Of Vicious circles, virtuous cycles in the agent/client relationship…

Real Estate Agent with Keller Williams NY Realty - 120 Bloomingdale Road #101, White Plains NY 10605

A few days ago I read a blog by JMac on Active Rain  that really hit home.  Integrity…maybe the missing link in real estate…for everyone.    The post described how trust was something that had to be earned on both sides of a real estate transaction.  An agent needs to trust their client just as much as a client – whether they are a buyer or seller -  needs to trust the agent.

When posting in the comment thread, I described it as the vicious cycle vs. the virtuous circle.  Trust is hard because so many people are indeed dishonest.  There are times where I feel like I’m shooting craps when I take on a new client, with the odds stacked against me in the trust department.  Sadly, I’m often quite certain that the client has the same issue with me.


From the agent’s standpoint…

….it goes something like this:  potential buyers and sellers approach the agent for advice and help.  We generally respond with a few questions of our own.  One of the first is “Are you working with another agent?”  If the answer is “no” then we proceed forward, if the answer is “yes” a ton of red flags pop up.   But I have found lately that buyers who are eager to see a property have gotten wise to that filter and are out- and-out lying.  The truth gets ferreted out when I present them with a contract that ties them to me for the properties I am showing them.  Why do I present them with a contract?  Because I’ve been burned too many times before.

Last year I had a buyer/seller who I elected to trust for two showings.  He was all excited about what he was seeing and was ready to list the house that had become an albatross around his neck.  I showed him that there were alternatives.  After hours of leg  work including two weekends, cost of living comparisons and a ton of research,  the client disappeared.   When I checked back in and he told me that he had a “great deal of loyalty to a particular agent and had given the listing to her.”  Of course she was all set to snag the other side of the deal that I had spent many hours paving the way for.  Since the homes I showed would probably not be on the market by the time his home sold I was out of luck.  Bottom line, he had no intention of using me for anything.

You can see why a few consumers like this tend to destroy even the most trusting nature.  The truth is, as much as I would like to trust my buyers from the get-go, I can’t because this type of behavior is more common than most people think.   Since we are only paid when we close a sale, it becomes a huge problem.  Buyers in particular need to understand that this is how we pay our bills, keep a roof over our heads and put food on the table.  This is someone’s livelihood that is being played with.  Also, when there are several agents involved with one client – someone has to lose in order for me to win. Not good karma.

From the consumer’s standpoint…

Anything that is dime a dozen, and agents collectively fall into that category due to our sheer numbers, is not valued.   The fact that we are a dime a dozen creates an atmosphere of competition where the consumer feels assaulted by hoards of agents when they are simply making tentative inquiries.  Being treated like shark chum is not going to engender a sense of respect or even consideration.

 Agent integrity is also an issue…   

There are way too many agents in the “ethically challenged” category for comfort.  The day after I read JMac’s blog I was at a neighborhood tag sale.  I stopped by a friend’s house and suddenly an agent (who I recognized as a pre-crash house-flipper) appeared out of nowhere and was obviously milking the tag sale for all it was worth.  In this case she was making offers on homes in the area that obviously were in need of some rehab.

My friend isn’t at all interested in selling, but has a home that though lovely, needs modernizing.   The perfect candidate for a flipper trying to get a rock bottom price.  She was all over my friend like a bad rash, suggesting that if she ever wanted to sell – to call because she wanted to move back into the neighborhood….from three blocks away. Yeah, right.   She was also asking about other homes that she might make offers on that were not on the market. “The one across the street would be perfect for my parents because its a ranch.”

Look, I’m not against flippers.  Its hard work.  But be honest and upfront.  You are looking for a steal not a deal to make a nice profit for yourself.  When agents behave this way, trust is destroyed on the consumer side of the equation.

All suffer because of a few bad apples…

Most of us do NOT behave this way, but there are enough agents out there that totally disrespect the consumer and this breeds contempt for all in the business.  Then I feel abused when a buyer (or seller) out and out lies about their intentions in order to get something out of me – and the cycle continues.


© 2012 – Ruthmarie G. Hicks – http://thewestchesterview.com – All rights reserved.


Of Vicious circles, virtuous cycles in the agent/client relationship…


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  1. Carla Muss-Jacobs, RETIRED 06/05/2012 07:36 AM
Home Buying
New York Westchester County
I Love NY
Posts to Localism
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advice for home sellers
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Michelle Carr-Crowe-Top 1% Diamond Certified Real Estate Team Sells Cupertino San Jose Homes-Just Call 408-252-8900
Get Results Team...Just Call (408) 252-8900! - San Jose, CA
Family Helping Families Buy & Sell Homes 40+ Years

May we enjoy an infinite loop of good karma in the virtuous cyccles.

