Why Real Estate Is Often Like the Circus

Real Estate Broker/Owner with Broadpoint Properties Cal BRE #01324959

real estate agentsThe other day when I was reading posts in my newsfeed on Facebook I saw a post in the Lab Coat Agents group where an agent was seeking advice. When other agents were getting into the fray, this agent who wrote the post stated, “I did it because my sellers instructed me to do so.” To me, the subject of the thread was insignificant. The interesting and thought-provoking thing for me was the response.

It got me to thinking: Is the listing agent's responsibility to do everything his or her seller tells them to do? When I brought this topic to the most recent brokerage office meeting, I was met with mixed responses. Specifically, some agents stated that their seller is their employer and they are supposed to do everything that their employer tells them to do.

Another agent brought up a very unique example which I thought was very on point. This agent stated, “When I go to the doctor, the doctor is not going to prescribe for me a medication just because I want it. The doctor will prescribe to me the medication that he thinks is best for me.” What this agent’s example brought to mind for me was the death of Michael Jackson. The doctor was found guilty of that exact thing.

So, are agents like doctors or are they just puppets for their clients? Or, is there a middle ground?

All agents have a fiduciary duty to do what is best for their clients. Unfortunately, what is best for clients may not be best for you. Also, there is a chance that the client may not actually realize quite yet what is best.  While this may come from a place of arrogance, we are not hired to be a client’s puppet.

We are hired to advocate in their best interests in the same way that a doctor is solicited in order to find a cure or remedy. Specifically, if the seller tells you that he (or she) wants to sell the home for top dollar, it is your job to use your techniques and unique skill set in order to get that job done. You are entrusted to advise the sellers accordingly if they need to make changes to their property in order to accomplish that task.

Sometimes I say that agents spin many plates at the same time—like those plate spinners at the circus. In this case, I’d say that often agents need to walk a tightrope. We do not want to offend, and want to do what is best for the client. And, of course we want to see the deal close. It’s a balancing act, but if you keep your day job, then hopefully I won’t see you at Barnum & Bailey.


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Dave Rosenmarkle
Highland Realty - Arlington, VA
32 years of providing fully satisfying service!

Oftentimes, it comes down to the level of competence and confidence you demonstrate in your meetings and conversations with sellers or buyers. If an assertive seller detects a lack in either, you could be opening the door for an unpleasant, seller-dominated listing relationship.

Sep 15, 2016 07:12 PM #10
Margaret Rome Baltimore 410-530-2400
HomeRome Realty 410-530-2400 - Pikesville, MD
Sell Your Home With Margaret Rome

Along these same lines of a circus...there are some transactions that are like a roller coaster ride. I have heard agents say that very same thing. Because my seller wanted me too.

Sep 15, 2016 08:12 PM #11
Sham Reddy CRS
H E R Realty, Dayton, OH - Dayton, OH

Because you deal with a lot clowns!!! And walking tight ropes and balancing and juggling buch of stuff on a daily basis!!!

Sep 15, 2016 09:20 PM #12
Harry F. D'Elia III
RentVest - Phoenix, AZ
Investor , Mentor, GRI, Radio, CIPS, REOs, ABR

There are many obstacles to the finish line on each deal.

Sep 15, 2016 09:26 PM #13
Richie Alan Naggar
people first...then business Ran Right Realty - Riverside, CA
agent & author

Realtors are perceived in many different ways. People assume much not knowing what makes for a good or a not so good agent until after the fact. A pretty face, paperwork and some strange words can swoon but results don't lie

Sep 15, 2016 11:35 PM #14
Andrew Mooers | 207.532.6573
Northern Maine Real Estate-Aroostook County Broker

We set expectations, navigate from listing through marketing to the front row seat at the real estate closing. But if the buyer, seller does not take our advice, we present what they want or we say I can not help you. Work on the listings, sales where results are possible. Those closing checks pay your bills, make it a sport where you need goals, wins.

Sep 15, 2016 11:42 PM #15
Kathleen Daniels
KD Realty - 408.972.1822 - San Jose, CA
San Jose Homes for Sale-Probate & Trust Specialist

Melissa, I embrace the analogy here yet am not aligned with doctors always prescribing what is best for us ... many prescribe what is best for them because they profit from it.  That said, we need to use common sense ... which is not so common anymore.  We are hired to know what is best for a client and to advise accordingly.  Congratulations on the Feature!

Sep 16, 2016 01:57 AM #16
Mike Bjork
Pinnacle Home Loan - Redondo Beach, CA

I don't think anybody should be a puppet to anybody; regardless, if they're the employer.  It's simply disrespectful to that individual.  If the request is not relevant to the job at hand, then it's not necessary.  If they keep bending over backwards for the clients/employers in ways that is not related to the job and they continue to be disrespectful, then agent/employee must nip it in the bud, as they (obviously) don't have any respect from the client/employer.  How can you help somebody whom doesn't have any respect for you?  Interesting topic, Melissa!  Thanks for bringing this thought up.

