I read a great post the other day by Seth Godin, a leader in the area of blogging and business marketing. He gave a great definition on loyalty. So simple it was actually complicated. According to Seth, “loyalty is what we call it when someone refuses a momentarily better option.” WOW! How appropriate of a topic is this for the world of real estate. No other word is more mismanaged than in the real estate business-perhaps it’s because that’s the business I’m, I don’t know. How often has a potential buyer or home seller been presented with what appears to be a better option (other listing and higher listing price respectively), but when the smoke clears the best option was always in front of them. A lot of agents use slight of hands to offer unsuspecting customers something better or flashier. This industry breeds on the ignorance of the consumer. Misdirection and embellishment rule the marketplace. Of course, I speak in general. Not every member is a participant in this deception. Furthermore, there’s no direct relationship between success and unscrupulousness. The two can and do exist independent of each other.
Loyalty and the Real Estate Agent
There’s a hundred ways an agent can show his/her loyalty to a potential client. But 2 ways specifically that a real estate agent can unambiguously demonstrate loyalty to a customer/client is 1-to NOT represent both the buyer and the seller in the same transaction. Again in the state of NY, dual agency or the right to represent both the sellers and the buyers in the same transaction is completely legal. It’s a definite gray area! It’s like being out to dinner with your wife and bumping into the ex. There’s nothing wrong, but it’s just uncomfortable. Just wait until they start talking to each other! Let’s focus on the topic. The second way is to NOT show the same house to multiple clients after one of them has expressed interest in the house. Nothing good could possibly come out of that. What happens if a second buyer expresses interest in the home to; a bidding war between two buyers with the same agent? No ethical rules broken there!
Loyalty and the Customer
On the other hand, loyalty with home sellers is very clear cut. The seller signs a contract with the agent to list the home for sale. An agent can’t submit the listing into the MLS without one. However, the issue is a bit more complicated with buyers. It is not a common practice in Westchester County to have buyers sign exclusivity contracts. Much like it’s not common to use Binders (signed offers to purchase with good faith money) or Time of the Essence (finite closing date). Buyer contracts do exist but are rarely used. Buyers, if they don’t sign a contract, can work with any real estate agent they so chose. But that never happens, right? (sarcasm) Buyers never call more than one agent looking what presumably is a “deal”. Where’s the loyalty? If an agent demonstrates their loyalty to the buyer is there a need to sign a “loyalty contract”? I think that buyers and sellers sometimes forget that real estate agents don’t get paid until the deal closes. Most of the time real estate agents technically work pro-bono. Imagine going to work for 8 days in a new job, and then being told or not told in most instances by the employer that the company has decided to go in another direction.
Seth goes on in his article, “loyal customers understand that there’s almost always something better out there, but they’re not so interested in looking.”
To this day I don’t understand why buyers hop from agent to agent for no apparent reason. And I’m not mad at that by any means. You see, most of my clients come to me after they’ve dealt with other real estate agents. I’m usually PLAN B! But, assuming their agent has not demonstrated a lack of knowledge, sincerity, or trustworthiness I don’t see why a buyer would drop their agent. It should not be because one agent has access to more homes than the other. Because, let’s clear it up, these days there’s no such thing as a ‘pocket listing’. There’s no benefit whatsoever to keeping a listing private. Every agent bobs for apples in the same barrel. That barrel is called the MLS-Multiple Listing Service. Every home listed on Zillow, Trulia, Realtor.com, Remax.com and every agent website, including WestchesterCribs.com, is fed by one MLS or another or in some cases multiple.
Let’s conclude this post because it sounds as though I’m venting. The truth is that although I’ve had my share of bad experiences with “I know it all-I saw it on Zillow” customers, it’s nothing compared to the horror stories I hear from customers and even other real estate agents (yes, we do talk to each other on occasion). The bottom line is that the practitioner’s negative attitude towards the consumer is based mostly on the consumers negative attitude towards the practitioners. Or vice versa. It’s a double-edge sword and it sucks. I don’t think that there’s ever going to be a universal change, but individually each practitioner can change the consumer’s opinion. Loyalty begets loyalty. Appropriately, I will end this post how Seth ended his “Treat different customers differently, and reserve your highest level of respect for those that stand by you.”
Let’s talk about integrity next…