Jun 04, 2012 05:14 PM #1
Bill Reddington
Re/max Southern Realty - Destin, FL
Destin Florida Real Estate

Call me stupid but I approach every buyer and seller trying to create trust. There is always more to the story. The days with trusting someone walking in the door are over. Just have to put your best foot forward.

Jun 05, 2012 01:25 AM #2
Margaret Goss
Baird & Warner Real Estate - Winnetka, IL
Chicago's North Shore & Winnetka Real Estate

Sad but true - I often find that I have to defend myself when meeting new clients.  Not because of anything I've done, but because of precisely what you are writing about.  It doesn't take much to ruin things for others and the results are very long lasting.

Jun 05, 2012 01:30 AM #3
Gary Frimann
Eagle Ridge Realty / Signature Homes & Estates - Gilroy, CA
REALTOR and Broker

As Warren Buffet says, trust takes years to build, and can disappear in 5 minutes...  Good post.

Jun 05, 2012 01:53 AM #4
Brian Park
Park Realty Investments - Murray, UT

Trust and respect were two items I gave automatically until the other side did something to lose it. Now days I am surprised at how many times I ask "are you being honest with me?" a question I never asked in the past.

Never thought I would see the day where I would require a written agreement with everyone new I deal with but I don't work for free and I especially don't work for free for another agent that has taught his prospect to use us. So I blame the public and give many agents equal blame for what seems to be a common problem today. Yes we had some of these in the old days but only occasionally.

Jun 05, 2012 02:00 AM #5
Carla Muss-Jacobs, RETIRED
RETIRED / State License is Inactive - Portland, OR

A truth be told post Ruthmarie.  There's a lot going on in your article, but to sum it up, I agree 100%.  One of the worst situations to be in is where no one trusts the other.  For me, it's insulting since I practice real estate with integrity and I'm lumped in with the dime a dozen.  Of course, you are correct that no one values this.  But, on the other hand, if I requested a retainer upfront, then I'm pushed aside for someone who doesn't.  People want it both ways and being in the middle of that makes me agree with your wholeheartedy.

Jun 05, 2012 02:21 AM #6
Ruthmarie Hicks
Keller Williams NY Realty - 120 Bloomingdale Road #101, White Plains NY 10605 - White Plains, NY

Hi Michelle - Amen!

Hi Bill - In the incident above I did just that and proved my value and then some.   This buyer/seller wanted cost of living spreadsheets, closing cost estimates - in other words he was milking the situation for everything that it was worth because he knew the homes would be sold by the time he sold his. I did my job and did it very, very well.   The reward could have been very sweet. Two transactions worth about 1.8 million.  Trouble is he  never had any intention of going to the closing table with me.  You have to protect yourself as best you can and presenting a contract is now essential because people simply can not be trusted to do the right thing.

Hi Margaret - it is true.  A few bad apples can really spoil it for everyone. Unfortunately, a fair number of the bad apples around here are top producers. Most got to where they are though hard work and skill, but enough slipped through working the "dark side" to cause real credibility problems.  Look at it this way.  This "top agent" that is so highly recommended and has awards coming out of their ears is found to be not-so-honest.  That impacts the entire industry. 

Hi Gary - Thank you for quoting my favorite billionaire.  Very true.

Hi Brian - You are echoing what many are now seeing and saying.  I came in late to this field (late 2005) saw the insanity of the bubble just as it was bursting.  I never knew a time when clients were all that trustworhty.  I found from the get-go that you had to watch your back.  I didn't for a long time because I could close about half of the sales by brute force.  But that was before the crisis of 2008.  Its too bad that this crisis has caused people to devolve in the honesty department.  My grandfather lived through the great depression.  He felt people pulled together during that time and the world got less selfish.  That sure didn't happen this time around.



Jun 05, 2012 02:29 AM #7
Ruthmarie Hicks
Keller Williams NY Realty - 120 Bloomingdale Road #101, White Plains NY 10605 - White Plains, NY

Hi Everyone -

I think everybody should read JMac's post  Integrity…maybe the missing link in real estate…for everyone. 

It was very well written and outlines a great deal of what I stated here.


