Lessons Learned From My First Real Estate Transaction As An Agent

Real Estate Agent with Cascade Sotheby's International Realty

You Only have One First Time

My first experience as a real estate agent came when I received a call in my office from a gentleman who had a gruff, smoky voice.  He said he wanted to take a look at a lot that our office had listed.  The parcel was located about 30 miles from my office in an area that I was not familiar with.  I agreed to meet him at the property and answer his questions. 

When I arrived, I was greeted by an older gentleman whose appearance I can only describe as a cross between Santa Claus and a mountain man.  He was good natured and had lots of questions about easements, setbacks, water source, electricity hookup, and HOA fees.

Don't Answer Questions You Don't Know The Answer To

I realized I was ill prepared to answer his questions and felt stupid that I couldn’t.  Thank goodness my Principal Broker had advised me not to answer any questions I was not reasonably sure on.  When you are showing your first property, you don’t realize just how little you know about real estate until you’re thrown into the mix.  It is so tempting to try and answer questions with your ‘best guess’.

I had my trusty pen and paper and I began writing his questions down like my Broker told me to do, with the promise that I would get him answers.  Honestly, there were only a few of his questions I was able to answer at that moment.  I’m grateful that the man seemed to realize that I was a newbie, but still allowed me to work at getting answers to his questions.

Disclose - Disclose - Disclose

In the process of getting answers to the man's questions I learned that, that particular area had issues with high water tables and that some of the lots in that area experienced trouble getting approval for a home site because of it.  This of course was a big negative that could potentially derail my chance at getting my first real estate sale.  However, I’ve always tried to live my life by the golden rule, which is to treat others the way you would want to be treated.  I told him about the risk of the high water table and the possibility of running into issues with getting permits to build a residence.  He took the news in stride, and decided to move forward with writing an offer using me as his agent.

He closed on the sale and began working on getting building permits.  During the course of construction, he found out that particular lot was affected by the high water table and he was forced to spend thousands more dollars to reinforce the foundation against settling.  He called me to tell me about his misfortune and the additional cost of building his home.

Lessons Learned From My First Real Estate Transaction

Right then and there I was so grateful that I had disclosed what I had learned about the water tables in that area.  If I hadn’t, my first real estate transaction might likely have ended up with a complaint being filed against me, and/or a lawsuit.  The lesson I learned from that experience besides treating others the way you want to be treated is…disclose…disclose…disclose anything that may be important for a buyer or seller to know that you have knowledge of.

The second point that was reinforced to me which I’ve carried with me these 18 years later, is never answer questions you are unsure of.  Had I answered his questions 'off the cuff', I likely would not have gone back to get sound answers to his questions and learned about the issue.  In the end, I still came off as the expert, by getting him solid answers to his questions and in doing so, protected myself from potential liability.

I’m glad to say that years later Mr. Santa Claus mountain man, sold the property for well over what he had invested in it, so everything turned out good in the end.

Posted by




ABOUT TARRIS ROGERS:  Having lived here in Central Oregon nearly my whole life, I love being able to put my expert knowledge to work for you.    I specialize in Resort/Vacation/2nd Homes, Investment Property, Short Sales, Foreclosures and have specialized services for Out of Area buyers.  I'll make sure you get great service! 

If you're an out of town Buyer, you'll especially love me.  Please ask me why.

Bend Oregon Real Estate - (Mr Rogers, Your Neighborhood Specialist)

Sunriver Real Estate - Your Real Estate Concierge For Sunriver Homes

Comments (26)

Lou Ludwig
Ludwig & Associates - Boca Raton, FL
Designations Earned CRB, CRS, CIPS, GRI, SRES, TRC


Thanks for sharing insight . . . .

Good luck and success.

Lou Ludwig

Apr 25, 2014 12:33 PM
Than Maynard
Coldwell Banker Heart of Oklahoma - Purcell, OK
Broker - Licensed to List & Sell - 405-990-8862

Too many try to answer (bluff) questions they don't know.

