Ask An Ambassador: Giving A Scorpion A Ride

Real Estate Agent with RE/MAX Alliance 513.520.5305 SAL.2002007747

There's a fable about a frog giving a scorpion a ride across the river after the scorpion promises not to sting the frog.

It ends with "I couldn't help it.  It's in my nature."


Now you might look at me and see an engineer and figure out I'm not about touchy feely stuff, and you'd be mostly right, but that doesn't make me absent of emotion.

But my engineering nature does give me a tendency to run the numbers with every call, prospect email and interaction. 


Am I about to give a scorpion a ride?


I'm careful not to put out food that attracts scorpions.  In general our blog posts, our websites, my personal Facebook wall, are designed not to attract the venomous types.

And after being in this business for almost 17 years, I've learned a thing or two about avoiding scorpion types.


I ask questions at first contact to make sure I'm not doing pro bono work for another agent.  If you listen closely for the response, there's often a telltale.  A long pause in response..."do I admit my cousin Jeff is an agent?"...before giving you an answer.  Realistically, I don't think MOST consumers understand how things work and figure it's your job to open the door if they ask (even if it's NOT your own listing).

But that initial conversation can provide key clues.  Do they have a posse of agents working for them?  You mention a home for sale and they say "I saw that one already."   ummm....with whom???

And sometimes the scorpion is right out there. 

"I'll work with you if you give me x% as a rebate." 

I'll admit that I've run the math and rolled those dice once or twice.  And I did get paid.  But it was painful.  I did get stung.  There was no respect from them to me, but why should I have been surprised?  It was just their nature.  They told me right at the beginning.


So we live and learn.  I try to minimize the number of scorpions I give rides to, and sometimes we get to the other shore just fine.

So how do you avoid giving scorpions a ride?

Until next Tuesday, just Ask An Ambassador if you need help,

Bill & Liz aka BLiz

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Serving Warren County Ohio & Adjacent Areas


The Liz Spear Team of RE/MAX Alliance
Elizabeth Spear, ABR, CRS, Ohio License SAL.2002007747

William (Bill) Spear, CRS, Ohio License SAL.2004011109  Kentucky 77938
Ask for us by name if you visit the office!

EHO Two locations: Lebanon & Mason, OH
Bill Direct:  513-520-5305
Liz Direct: 513-265-3004     
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Comments (42)

Dorie Dillard Austin TX
Coldwell Banker Realty ~ 512.750.6899 - Austin, TX
NW Austin ~ Canyon Creek and Spicewood/Balcones

Good morning Liz and Bill Spear ,

I love this post and hadn't heard the scorpion story either but its so true. After being in business as long as I have asking the right questions early on always reveal red flags....listening is the key and not being afraid to let these stingers go is crucial to my well being.

Mar 04, 2021 01:09 AM
Liz and Bill Spear

I can't count the number of times I've passed up a potential client that doesn't want to work with only one agent.  I'll work with whoever finds me the right home!  Sorry, I'm not going to be part of an agent posse and hoping to be THE ONE.  I'd rather throw away my money on a Powerball ticket than spend time that way.

Mar 04, 2021 07:27 AM
Carol Williams
Although I'm retired, I love sharing my knowledge and learning from other real estate industry professionals. - Wenatchee, WA
Retired Agent / Broker / Property Manager

I've always loved that story.  I think respecting yourself and the value you bring to a situation is the key to avoiding being taken in by the scorpions in life.

Mar 04, 2021 06:23 AM
Liz and Bill Spear

The irony about our business is we never get paid until we succeed, so putting up with a toxic environment along the way to what we HOPE will turn into something is taking abuse for free.  Typically not a good way to run our own lives.

Mar 04, 2021 07:25 AM
Anna Banana Kruchten CRS, Phoenix Broker
HomeSmart Real Estate BR030809000 - Phoenix, AZ

This is so great Bill!  I've given a few a ride over the last 34  years and then, the free rides stopped. Ask questions and then..............LISTEN to their answers.  They will tell you exactly what their plan is. Exactly.

Mar 04, 2021 09:58 AM
Liz and Bill Spear

There are always lessons to be learned and the experience helps prevent repeats.