Sep 16, 2016 02:17 AM #17
Shirley Coomer
Keller Williams Realty Sonoran Living - Phoenix, AZ
Realtor, Keller Williams Realty, Phoenix Az

I love the circus analogy.  So true!  We can only advise our clients and operate within the code of ethics.  Personally often feel like the juggler in the center ring.

Sep 16, 2016 02:39 AM #18
Denise Hamlin, Broker/Owner
Cardinal Realty ~ 319-400-0268 - Iowa City, IA
Helping Happy Clients Make Smart Choices

Interesting post. I don't see myself as a puppet, but I do understand the agent who said she followed her clients instructions. Ultimately our job is to to use our expertise to advise and guide our clients. If they end up making a decision that doesn't tally with what we think is best, then so be it. They get to make the final decision and we follow their instructions.

Sep 16, 2016 02:49 AM #19
Robin Hobbs
Front Gate Realty - Madison, MS

Love the post and the analogy. It's a balancing act. I just had to cancel a listing because I had a seller who refused to take my advice. I realized when I brought THREE offers within three weeks of listing after previous agents had gone a year with none, and Mr. Seller refused to negotiate😩 No deal to be made here!

Sep 16, 2016 01:45 PM #20
Kimo Jarrett
WikiWiki Realty - Huntington Beach, CA
Pro Lifestyle Solutions

A fiduciary is obligated to fulfill his client's goals to the best of his ability, it has nothing to do with what's best for you as a fiduciary. A fiduciary isn't a slave to his client and may terminate his position anytime. There could be many reasons to terminate a fiduciary relationship, so, just because you have a fiduciary relationship, it doesn't prevent you from terminating your client.   

Sep 16, 2016 02:54 PM #21
Terry McCarley
REMAX Trend - Cape Coral FL - Cape Coral, FL

Love this post!!!  Excellent analogy and thought provoking!  We owe it to our clients to do what is in their best interest!  Some sellers want us to do things that are unethical or flat out illegal so an agent saying they did something because the seller told them to could find themselves in serous trouble!   Congrats on the much deserved featured post!

Sep 16, 2016 10:18 PM #22
Gary Woltal
Keller Williams Realty - Flower Mound, TX
Assoc. Broker Realtor SFR Dallas Ft. Worth

There has to be some give and take, back and forth. Fiduciary yes, robot no. You can fire your client, they can fire you. You can't go nutty. Some days more ZOO than circus. Your professional advice has to be listened to. We don't take every pill a doctor prescribes. Sometimes the doctor is the Bozo, sometimes the patient is the Bozo. Sometimes you can't tell the difference.

Sep 17, 2016 12:45 AM #23
Debra Leisek
Bay Realty,Inc Homer Alaska - Homer, AK

I always tell my agents that our job is to protect our clients even if it is from themselves. We are not here to blindly follow instructions: our purpose is much higher and more complex. Would you let them break the law? How far would you go with doing what your seller told you to do? reminds me of telling children if your friend jumps off a bridge would you do it to?

Sep 17, 2016 04:14 AM #24
Mary Hutchison, SRES, ABR
Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate-Kansas City Homes - Kansas City, MO
Experienced Agent in Kansas City Metro area

Decisions always involve the seller....and the agent can/should give advice. Sometimes you do have to 'fire' a client because of their behavior. That's always tough because the agent loses money...

Sep 17, 2016 08:09 AM #25
Jan Green
Value Added Service, 602-620-2699 - Scottsdale, AZ
HomeSmart Elite Group, REALTOR®, EcoBroker, GREEN

So true.  We can give opinions, not be a puppet, but we do have a choice if we want to work with that client. 

Sep 18, 2016 12:36 PM #26
Diana Dahlberg
1 Month Realty - Pleasant Prairie, WI
Real Estate in Kenosha, WI since 1994 262-308-3563

Sellers hire us because of our expertise and so when it comes to many of the decisions, we have to be able to call the shots and if the seller asks for us to do something that is not within the Code of Ethics ... we need to educate our clients and stay clear of anything that would appear to be inappropriate.

Sep 19, 2016 01:41 AM #27
Stephen Arnold
HomeSmart Elite Group - Scottsdale, AZ

I've had this happen on numerous occasions with sellers, when a home is not moving.  All of a sudden they become the marketing expert and everything that you have done is irrelevant.  A clear understanding on the front end and a little courteous pushback can prevent the circus from moving out of state!

Sep 19, 2016 02:08 AM #28
NextHome Realty Center - Cypress, TX
The 'Golden' Experience Team!

Excellent feature and discussion.  It can and does work--set expectations up front really helps and shows your value, too.  BTW--I love Lab Coat Agents and Agent Mastermind in addition to my area Broker Underground FB pages.  Some great sharing and discussions out there that get me thinking and then there are those that are just plain fun to read. People are people.  Have a great day!!

Sep 21, 2016 01:25 AM #29
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Melissa Zavala

Broker, Escondido Real Estate, San Diego County
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