Commentary January 12, 2013

I Am No Middle Man


A recent client's very apros pos token of gratitude.

A recent client’s very apros pos token of gratitude.

AGBeat has an interesting article on how technology has eliminated many “middle men” from their respective industries, but that real estate brokerage has not been among the victims. It is a well done piece, and I agree that technology will never replace agents for many reasons. However, I do take issue with one thing: The term “middle man” does not apply to me. I am no middle man.

“Middle man” implies an intermediary that stands between the consumer and the good or service who adds their fee without bringing lots of value. That isn’t me, and it isn’t any one of my agents. And that goes for the vast majority of my industry.

Real estate is not a point and click transaction. The proliferation of data and access on the Internet may have destroyed travel and brick and mortar book sellers among others, but those exchanges last a few minutes and end with entering a credit card number. However, real estate transactions begin weeks and months before the deposit. They also do not conclude until 60 to 180 days later (as in the case of short sales) at the closing. There is no similarity to any other piece of commerce.

Often, I will not conclude a transaction with a client until 6 months or a year after my first contact with them.

In the case of a seller, I have given them exhaustive research for pricing, the key to my Rolodex for resources in lawyers, title, contractors, stagers, inspectors, and other trades, and many man hours of time and advice. I have been the general contractor overseeing renovations on property to complete repairs, bring homes into compliance, and getting the home ready and presentable for sale before it saw 1 day on the market. I did it all for free, because I don’t get paid unless and until that home closes. And yes, there have been rare cases where I did all that, the people didn’t take my pricing advice, expired unsold, didn’t renew with me, and then listed with another broker at the price I recommended, selling in short order.  Even if I sell a home in a week, I can guarantee that the work started long before that, in some cases years. Middle men don’t do that.

I have communicated with buyers for months before they were ready to actually look for homes. I have helped them repair their credit. I almost always help them with mortgage resources who have gotten them the very best home loan terms available on the market because, after 16 years in this business, my contacts would make the King of Siam envious. I have put walk through videos on Dropbox for out of state prospects so they’ll know if they should fly in or not. And yes, there have been buyers who have ridden in my car for months, seen dozens of homes with me, and not closed either because they had a change in life circumstance or bought through another broker in different conditions. My pay in those cases was always the same: Zero. That  isn’t a complaint. It is also something middle men don’t do.

And when the right place for my clients is found, the work really starts. I have advocated, sleuthed, investigated,  negotiated, and worked on behalf of my clients for months from accepted offer to close to ensure that the mine field of home inspection, title, contact, mortgage, appraisal and hundreds of other things concluded to their best interests. Middle men don’t do that.

With over 340 sets of clients in transactions valued at over  $140 million, I have remained available for free, as a resource, trouble shooter, and friend. Middle men don’t do that.

Oh. And I have a skill set that only comes with that experience. I look millionaires in the eye the same way I do with regular Joes. I have exercised the patience of Job with other agents in many circumstances, many of whom tough counterparts for a variety of reasons. I have gone toe to toe with lenders loss mitigation departments at huge banks in short sales. I have matched wits with attorneys who think that their JD, and not the facts, put them higher on the food chain than I am. 

All too often the outside eyes looking in judge a broker by the amount of labor they do to the naked eye. There are few metrics for knowledge, communication and a thousand other skills that are not rooted in “doing” but “being.” That goes for many things, including calls, emails and texts late at night.

I am a trusted adviser in what is typically the largest transaction of one’s life as an advocate, fiduciary, sounding board and friend. I am no middle man.