Mar 04, 2021 06:45 PM
Robin Miller

we have enough of those darn scorpions here in the southwest, the animal and people kind. yep, good qualifying questions sort them out. don't let the door hit you in the tail on the way out mr. scorpion

Mar 05, 2021 07:19 PM
Lyn Sims
Schaumburg, IL
Real Estate Agent Retired

That is the hardest part of real estate - finding out who the scorpions are quickly.


Mar 04, 2021 11:26 AM
Liz and Bill Spear

Some make it easy, some are a bit more stealthy.

Mar 04, 2021 06:45 PM
Sham Reddy CRS
H E R Realty, Dayton, OH - Dayton, OH

You are so right Liz & Bill...Thanks for sharing!

Realistically, I don't think MOST consumers understand how things work and figure it's your job to open the door if they ask 

Mar 05, 2021 04:04 AM
Liz and Bill Spear

I encounter that time and again, they think if they find us on the internet we're fair game to do whatever they want, even when they already have an agent.

Mar 05, 2021 01:50 PM
Monica Hill
RE/Max Associates - Wilmington, DE
the REALTOR to help you discover Delaware

Good analogy.  In this market where Buyers are looking for SOME way to beat someone else to the house, I think they may be loosing faith in the Realtors/agents with whom they are working. A cold call that I received last week highlighted that, because when I asked if they had an agent, they said, "Yes, but..." so I stopped them and said, "If I show this house to you, your agent will not get paid. You'll have to pay them yourself." Not the cold approach I prefer to take with people but you're right Bill and Liz, the general public does not understand how our business works. 

Mar 05, 2021 09:53 AM
Liz and Bill Spear

I spend a lot of time educating on that very topic.  Some know and don't care, others just haven't had it explained to them and think I somehow get something out of showing them a home that they'll never write a contract on WITH ME. 

Mar 05, 2021 01:52 PM
Hella M. Rothwell, Broker/Realtor®
Carmel by the Sea, CA
Rothwell Realty Inc. CA#01968433 Carmel-by-the-Sea

I've actually worked with scorpions and it came out ok.  I just don't think of myself as a frog giving them a ride.  Why should I give up the field once I've started working with them? And, no, I only pay referral fees to licensed agents if I know they existed in the first place.  Once "clients" are willing to go across the river knowing this but still want to work with me, well, I do believe that they can change their minds and keep working with me.  

Mar 05, 2021 12:30 PM
Liz and Bill Spear

i don't mind if someone wants to switch agents to me, but in general what I encounter is people that want my niche expertise, but still want their agent as their agent.  And obviously, that doesn't work so well for me.

Mar 05, 2021 01:53 PM
MaryKay Shumway
The Kellstrom Ray Agency, Inc. (Est. 1948) - Sister Bay, WI
Door County Wisconsin's Real Estate Expert

If it swims like a duck, quacks like a duck and looks like a duck--know your ducks (scorpions!).  

Mar 05, 2021 02:28 PM
Liz and Bill Spear

They'll drive you quackers!!

Mar 05, 2021 07:25 PM
Grant Schneider
Performance Development Strategies - Armonk, NY
Your Coach Helping You Create Successful Outcomes

Hi Liz and Bill Spear - new agents can be easily stung.  It is important to ask the right questions to minimize being stung.

Mar 06, 2021 04:10 AM
Liz and Bill Spear

No doubt, one of the skills we have to learn.  Not every call is from someone you should want to work with.

Mar 06, 2021 05:30 AM
Scott Seaton Jr. Bourbonnais Kankakee IL Home Inspector
SLS Home Inspections-Bradley Bourbonnais Kankakee Manteno - Bourbonnais, IL
The Home Inspector With a Heart!

Having been in sales for 40 plus years, there have been a few times where the best deal was the one I walked away from. Going against what you know in your gut is not right, you will get stung. 

Mar 06, 2021 04:24 AM
Liz and Bill Spear

No doubt, our mental well-being is often best served by NOT working with certain people.

