Commentary June 24, 2012

The Rite of Passage

About 2 years ago, I wrote a post entitled “You Aren’t in the Real Estate Business” about things that eventually happen to us in the industry that aren’t terribly happy rites of passage. It was a long list, and had the usual pitfalls of our industry- losing deals, foibles of dealing with the public, and other things that make us just a tad masochistic to do this for a living.

As a broker with a team that includes newer agents, it still kind of hurts to see a rookie go through one of these experiences, and just such a thing occurred to one of my newest agents yesterday. She had been working with a buyer for a number of weeks- phone calls, shwoings, emailing listings, picking my brain about how to handle their needs, and then she got the phone call. They bought a home with another agent.

It never occured to either one of us that they were dealing with another agent.
I wonder if those folks realize that unless they close with an agent they put through those rigors that the agent will never get paid for their efforts.

The details of the story are largely unknown to me, and we may never know all that occured when the buyers were not with us. They said it was a home they saw months before meeting my agent, although that really doesn’t make it OK- we still could have helped.  If a buyer walked into an open house and dealt with the listing agent back in March and nothing materialized, then got a phone call from that agent that the price was reduced, they could easily have said they would contact their agent and explore moving forward.

Or, they were simply playing the field, operating under the false assumption that using multiple agents would cast a wider net. That’s not terribly honorable, and doesn’t really work out so well for the consumer experience either, since the MLS database is the same marketwide. Some people just disappear; at least in this case we had a heads up.

Early in my career, I devoted an enormous amount of time to a family looking to buy their first home. They contacted me through a mailer I sent their apartment complex, I prequalified them with my mortgage contact and we helped them fix some credit issues so they would actually get a loan, and then we saw dozens of homes together over the months. On two occasions, we made offers that were accepted but fell through because of issues on the seller’s part. When the last one occured on a Friday, I arranged a monster day of showings for them on Saturday, putting everything else on the back burner. They called me that morning and said they were ill and couldn’t make it. The following day they walked into an open house and bought the place directly through the listing agent, who basically told me to jump in the lake when I contacted her. At that time, buyer brokerage agreements were rare.

I’ll never forget when the loan officer called me Monday and warned me that they applied for the mortgage on a home I didn’t sell them after all we’d been through. I’ll never know if the listing agent, who didn’t work for them, arranged the sort of deal they could have procured with true representation. I lost a sale, but I doubt they were ahead either.

What can you say? It happens to the best of us. Welcome to the real estate business.