Be a professional, know when to refer a client 'out'!

Real Estate Agent with One Sotheby's International Realty- Miami Beach Real Estate

Yesterday, an agent from Ft. Lauderdale showed some of my listings here in Miami Beach.  I must admit whenever I get a request from an out-of-area broker, I know I'm in trouble.  I won't drone on about the specifics, but I will tell you that on a Saturday afternoon she was 30 minutes late, HAD NO IDEA what she was showing AND worse yet, had no idea what HER CLIENT was looking for.

It was clear from the moment that her client stepped into the condo, that this was not for him.  The agent started to 'needle' me about the neighborhood specifics, because she didn't know herself.  I decided to cut to the chase and ask HER what her client was looking for.  Long story short, he was looking for something completely different and in a different location.

After looking around the condo, the client joined in on the conversation.  He seemed to hang off every word I said.  He was information starved!  After 'using' me for a good 20 minutes, I didn't mind, they were both pleasant enough, we made a list of 10 or so buildings that would fit his needs.

During the conversation here is what I learned:

  • She had no idea what her client was looking for
  • She had no knowledge about the neighborhoods in Miami Beach
  • She knew nothing about the buildings that she was showing

By the time she was finished with me, she was a good 1 hour late for ALL of her appointments.  This is why I believe she should have referred this client out to another agent, so that the client wouldn't have to suffer for her lack of knowledge. 

If you decide to work an area that you don't know well, here are some BASIC MINIMUMS for showing out of your area: 

  • 'Drive' the route/neighborhood prior to the appointment, so you don't get lost.  If you have a number of appointments, one wrong turn could throw off every one of your showings.
  • Preview, if possible, to get familiar with some of the buildings/properties.
  • Talk to the listing agent about your client and his/her needs.  I know I would rather spend 10 minutes on the phone, than waste my client's whole Saturday with random showings.

In this situation I would have definitely referred this client to an agent who 'works' the area, and here is why:

The client knew that his agent did not know the area well.  He didn't seem comfortable with the amount of information he was getting from his agent.  I don't think that the agent was bringing any value to her client.

He would have been better served by her, if she either became knowledgeable about the area or referred him to someone who did.

What say you?


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Michael Ross
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage - Beverly, MA
North Shore of Boston
Well written post and you are absolutely right the client should be reffered out. Two different markets and all real estate is local. Did you call the agent and ask her if she needs a map so her next visit?
Apr 22, 2007 05:40 PM #1
Kaushik Sirkar
Call Realty, Inc. - Chandler, AZ
Agreed.  Too many agents are out there claiming to be an expert on HUGE swaths of land.  I don't buy it.  Stick to the areas you know and know them well!
Apr 22, 2007 06:01 PM #2
Joanne Hanson
Coldwell Banker Colorado Rockies Real Estate - Frisco, CO
Summit County, Colorado Realtor

Isn't it in the code of ethics that we should send people to the experts for taxes, home inspections, surveys, etc, and not stick our nose into something that is not our area of expertise?  As far as I am concerned, showing property in an area you are not familiar with is the same thing.  Especially when Home Owner Associations, wells and septics, or anything out of the ordinary is involved.  It is usually an agent who doesn't have enough business and figures that they would rather make the money themselves, even if it means driving a little bit.  I am in a resort area just over an hour from Denver and we get it all the time! 

I will cooperate as it might mean selling my listing, but I don't like it! 

Apr 22, 2007 06:12 PM #3
Robert Whitelaw
Whitelaw & Sons Real Estate Services - Morgan Hill, CA
Broker, CEO, Realtor , ePro
So true. This is what happens when an agent gets to focused on what is best for them versus what is best for the client. Souns like a giant waste of time and this agent has probably shot herself in the foot when it comes to referrals or future business from this client.
Apr 22, 2007 08:33 PM #4
Beth Butler
Beth Butler - Big Mouth Consulting - Miami, FL
Another formula for Realtor Math - 100% of zero is still zero - a 25% referral fee is going to make you more money!  Joanne makes a great point to, not only is it ill thought - but it is also an infraction of the code of ethics!  Thanks for another great post.
Apr 22, 2007 11:41 PM #5
Mary Pope-Handy
Sereno Group Real Estate - Los Gatos, CA
CRS, CIPS, ABR, SRES, Silicon Valley
Kevin you are RIGHT on the money with this.  I normally only work my own county (within about 40 minutes of my home/office at the most, with traffic...) for exactly that reason.