Mar 06, 2021 05:32 AM
Karen Rice
Keller Williams Real Estate - Hawley, PA
Northeast PA & Lake Wallenpaupack Home Sales

Wow, great perspective and an excellent way of looking at it.
With regard to potential "seller scorpions" - if they spend the entire phone consultation not interviewing you about your marketing plan but rather complaining about the last 5 agents they had, and declaring they won't "give their house away, I know what it's worth" they might be a scorpion.

Mar 06, 2021 05:57 AM
Liz and Bill Spear

They're waving that red flag aren't they??

Mar 06, 2021 08:06 AM
Karen Rice

Liz and Bill Spear yes indeed!

Mar 08, 2021 06:45 PM
Debb Janes EcoBroker and Bernie Stea JD
ViewHomes of Clark County - Nature As Neighbors - Camas, WA
REALTORS® in Clark County, WA

What a great post, Bill. Most of us have had an experience or two with a scorpion, and it's not fun. This market has brought out a few. Fortunately, with the right questions and the use of intuition, we are weeding them out. 

Mar 06, 2021 07:18 AM
Liz and Bill Spear

It has gotten easier to figure out who a good buyer client or seller client will be.  Sometimes they still surprise, but we have options if they do.

Mar 06, 2021 08:06 AM
M.C. Dwyer
Melody Russell Team at eXp Realty of California, Inc. - Felton, CA
MC Dwyer-Santa Cruz Mountains Property Specialist

Great title and subject - you're right, if you listen carefully, you often can tell something is amiss    However, once early in my career, a couple waited until after many showings, right before writing an offer, to request that I give them a rebate like their "friend," an agent, had agreed to do.     I bowed out for this plus the reason below.   Could I have spotted something earlier?    Yes:  they had previously insisted I show them a home on a holiday when I already had a personal commitment.    Lesson learned: pay attention to your sixth senses!

Mar 06, 2021 07:38 AM
Liz and Bill Spear

We had a buyer once that we were about 70 showings in and he took a call while we were out with him and it was obvious he was investigating another home option without us.  We did manage to get him to the closing table, but it wasn't a good feeling.

Mar 06, 2021 08:08 AM
Jake D'Acquisto
White Pine Real Estate - Wales, WI
Lakefront & Luxury Homes

Great post and very relative in an extremely low inventory market. I've rolled the dice in the past and have won & lost. Better to bite the bullet and ask upfront those all too important qualifying questions. I have ran into those that don't understand our business and also ones who do understand, but simply don't care....don't waste your time on them!

Mar 06, 2021 07:47 AM
Liz and Bill Spear

The whole spectrum is out there, and it's the ones who know and don't care that concern me most.

Mar 06, 2021 08:09 AM
Barbara Flannery
USA Realty,Inc. - London, KY
"Homes for Everyone In London Kentucky"

Great post !! Yes I’ve given a scorpion a ride before !!! Just recently my scorpion was a supposedly friend that I paid for her to go to Real Estate Class she got her licenses went to work for me then long story short I gave her a lead she got buyer under contract then all of a sudden I’m signing a release form she tells me she wants to escrow Then I find out she took my buyer to went to another broker sold him the house and I got stung for sure
Brokers beware of hiring friends and helping them get licensed

Mar 06, 2021 08:11 AM
Liz and Bill Spear

It's always seemed like a high risk situation when friendship and business get mixed.  Sometimes it works out, but the potential for it to go bad is hard to ignore.

Mar 06, 2021 08:08 PM
Marte Cliff
Marte Cliff Copywriting - Priest River, ID
Your real estate writer

Your story reminds me of an old Robert Ringer book in which he related his adventures as a commercial real estate broker. He described the various types of sellers and buyers he had encountered - and warned that like a scorpion, they do what they do and have no regrets.

Mar 06, 2021 11:02 AM
Liz and Bill Spear

We've certainly encountered the full spectrum, from those completely loyal to us and to those that would throw us under the proverbial bus in a heartbeat if they thought it would somehow benefit them.

Mar 06, 2021 08:09 PM
Greg Mona
West USA Realty - Scottsdale, AZ
Professional Real Estate Representation for YOU!

Yes, Bill, I can definitely remember giving a scorpion a ride a time or two. It doesn't start out intentionally, but rather either not heeding the red flags or convincing yourself it is all going to be okay when your gut tells you otherwise. Just another hazard of the business, I suppose.


