We all know it. In real estate there are differences between clients and customers. We learn these differences very early in our education and training. We talk about fiduciary duties, accounting, fair and honest service etcetera, but the reality is that often those lines get blurred and that puts us into a difficult situation. Case in point. An agent, lets call him Terry, gets a call on one of his listings. The couple want to look at it at 5pm on a Thursday. Terry is not available to show the property so he gives the lead to Fran, an agent in his office who often acts as a buyer agent for him. Fran meets the couple at the condo and shows them around. They spend a long time there and ask Fran a bunch of questions about the property such as, what closing are the sellers looking for, what is included and excluded, and what facilities are in the building. Fran is happy to answer their questions. After a few minutes, it is clear that this couple is very interested in the condo. They start asking more questions about past sales, additional parking costs, maintenance fees and reserve funds. Fran knows the building and answers their questions. Finally the couple tell Fran that they are prepared to make an offer. They want to know why the seller is selling, what the Seller is likely to accept, closing date, and how much commission the seller will be paying and what clauses they should include in their offer. Fran is no dummy. She advises the couple that the property is inline with past sales and is well priced but gives no details into motivation or details into the listing contract.
The couple tell Fran that their lawyer has advised them not to sign a BRA and that they should only enter into a customer agreement. They also feel that it is only fair that since they contacted the Selling agent directly they should only pay 1/2 the commission however they still want Fran to prepare the offer. So here is the crux of the situation. Fran, has treated them, for the most part, like clients. She has provided information and offered advice on the property before establishing what kind of relationship the couple wished to assume. This creates a problem for Fran. If something were to go wrong during the transaction the couple could hold Fran responsible. She has after all put herself into an implied client/buyer relationship. If she knew that the couple wanted only to be customers, her answers on most of the questions would have been much simpler…”Please have your lawyer direct his questions to the Sellers or the Sellers agent”. By doing so, she exonerates herself from any potential question of representation.
As to the comments about commission, the answer again is simple. “My firm has been retained by the sellers to market their property for sale. The details of that contract are confidential and do not impact the sale price”.
It is only human nature to want to help and that desire becomes stronger when there are dollar signs on the other side, but the pitfalls of taking too many assumptions can be equally devastating. The example above highlights the importance of that critical first interaction with a potential buyer who you meet through a direct call or even at an open house. The realities of the Toronto market are that buyers are looking for a price advantage, just don’t let your eagerness to make a deal cloud your judgement.
mark mclean is the Broker/Manager at the Bosley Real Estate Queen St W office and President-Elect for the Toronto Real Estate Board. The opinions expressed here do not reflect the opinions of TREB or Bosley RE.
I really don’t want to sound like a broken record, but, OMG, if I have to utter those words again I think I might scream.
Here is the scenario. An agent recently took out new clients to look at houses. They had built up a nice rapport, spent some quality time together and had a BRA signed. Things were looking good. They found a house they loved. The agent knew it was competitively priced and that there were going to be a few people bidding on the house. He spent the better part of an evening explaining the process, encouraging them to get a home inspection done before offer night, to confirm with their mortgage agent that they had their financing and then showed them some comps to help determine a good price to go it at.
After their very long conversation, the agent headed back to the office to type the offer, then it all went sideways. The buyers wanted to load down their offer with conditions; condition on financing, condition on home inspection and condition on lawyer review of the offer. Oh, and one more thing, after much deliberation, they want to offer $15,000 below the list price. That sound you hear is the screeching of brakes. You and I know this deal is going nowhere fast. The agent calls me looking for encouraging words and the magic spell that will make it all go away. Then I have to say….”well, unfortunately, your clients need to lose this deal so they can understand the process and learn to take your advice “. I HATE those words.
The truth is, new buyers don’t need to lose on any house if they don’t want to. Often their decisions to load down their offer with conditions has more to do with having cold feet. Still, they need to listen to you and THAT means trusting you. Of course you will run into situations where the client is an armchair Realtor who thinks he knows more than you, or you might be unfortunate to work with clients whose father says something like, “are you crazy? you can buy a mansion in Peterborough for the same money”. So what can you do to prevent your manager from uttering those annoying words? Try these five tips.
1. It all comes down to giving the clients accurate information. Show them the numbers (they don’t lie). Provide them recent comps and differences between asking and sale prices.
2. As much as it hurts, you need to be brutally honest about the process. Give them a primer on the market. In case they are new to the city, or have been living under a rock, show them newspaper articles that emphasize what is going on in your local market.
3. Document real life examples of clients that you have worked with or talk about situations where others have lost because they weren’t prepared.
4. Have home inspectors at the ready and explain that the home inspector will save you money by showing you the true condition of the house. It is a needed expense of buying a home.
5. Have some serious dialogue with their mortgage broker. Explain your familiarity with the market. Put their mind at ease that the house you sell them will appraise with ease.
Naturally, there are no guarantees, but a few preventative measures may limit the times you have to lose a deal to prove a point.
mark mclean is the Broker/Manager at the Bosley Real Estate Queen St W office and President-Elect for the Toronto Real Estate Board. The opinions expressed here do not reflect the opinions of TREB or Bosley RE