Who’s Running This Show?

Mariana Wagner posted the following video on her site yesterday and it gave me a chuckle, ’cause it reminded me of when this played regularly on TV and – without fail – I’d laugh every time then, as well!  (I love the arson comment)  The timing of her post is fitting, as well, as I’ve been thinking about
a situation I ran up against in the last couple of weeks that I’ve
wanted to share.

Why doesn’t the real estate industry have a positive reputation in the public?  I had a customer tell me – half jokingly – on the phone the other day, "you guys are just a step above used car salesman".  I kid not, she was not referring to anyone on my Team but the comment was pointed, all the same.  How did we grow into that reputation?  Here’s one reason:

I’m working with some folks who are buying a home for their college student son to live in while he’s here at VT.  It’s a common practice here in the New River Valley, probably 20% of my business every year.  We’ve been working through the winter to prepare them for buying their first investment property, and as we’ve headed into the spring the market’s heated up and they’ve gotten more serious.  Last Tuesday, we finally wrote an offer.  It was a townhouse in a neighborhood they really liked, and the house needed work – it’s actually the second set of clients I’ve had that have tried to buy this house.  It’s been on and off the market for over a year as the owner has tried – unsuccessfully – to sell it, and the tenants he has in place have not helped.  They’ve trashed it, to the point it needs $15000 worth of repairs and cleaning once they’ve moved out.  The last time I had clients who wrote an offer, we built in the cost of the repairs to our offer and made an offer 9% off of list price.  The owner countered within 24 hours at full list price, and the offer died there.

This time, we made an identical offer, now at 10% off of list price.  I live in this neighborhood – I know these 
homes, and I know the value of this one as it is right now.  We submitted the offer last Wednesday via email, and a follow-up phone call was made to the listing agent.  Voicemail … I left a message.  That night, nearly 8 hours later, I called the listing agent to see if he had reviewed the offer, and he informed me he was out of town and would look at it when he got back that night.  Okay – the next day came and went, no word from him.  Friday morning, still no word, and despite repeated phone calls I heard nothing through the weekend.  NOTHING, not even a confirmation that he had seen the offer.  Sunday night, he finally picks up his phone and says that they are waiting to see if another offer comes in, and they don’t want to counter.

Now I’m upset.  First, I’m upset that I didn’t advise my clients to put a time limit on the offer to ensure a swift response.  Even more than that, I’m upset that neither the agent nor his client have taken the opportunity to provide a professional courtesy to my clients, informing them of their intentions.  If they want to sit on the
offer, fine – just tell us this.  When I asked why they hadn’t even acknowledged receipt of the offer, the agent responded "okay, if you want a counter than we’re countering at full price".  He made that statement without consulting his client, is he in a position to make that determination.  Likely not, but it could be argued that a full price counter is in his client’s best interests.

The resolution of all of this?  My clients pulled their offer and immediately – within minutes – made an offer on a similar, more expensive home.  The other home?  Still on the market, and will continue to be there for a while, I’m sure.

So why do we as real estate agents feel it’s appropriate to neglect an offer, fail to deliver it in a timely fashion and then make decisions without consulting our client?  What sense of power have we created in our minds that allows us to own our client’s decisions?  When did the control shift out of the hands of the buyers and the sellers, and in to the hands of agents?
It hasn’t, and it never did.  We took it.  We’ve tried for so long to control the transaction, to pull the strings in the background.   My clients were at the mercy of another agent’s actions, and decided they would take control.  I’m glad they did, and I suspect you have plenty of clients who would do the same.  My reminder in all of this?  I work FOR my clients, they’re not working for me.  My role should be one of consultation, of putting the pieces in place for them to make informed, quantitative decisions.  That’s the changing face of real estate, not a puppeteer pulling the strings. 

I look forward to helping these clients close on this new home …

Photo Credit:  Dialaphone & Appraisal News

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