Also, as a resident of AZ, I can relate to scorpions. Their sting is indeed very painful and for some can be life-threatening, I learned the hard way on that, but fortunately didn't have much of a physical reaction to it after the initial searing pain and subsequent numbness at the "injection site"!

Mar 06, 2021 11:16 AM
Liz and Bill Spear

Growing up in West Central Louisiana, we used to have the occasion crossed paths with scorpions.  Nothing like having one drop out of the bathroom exhaust fan and land next to you to get your attention as a kid!  Fortunately, I've never had to experience their sting.

Mar 06, 2021 08:10 PM
Thomas J. Nelson, REALTOR ® e-Pro CRS RCS-D Vets
Big Block Realty 858.232.8722 - La Jolla, CA
& Host of Postcards From Success Podcast

Great post and yes, my coach brings up that fable once in a while when I act surprised a scorpion stung me. I try to give people the benefit of the doubt, but I see the value in calling a scorpion a scorpion and moving on.

The thieves of joy I call them, snakes, scorpions and jack-asses...they are out there and to be avoided if you want to enjoy making your money. It doesn't need to be a grind. 

Mar 08, 2021 08:20 AM
Liz and Bill Spear

And I do prefer to enjoy making my money.  Life is too short to put up with joy vampires.

Mar 09, 2021 05:51 AM
Gwen Fowler-864-710-4518 SC * Mountain* Lake*Home
Gwen Fowler Real Estate, Inc - Walhalla, SC
Gwen Fowler Real Estate, Inc.

Well if you're going to give a scorpion a ride make sure you're a turtle, not a frog.  


Mar 10, 2021 09:36 AM
Liz and Bill Spear

Maybe swim underwater the whole trip :)

Mar 14, 2021 03:15 PM
Sharon Miller
RE/MAX Platinum - Crane Hill, AL

Liz & Bill,

I run into this constantly, as I specialize in selling waterfront properties. I'll get a call from someone who claims they are interested in looking at lake properties. I promptly gather several pieces of information, one being, where do you currently live? If they make their home several hundred miles from where I do business, I inquire as to the specifics of their interest in Lewis Smith Lake property. If they ask specific questions, such as property located on a certain part of the lake, or indicate their preference to look at certain lakeside communities, (gated subdivisions) I feel they have spoke with somebody else prior to contacting me. The key for me to weed out these "scorpions"..... I begin asking them questions which will identify their level of sincerity and truthfulness, such as, "have you ever visited Smith Lake previously?" or "what has attracted you to consider a Smith Lake property?" If they have not been forthright, these questions will cause either a moment of silence as they search for a means to "cover their tracks" or they will contradict earlier statments, tipping their hand. Once either of these events happen, I begin asking a pointed question(s) such as, "When did you last visit Smith Lake?"......"Did you work with a realtor during your visit?". Once this type of information has been extracted and they have been exposed as being less than forthcoming, I can pretty much decide, if it's time to "go for the jugular" and/or truncate our conversation. Asking the question, "So what kind of timetable are you working with to procure a piece of Smith Lake property?" or "What day or day's of the week works best for you to make property visits?" As one becomes more inquisitive, those who have been less than forthright, will begin their "exit" withdrawal behavior. The typical responses.....I have committed to memory, "Actually, we've just begun to look." or we're trying to make a decision if Smith Lake is right for us."

In the finality, I can "interview" prospective buyers and with a high degree of accuracy, separate the "wheat from the chaff". On occasion, honesty will prevail and the caller will admit, they were displeased with the lack of qualifications another realtor displayed and are looking for someone who is knowledgeable and experienced.

Unfortunately, the "scorpions" among us, are reproducing in droves. It goes without saying, "conducting business today, requires regular evaluation in order to fine tune and update business practices and communications.

Stay the course!


Mar 13, 2021 07:44 AM
Liz and Bill Spear

I do appreciate the callers that are honest enough to admit their full circumstances.  And if they already have an agent, I may suggest to them that their agent can set up an MLS search that will provide them key notifications, but ultimately that as long as they're working with another agent and it's NOT my listing they're calling about, that's as far as I can go with them.

Mar 14, 2021 03:19 PM