Real estate is one of the few industries that relies on communicating and cooperating with other competitors in the profession to earn a living. A cooperative spirit is at the heart of what it means to be a professional real estate agent.
In order to work with each other cooperatively, we must keep communication lines opens, respect one another as professionals, and encourage one another to maintain the integrity of what we do to meet the needs of our clients. To survive in this business, you must be able to work with other agents on an ongoing basis.
The number one complaint lodged against real estate agents by consumers and other agents is the lack of communication. In fact, our industry has a black eye with the general public when it comes to how we handle communication.
There is no question we dislike giving bad news or providing information to the other side of a transaction that may result in confrontation. No one likes confrontation. We want to avoid it. We want it to go away. Unfortunately, most times, it will not disappear.
By avoiding an important issue, a difficult subject, or complaint with the cooperating agent in your transaction, you are guaranteed to see the problem worsen. You must take care of the issue sooner rather than later so your path to closing the deal will be less cluttered with obstacles and any unnecessary drama.
Here are five helpful reminders to make sure you’re doing your part as a communicative and cooperative real estate agent.
1. Communicate, communicate, communicate. Common grievances include poor communication involving important issues at the offer stage, during the inspection and repair/replacement resolution periods, and before the property closes. Sometimes the news at these critical points in the transaction is not always good news, but agents must communicate with one another, no matter what the issue might be. Remember, another key to good communication in our business is responding to other agents’ calls and e-mails promptly and courteously.
How do you deal with an agent not responding to your telephone call, text message, or email? One of my biggest frustrations as a REALTOR® and as a principal broker is when I cannot reach the cooperating agent or, if necessary, their principal broker. This drives me crazy! To this day, I still get frustrated when someone does not get back to me in a timely manner.
Here is a script I developed for my agents when talking to the cooperating principal broker when you can’t reach the other agent: “ Mr.(or Ms.) Broker, I’ve been trying to reach Betty Agent to present an offer we have on her listing at 123 Elm Street. I was wondering how to proceed. I’ve tried reaching Betty on her cell via voice mail and text as well as leaving multiple messages at her office. I’m wondering if she is OK. My buyers are eager to have their offer presented. What do you recommend?”
I’ve had great results with this approach. It is non-threatening and will make the other broker track the agent down.
2. Do not assume the other agent is doing their job. Never assume the cooperating agent is doing something they are responsible for in the transaction affecting performance dates, contingency releases, closing and possession dates, contract extensions, etc. Many times, when we assume someone else is handling an issue, nothing happens or gets resolved. You must always follow-up with the other agent to make sure things are happening on the other side of the transaction, so the deal is not jeopardized, and the interests of your client are protected.
Show professional respect for your peers. To make it in this business, agents must have mutual respect for one another. Article 15 of the Code of Ethics states: “REALTORS® shall not knowingly or recklessly make false or misleading statements about other real estate professionals, their businesses, or their business practices.” Article 15 is probably the most violated article in the entire Code.
We tend to speak ill of another agent when something goes wrong, or they do something that affects our client, our transaction, or us. Bad-mouthing another person has become a common problem in society, but it does not have to be in our industry. The professionalism we espouse through the Code and within our real estate practice depends on managing the words and actions towards each other. Hold your tongue and keep your personal feelings about another agent to yourself when they have caused issues or problems.
3. Don’t poach another agent’s clients. I once fired an agent from our firm when I learned she was prospecting at other agents’ open houses. She was trying to get information about the sellers, so she could contact the seller to try to steal the listing from the listing agent.
Agents need to realize there is enough business out there for everyone. Real estate agents need to procure clients through legal and ethical means and not by tactics that are incongruent with who we are as professionals. Article 16 of the Code provides several standards of practice outlining the importance of not encroaching on signed exclusive agency agreements.
4. Don’t change the cooperative agent’s compensation as noted in the MLS. One of the most frequent complaints I hear about other agents involves altering compensation before or after a contract is signed. A listing agent will enter the cooperating broker compensation in the Multiple Listing Service as “X,” but when the agent discusses compensation at the time of the offer, the compensation is “Y.” Most MLS systems have established detailed rules on commissions and compensation. Changes to compensation get messy and sometimes ends up in an arbitration hearing at the local REALTOR® association. You should submit a cooperative compensation agreement to the listing broker before submitting an offer to purchase so there are no questions about how much you will be paid at closing.
5. Change your mindset. When there is an uncooperative agent on the other side of the deal who is not doing what they should be doing, you will end up doing most of the work in the transaction.
Why? The reason is pretty simple: you must always protect your client and work in their best interest. Remember, they need to sell or purchase a home. If the other side is not cooperating or doing their part in the transaction, you will have to do it. You will need to change your mindset and take control of the situation. The other agent has dropped the ball, and now you need to pick it up and possibly carry it to the finish line. The bottom line is you cannot let your client down.
We must always remember we are working in an industry that requires cooperation. Most of the homes listed in this country are sold not by the listing agent, but by a cooperating buyer’s agent. We all are working toward one goal – take care of the parties in the transaction so the seller sells their house and the buyer purchases their dream home. Good communication and professional and ethical behavior will make this happen.
John Giffen is Director of Broker Operations for Benchmark Realty, LLC in Tennessee. He is the author of “Do You Have a Minute? An Award-Winning Real Estate Managing Broker Reveals Keys for Industry Success.”