transaction from the first meeting to that final handshake. Despite the reputation created by the bad eggs in the business, there are plenty of upstanding members of our real estate community that place the needs of their clients ahead of their own, trusting that as theirs are met, so too will ours. There are those who pride themselves on their integrity, honor, and ethics as much - if not more - than their real estate acumen. And why not? To think that they're mutually exclusive is to miss out on such a crucial element of this business.
A good realtor is not the enemy, rather a great ally providing a myriad of skills, technical knowledge and emotional talents to get you exactly where you want to be: home.
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