Thursday, 20 March 2014

Is Your Real Estate Salesperson Looking Out For Your Best Interest?

Real Estate salespersons have never been a beloved profession in on our culture like a doctor or an astronaut.  No, we are never mentioned with the actresses, presidents and even lawyers when a young kid is asked what they want to be when they grow up. Salespeople are often seen as tricky in the eye of the public. For a long time, and still today, the idea of a salesperson brings up images of the cigar-smoking used car salesman or the door-to-door vacuum salesman or even the Avon Lady. They are seen as people whose #1 interest is to make a sale,  even if the client doesn't need a used car, a vacuum or a year's supply of ruby lipstick.

Still, I think the idea of sales has changed since those days.  Personally speaking, selling real estate just isn't about making money for myself, but it's about making my clients happy with my services, and finding them the best deal.  Because on some level, I care about what people think of me. Even on a greedy level where I want to make money, I know that doing a good job with a client will lead to more referrals and more money for me. Yes, I'm a people pleaser at heart, but I'm not Saint David of Real Estate. I think it's just good business sense. 

For the most part, I find my fellow real estate agents, whom I work with on a regular basis, are looking out for their client's best interest, and are usually professional. I think that the Toronto Real Estate Board and the other provincial and national boards have done a pretty good job at creating an ethical guideline for how real estate salespersons should act, but still, every once in a while, I run into an agent who I believe is not looking out for the best interest of their clients, and drives me a little nuts in the process. 

Let me illustrate this with an example. I recently had some clients who were interested in a property. They went through to see the the property twice. That's usually a pretty good indicator that there's some interest there. Because of work and travelling arrangements, they had asked me to wait a few days until they were in town to fill out an offer. The property had been on the market for a long, long time. If interested, it is always best to put in an offer as soon as you can, but they felt there was no reason to rush. I contacted the listing agent and told him that if he receives any offers to let me know. Therefore, if an offer came through, I can arrange for my clients to bring in an offer earlier, and his seller would have two offers, instead of one offer, from which to choose. On the day I planned to meet with my clients to put together the offer and register it, I found out that the listing agent had sold the property already. Not only that, but he represented the buyer in the transaction as well as the seller. Therefore, he made more money from both the buying and selling ends of the transaction. 

Now, by the real estate rules that we go by, the listing agent can do this. I did not have an official offer that I could show him and his clients. So, technically he only had his one offer. 

For my clients and for me, this could be a lesson to move quicker. The longer you wait the more chance there is of a property slipping away from you, even if the property has been on the market for months at at time.

Still, if an ethical and professional process took place and the listing agent had told me that there was another offer on the table, I would have been able to rush my offer through and his sellers would have had the benefit of choosing the best offer. Instead, he only presented the one offer. So,  he is not exactly acting in the best interest of his sellers. In the end, he makes more money, but his clients don't necessarily get the best deal. It's the kind of thing that I think makes salespeople look bad. Their goal is their sale, not their client's best interest.

My goal here is not to show you how some real estate salespeople are not looking out for your best interest, but it should make you think how you pick your real estate agent. 

If you are looking for a salesperson to represent you, make sure you do your research. Speak to others who have worked with a particular agent with whom they've had a good experience. If you are working with someone you just met, interview them. Make sure your agent is as transparent and straight forward as possible. Ask him or her how they do their business and how they handle offers. Most importantly, if you are looking for a selling agent, ask: How are they going to market your home?  Some sellers are so focused on getting the commission rates down that they don't focus on any thing else. And when commission rates are cut low, I find, agents seem to do a lot less to market the property and take care of their client.  

All in all, most salespeople are good folks in the real estate industry. Just make sure you pick the one who will represent you wisely. 

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