When you think about income earned per hour, referrals are a fantastic method of earning a living.

Kevin, something you said made me curious, though. Why were you at the showing? Do you not use electronic lockboxes in your market? In Silicon Valley, 99.5% of the time there's a lockbox, so listing agents are not present for showings unless they coincide with open houses.

Great post!!!!
Apr 23, 2007 02:07 AM #6
Caroline Carrara
EWM/Christie's-Las Olas, Real Estate - Fort Lauderdale, FL


You hit the nail on the head! What a waste of everyones time and how unprofessional...Some agents just are clueless about the basics, this is RE 101...It is incidents like this, that will help "weed" out the not so good agents and make the good ones, shine!

Apr 23, 2007 03:19 AM #7
ARDELL DellaLoggia
Better Properties Seattle - Kirkland, WA

I love that you didn't stop at "don't do it" and gave the "BASIC MINIMUMS" for going "out of area".  I have a few times had to go out of area for clients that just wouldn't hear of using a different agent.  My sister was one.

I have one now that wants me to list a property in an area 4 hours drive away that I have never been too, and likely will never go to.  I've put her off for now, but as much as I like her, I just can't see any way to accommodate her request.  It borders on the ridiculous.  The only time I have done that in the past, I co-listed it with an area agent.  That sometimes makes sense, as it might in this case, because th owner lives here, near me,  so all paperwork will be signed at my end from listing agreement to offer to closing papers.

When she bought it, I ended up doing most of the work for a small referral fee as she wold only sign papers with me and based on my advices.  So I may as well try to co-list it.  She wants ONLY me on the listing.  But that really doesn't make sense.

Sometimes consumers urge us to do that which we know is not in their best interests.  So I'm glad you included the "if you have no other choice", "here are the BASIC MINIMUMS for showing out of area".

Great post!

Apr 23, 2007 05:48 AM #8
Rick & Ines - Miami Beach Real Estate
Majestic Properties - Miami Beach, FL

Kevin, I've been in the "if you have no other choice" scenario and you better believe I do my homework.  Living in Miami it would be like you trying to sell a single-family home in Miami Shores, or me trying to sell a Condo in South Beach.  It can be done, but it takes a bit of homework and investigation.  

Apr 23, 2007 06:14 AM #9
Claudia Riva



Great post!  An agent is not doing any service to their client, when they go out of area.  You and your client are much better served if you refer it out.  You will make the referral fee and your client will appreciate that you serviced their needs over money in your pocket.

Apr 23, 2007 10:04 AM #10
Luther Harrity - Saint John, Rothesay, Hampton, New Brunswick Real Esate
Royal LePage Atlantic/Harrity Real Estate Services - Saint John, NB
Kevin, great post. It becomes very obvious that she should have turned the client over to YOU. You proved yourself to both of them almost instantly. It's also obvious that you should have given her the link to Active Rain!
Apr 26, 2007 12:31 AM #11
Jon Washburn
Seattle, WA

HI Kevin,

Great words of wisdom! 

May 01, 2007 01:10 AM #12

Great Post and something to think about for busy agents or agents unsure of property area, you are right in what you said about referring the client out.  It is better to make a 25% referral fee than to make nothing at all and have 1 unhappy customer who will tell other customers about his experience.  Who knows maybe the person that he/she tells is an investor or was also in the market for buying or selling.  Try to never burn bridges with customers! It never motto is "Think of Yourself As A Customer"!

May 06, 2007 02:21 AM #13
Carmen Offutt
La Rosa Realty - Altamonte Springs, FL

I think the main reason is GREED! Not only it is not in the buyer's best interest but it is also unethical.

May 07, 2007 04:54 AM #14
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Kevin Tomlinson

Miami Beach Real Estate
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