I had a particularly bad experience yesterday. A client that I have been working with, a first time homebuyer, met with another agent and looked at houses. I'll call the client Jack for the purposes of this blog. My business model is to take fewer clients but build a strong foundation of trust. If all other factors are constant, this means I make less money-- but I'm usually much happier and less stressed. It also means when I lose a client like Jack, it really hits me hard. Let me tell you the tale:
Jack and his family (wife and two kids) found me through one of my listings on www.realtor.com. While he didn't make a "love connection' with that house, he did agree to work with me to find the right house for his family. In the ensuing weeks we met in my office and at various properties. I got to know him and his family. I was able to uncover information about the school they wanted that allowed them to expand their neighborhood search. I even read his online book (he is, among other things, a motivational speaker). I shared my "trusted advisor" approach to real estate with him.
He had trouble with finding a loan officer he could trust. I gave him a few options, but he decided to go with the guy his brother recommended. When I talked with Jack again, he was excited-- not only did this person get him qualified, he got him qualified for a larger amount than he expected. Jack and I talked about the importance of buying something that fit his monthly budget & set a date to look at property last night. He stood me up.
While I was waiting, ready with six appointments set to show his family, all carefully selected to fit his needs from a much larger pool of properties, he was meeting with this other person and looking at five properties. It turns out the person Jack thought was the "loan guy" was an agent. The agent's wife was the loan officer. The agent told Jack that he had to show Jack property in order to secure the loan.
Jack called my voice mail this morning and left a message saying he just wants to do what is right for his family. What he fails to realize is that this is what I want also! He got suckered by an agent that convinced him Jack had to use him or he wouldn't get a loan. I believed, until yesterday, that I had gotten to know Jack and had educated him about the value of my approach. As it turns out, I don't know Jack. The silver lining is that there are plenty of lessons to learn from this bitter pill:
- Always counsel your client. Find a way that isn't obnoxious to remind them of your value every time you have contact.
- Use a buyer's contract. I know most agents who just read that let out a loud groan or derisive chuckle, but present the contract anyway. You can always choose to work with a client who won't sign it, but you might find out something about the clients' mindset that makes you realize you don't want to take the risk of working with them only to lose them later.
- Know your ethics don't transfer to the next agent. Times are tough across the board for all players in the real estate profession. While I have faith that the overwhelming majority of agents hold themselves to very high ethical and professional standards, there are those who don't.
- Compartmentalize. I can't afford to let my strong feelings about this situation color my dealings with other clients. I had to take the rest of the night off (and write this blog) to vent. I will learn from this, but must not let my emotions affect my interaction with other prospects and clients.
What other lessons do you see? I could probably write a dozen more, but this blog entry is too long already. I'll end by saying I don't blame Jack. If I did, I would have given him a fictional last name starting with "A". I blame myself for not properly conditioning a first time buyer. The other agent (who happens to be the managing broker of his office) will undoubtedly keep working like this. I wish him the best of luck. He'll need it.