Jun 05, 2012 02:34 AM #8
Ruthmarie Hicks
Keller Williams NY Realty - 120 Bloomingdale Road #101, White Plains NY 10605 - White Plains, NY

Hi Carla - Yes the post was a bit "busy".  But I wanted to coherant examples - one from each side of the equation.  It is a vicious circle that can be put ultimately at the feet of NAR and large brokerages and individual franchises that just want to play the numbers game.  Raising the barriers to entry, keeping strict tabs on agents that have been reapeatedly criticised for poor behavior (top producers not withstanding) raising barriers to entry and culling those found to be out and out dishonest would go a very long way to correcting this problem.  Some of these dishonest types are protected by their brokers because they produce.  But it isn't what they produce that should matter it is what and HOW they produce it!

After all, people value what is rare.  The dime a dozen mentality of our industry devalues it for everyone, consumer, agent, broker - everyone.  We are just left to cope with the results.


Jun 05, 2012 02:40 AM #9
Debbie Gartner
The Flooring Girl - White Plains, NY
The Flooring Girl & Blog Stylist -Dynamo Marketers

Yes, it is definitely challenging and in your field, trust is paramount.  The really good clients understand this and understand it's a two way street.

Jun 05, 2012 03:19 AM #10
Richie Alan Naggar
people first...then business Ran Right Realty - Riverside, CA
agent & author

These things that you mention in your post are invisible yet that shape the character of the one using it for the better. For those that don't, their character suffers...Some say that the character is what journeys on. If this is so, then integrity and honest makes for a good set of wings

Jun 05, 2012 04:35 AM #11
Pam Graham
All Real Estate Options - Jacksonville, FL
Jacksonville, Clay & St Johns Counties

This made me think of the FSBO, who is approached by an agent who gives them stacks of paperwork and stories to scare them into listing with them. Gosh, that really gives us a bad name and lumps us into the shark category. It also makes me think of the few times I was lied to and spent lots of hours doing free work, that turned into nothing. Trust is a valuable thing.

Jun 05, 2012 06:43 AM #12
Evelyn Kennedy
Alain Pinel Realtors - Alameda, CA
Alameda, Real Estate, Alameda, CA


I believe people.  I do ask motivation and if there is a Realtor lurking in the back ground.  However, if a prospective customer says no to all my question, then I trust that what they are telling me is true.  I have been stung a few times, but most people are upfront with me.

Jun 05, 2012 07:25 AM #13
Mary Ann Daniell Licensed Texas Realtor
Coldwell Banker United, Realtors - Subsidiary of NRT LLC - Killeen, TX

Most of the time you can tell from the beginning what the prospect's motive is, unless they are just out and out liars.  Asking them all the right questions, showing them the buyer agreement, telling them you'll show them for one day without it and that they have to sign it to see more properties or to get more information from me works like a charm usually.   Those truly seeking an agent are happy they get a day to get to know you before they sign, and the others, well, they know they won't get more than one day out of you for "free" and they go on their way pretty fast.

Jun 05, 2012 07:39 AM #14
Brenda Mullen
RE/MAX Access - Schertz, TX
Your San Antonio TX Real Estate Agent!!

I love this post Ruthmarie and it is so true.  My trust in buyers has eroded and caused me to be overly sensitive to those I am working with because I have been let down before.  However, I won't work with buyers anymore that won't sign an agreement there are just too many that don't respect my time.  

I don't think it's because they are mean and unethical, I think it's because they really don't understand that we work hard for our money and therefore kind of devalue what we do.  

Jun 05, 2012 11:56 AM #15
Joan Whitebook
BHG The Masiello Group - Nashua, NH
Consumer Focused Real Estate Services

I have exp;erienced buyers who manipulate agents... and some agents fall for this.

Jun 05, 2012 12:46 PM #16
Bill Gillhespy
16 Sunview Blvd - Fort Myers Beach, FL
Fort Myers Beach Realtor, Fort Myers Beach Agent - Homes & Condos

Hi Ruthmarie,  My sense is that trust may be developed better when in close proximity.  that said, it is no wonder that clients who come to us over the internet ( lack of proximity ) are less prone to develop a real relationship and thus demonstrate any real loyalty !

Jun 06, 2012 02:31 AM #17
David Grbich
Realty One Group - www.FindCARealEstate.com - San Juan Capistrano, CA
Orange County Real Estate - 949-500-0484

Great post - think it's all just part of the business and goes with the territory - all we can do as agents is act ethically and build trusting relationships and hope for the same in return. Regards, Dave

Jun 07, 2012 01:58 AM #18
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