I give th esame advice to all my agents.

Apr 26, 2014 12:12 PM
Christi Hacker
Realty ONE Group Sterling - Omaha, NE
Your Omaha Area Real Estate Specialist

Good to hear that all turned out well for you, and a bonus that your buyer did very well with his investment. 

Apr 26, 2014 01:50 PM
Rod Pierson
Wilson Realty Inc - Redding, CA
Northern California - An Agent you can trust
The Golden Rule, so much wisdom..... Reminds me of one of my first showings vacant land, just trying to find the listing was my first real test, no for sale sign, I had to re arrange another showing but before we departed we used the MLS sheet and I asked him for any questions he might be concerned about, I made arrangements to have the listing agent show the property, he knew the corners etc, but prior I got all his answers and emailed to him ASAP along with the Plat map.
Apr 26, 2014 02:04 PM
Jack O'Neal
HomeSmart Elite Group - Gilbert, AZ

Tarris, I too try to always live by the golden rule.  It should come second nature to us since we signed an oath to always be ethical and stay within bounds.  It's great that you didn't lie to him and that he gave you a chance even though you were a newbie.  The only way to get past being a newbie is to be given chances to prove yourself.

Apr 26, 2014 02:50 PM
Inna Ivchenko
Barcode Properties - Encino, CA
Realtor® • GRI • HAFA • PSC Calabasas CA

You reminded me myself.  I had no experience, no confidence, but I wanted to learn. I told my clients:'' I don't know, but I'll find out!''. I learned a lot since then.

Even now, here and there I'm asked question that I dont' know answers( it is impossible to know everything, right?:)

Apr 26, 2014 07:12 PM
Pat Mistretta
PalmerHouse Properties & Associates - Atlanta, GA
Atlanta Lofts and City Living

I am glad it worked out and kudos to you for not only telling him the truth, but for not trying to answer questions you did not know the answer to.  I was fortunate that my first real estate deal was with a friend, so they knew I was inexperienced - especially since it was a 1031 Exchange.

Apr 26, 2014 08:18 PM
Andrew Mooers | 207.532.6573
Northern Maine Real Estate-Aroostook County Broker

What you are selling, knowing all about it so "I don't know" is not the response. The more of those three little word combinations and the buyer starts to think the same words... about buying. It is contagious. Glad you did not get your butt in a sling, hauled into court.

Apr 26, 2014 08:41 PM
Jill Sackler
Charles Rutenberg Realty Inc. 516-575-7500 - Long Beach, NY
LI South Shore Real Estate - Broker Associate

You did everything right. Great first experience to recount.

Apr 26, 2014 10:46 PM
Michael Setunsky
Woodbridge, VA
Your Commercial Real Estate Link to Northern VA

Tarris, with all do respect you got in an area you new nothing about. Your broker should never have let you get involved with this property. He should have read you Article 11 of the NAR COE. You were very lucky it turned out the way it did. Your learned experience for asking questions and disclosure was good, but you were very lucky. You put yourself and your broker in a potential dangerous situation. I really don't blane you because you were new at the time; however, your broker should have known better

Apr 26, 2014 11:34 PM
Debb Janes EcoBroker and Bernie Stea JD
ViewHomes of Clark County - Nature As Neighbors - Camas, WA
REALTORS® in Clark County, WA

Tarris, I think you handled it quite well. And, disclosures and transparency is the key to real estate success - as is the "golden rule." 

Apr 27, 2014 12:49 AM
Tarris Rogers
Cascade Sotheby's International Realty - Bend, OR
Bend Oregon Real Estate

Elizabeth - Thank you for the kind compliment.  That is what I'm shooting for and I really appreciate you saying my personality shines through.

Lou - Thank you, I wish you the same!

Than - You can't go wrong with that advice...for sure!

Christi - Yes, I agree, the story had a happy ending.

Rod - Thanks for sharing your story.  Yes, the Golden Rule has worked very well for over 18 years.

