What is the Difference between a Customer and a Client in Real Estate?

Services for Real Estate Pros with Real Estate Wiki

Do you distinguish between the two?Differences Between a Real Estate Customer and a Client

According to The Real Estate Wiki, a real estate customer is someone you work with who has not signed a legal agreement for your services.

A client is someone who has engaged your services as a Realtor® and has signed either a listing or a buyer-brokerage agreement.

In other words, a client in real estate has agreed to pay your commission and to respect the business arrangement described in the contract you both signed.

A customer is someone who is still looking around and deciding whether or not they want to use your services.

This distinguishment is found in all sectors of the marketplace, but maybe there are more than two levels.

For example, you could say there's the prospect, who is still deciding, the customer, who has decided to go with you but hasn't yet committed and the client, who has signed a listing agreement or contract with you or the brokerage for which you work.

What do you think?



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Pat Tasker, Milwaukee, Wi

Our state laws CLEARLY defines one verses the other....and it was just what you said.  You work FOR clients, and have a contract, you work WITH customers without a contract...they could be buyers or sellers (ie: a FSBO seller that you are bringing your buyer client to see).  Many agents use clients and customers interchangably and loosely...tells me they don't know agency.

Oct 14, 2008 12:48 PM #1
Marilyn Katz
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New England Properties - Westport, CT
ABR, e-PRO - WestportCTProperties.com

There is a different level of service due a client vs. a customer.  While we owe a customer fair and honest dealings, we owe our clients fiduciary reponsibilities, including confidentiality and disclosure.

In practice, if I were to show a company listing to a customer (in CT, we are not allowed to show another brokerage's listing, without a signed buyer agency agreement), I would actually be representing the seller, as a sub-agent.  I would provide the customer all the factual information about the listing but I would not owe them my advice and counsel, concerning the property.

Oct 14, 2008 01:09 PM #2
DJ Swanepoel
Real Estate Wiki - Los Angeles, CA

Thanks Pat and Marilyn, for your insightful comments:) Good to know I'm on the right track;p

Oct 14, 2008 01:16 PM #3
The Friendly Home Team
Realty Pro Oregon, LLC - Beaverton, OR
Brokers - Oregon / SW Washington Real Estate

I hear agents say they have a new client all the time, when all they really have is a lead!

Todd Clark, Helping Families Home - www.IFoundYourNewHome.com

Oct 15, 2008 12:52 AM #4
Nannette Turner Saunders
Associate Broker Keller Williams Realty - Virginia Beach, VA
Hampton Roads, Virginia Beach

DJ I find newer agents get this confused all the time.  No wonder the public does.  If an agent can't explain it to the public it is no wonder.  It is the same in VA as described above.  I agree with what Todd said above - a client is someone I have a RELATIONSHIP with not someone calling on a sign call. A customer is someone calling on a sign call IF he choses to buy w/o representation.  A lead is just a POSSIBLE opportunity.

Oct 17, 2008 06:21 AM #5
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