Jack - That's a good point.  Our Realtor ethics in essence mimic the Golden Rule and whether we realize it or not, it is something we've promised to do.

Inna - It's always scary starting out, but you are exactly right, with a desire to learn and do our best, we gain wisdom nad experience.

Pat - Thank you.  I was thinking, do a real estate deal with a friend as your first transaction might even be a little more stressful when you're a newbie!  You have even more to lose if things don't go right.  You were brave!

Andrew - i agree, no one likes to hear "I don't know," however the old saying 'it's not what you say it's how you say it' works in situations like this.  If I don't know the answer to a question, I'll say, "That is a great question.  I'll get ahold of ..... to find out the answer on that."  Nowaday's if I don't know the answer to a question, I usually have a pretty good idea on who to talk with about it to get the answer and will insert their name into that statement.  Clients seem to like that you will check with the true authority on a subject and don't mind waiting.  Thanks for your thoughts.

Jill - Thank you, I appreciate your vote of confidence.  It's funny to relive the moment all these years later and getting feedback on it.

Michael - Thanks for your thoughts.  With all due respect, we all have to have a first time in many aspects of our real estate career and cannot be an expert immediately.  Perhaps I didn't include enough backstory in my blog post, but I was in communication with my broker, and if you'll recall, I mentioned she had coached me on how to handle myself before I went on the showing.  It would be great if we knew every little fact about every neighborhood and area within the region we serve, but in my experience that knowledge is built up over years of working within a community.  I'm sure you were not near as knowledgeable about commercial real estate when you started out as you obviously are today, but it didn't stop you from working to gain that knowledge and experience. 

Debb - Thank you for saying that.  I really appreciate it.

Apr 27, 2014 03:20 AM
Eve Alexander
Buyers Broker of Florida - Tampa, FL
Exclusively Representing ONLY Tampa Home Buyers

Sound like you knew your first steps well and did a good job.

When there is something important to disclose, I do it in an e-mail for those Florida buyers with selective memory...maybe a bit different in Oregon where a mountain man and a handshake may still work.

Good story.


Apr 27, 2014 04:05 AM
Tarris Rogers
Cascade Sotheby's International Realty - Bend, OR
Bend Oregon Real Estate

Mike & Eve - Your advice about putting disclosure items in an email or in some kind of writing is spot on, and something I do as well.  You're right, selective memory is much more common when big issues arise and documenting things is sssoooooo important!

Apple Valley Lake - Thank you very much! 

Apr 27, 2014 04:05 PM
Karen Crowson
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage - Rancho Bernardo, CA
Your Agent for Change

Properties with land can be very complex. A hard start for a newbie, but you did great. Thanks for entering the April Contest.

Apr 28, 2014 03:28 AM
Tarris Rogers
Cascade Sotheby's International Realty - Bend, OR
Bend Oregon Real Estate

Karen - Thank you for your comment.  It's still amazing to me just how much I learned in that first transaction that has proved useful to me all these many years later.

Apr 28, 2014 04:01 AM
Curtis Van Carter
Better Homes & Gardens Wine Country Group - Yountville, CA
Your Napa Valley Broker Extraordinaire


What a good read. The fact it was 18 years ago and your still around speaks volumes for your character. cheers cvc

Apr 28, 2014 11:45 PM
Tarris Rogers
Cascade Sotheby's International Realty - Bend, OR
Bend Oregon Real Estate

Curtis - Thank you so much!  Your comment made my day!

Apr 29, 2014 12:56 AM
Chris Ann Cleland
Long and Foster Real Estate - Gainesville, VA
Associate Broker, Bristow, VA

I think each one of these is a tremendously valuable lesson.  

Apr 29, 2014 03:03 AM
Tarris Rogers
Cascade Sotheby's International Realty - Bend, OR
Bend Oregon Real Estate

Chris - I appreciate you saying that.  When I wrote the post I was hoping it might be helpful.

Apr 29, 2014 03:40 AM