$100,000 for the "no show" agent

[photopress:thecast_biopict_jerry.gif,thumb,alignright]Joe asked: Ardell, I was wondering if you would care to comment on the Jerry Seinfeld case.

Thanks Joe, for the opportunity to sort out this “No Commission for You!” case. It’s a shame Seinfeld is no longer on TV, as this would make a great episode where they could play the “No Soup for You!” Soup Nazi theme in a different light.

There are a lot of missing facts in the linked story, so I have to expand the information first.

Gist of the Story:

The Seinfelds used a personal manager to view property with the agent, before they themselves viewed property.

From September of 2004, the Seinfeld’s real estate agent showed various properties to their representative.

In January of 2005 the agent showed the property the Seinfelds eventually purchased, to the personal representative of the Seinfeld’s.

On February 11, 2005 the agent again showed the property, to both the personal representative, AND Mrs. Seinfeld.

Then came the Sabbath, that same night, and the agent was not available for a 24 hour period either by phone or in person. That happened to be the day Jerry wanted to see it and he went there and struck a deal with the owner direct.

Seinfeld refused to pay the agent because she was unavailable for the 24 hour period he was ready to go, see and buy.


My thoughts are that the agent should have had someone covering for her during her “24 hour shutdown”. It’s not like it was an unforeseen emergency, like she was rushed to the hospital. This “I don’t work on the Sabbath” is a weekly event. No reason she can’t hire someone to answer her calls, and someone to show property for her, during those 24 hour time periods.

I can see a buyer not wanting to risk losing a property during that time. What if there were another offer that day? Should a buyer lose a house so an agent can take a day off? Or should the agent provide a back up number for them, like a doctor would.

So I do fault the agent for not having a back up person. But it would appear from the facts that the agent was entitled to the commission, and the Seinfelds would not have lost the property, had they waited until Sunday.

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ARDELL is a Managing Broker with Better Properties METRO King County. ARDELL was named one of the Most Influential Real Estate Bloggers in the U.S. by Inman News and has 33+ years experience in Real Estate up and down both Coasts, representing both buyers and sellers of homes in Seattle and on The Eastside. email: ardelld@gmail.com cell: 206-910-1000

16 thoughts on “$100,000 for the "no show" agent

  1. Nathan,

    Most scenarios require two agents. Very few don’t. For a $100,000 Commission, clearly someone should have been available in her absence.

    Take relocation as the example. I always used two agents. I drag around with the wife for almost 48 hours straight, while the husband is in orientation and job stuff. When he’s ready to write, he is ready! Period! and they have to go back home and sell the house and pack etc.

    No excuses. For $100,000 commission, she should have a back up. What might it have cost her to hire just another agent in the office to show, or a licensed assistant to answer her phone. If you want to make the big bucks, you don’t have “not available and no back up” times.

    I could see if he were making a stink about “only wanting her”, but clearly he should not have had to go to that house alone.

    Maybe he travels, and only had that one day, and next day wouldn’t do. Agents are too cheap and won’t pay someone part of the commission when they should.

    I had one big problem last year and it was an agent who went on vacation and refused to “work a deal” with someone while she was away. She came back freaking out that the buyer bought without her. I say “served her right” . People don’t HAVE to wait for us, nor should we expect them to.

    I did have a few clients who insisted on me only, and wanted to wait when I was in L.A. back in June…but that is their choice, not the agent’s.

  2. “No excuses. For $100,000 commission, she should have a back up”

    OK, Ardell. Your argument seems to be that the Seinfeld’s were paying so much in commission that they deserved better service. I won’t argue that.

    At what commission amount would you determine that a back-up is unnecessary?

  3. I often wonder, if someone bothered to do a study, how many properties would be written up over a weekend.

    My argument, or rather question is “Should a buyer lose a house so an agent can take a day off?”

    I witnessed first hand an agent who never, ever, worked on Sunday. It was a hot market in California. I was the one who retrieved Sunday’s messages on Monday morning. “We saw a house we loved at an Open House and the agent said there were two offers already being presented after the Open House!” Usually there were three or four frantic calls by Monday morning. I heard the panic in their voices and the angst at losing the opportunity to get their offer in on Sunday.

    Agent, oh well, there will be another one.

    Abondonment of duties is tough in real estate. What good is it to always be there, except at the time the client needs you most. There are hundreds upon thousands of agents in every market. How hard is it to find someone to write an offer. You can probably hire someone at minimum wage to return your calls, in fact most agents will cover each other for free in quid pro quo fashion.

    What good is it to have the best attorney and pay him $100,000 for time up to the end, only to have him not show up at the day of the trial. And what would you think of a lawyer who didn’t show up for the trial AND didn’t bother to have a backup attorney there to ask for a continuance?

    What good is it to have the best obstetrician and pay him $100,000 for 9 months, only to have him not even care about showing up at the time the baby is ready to come out. And what whould you think of a doctor who didn’t have a back up doctor in place, in the event who couldn’t be reached the day the baby was coming?

    This is an industry that wants to claim to be “a professional” along the lines of doctor or attorney. And indeed many people put their fate in our hands, along the same lines, and in many cases our fees are equivalent on an hourly basis to these professions.

    There are many people in this Country who get paid less than $100,000 in a whole year, who are expected to stay late at work, or run to the office when there is a deadline that has to be met or a crisis.

    Ask any consumer if they are willing to lose a house they really want. The answer will be no. Some professions come with the duty to protect the client from losing. The lawyer can’t always promise the client will win the case, but he certainly can promise to do everything within his power to insure that they will win. A doctor cannot always promise that the outcome will be the best, but he can certainly promise to leave no stone unturned to try to make it so.

    Same in real estate. This agent was there, nose to nose toes to toes with the wife, who wanted the house…then she turned her phone off. Within hours of knowing that the months of searching for just the right house was over…this was the one…wife and manager were there, with her…the day she turned off her phone. At the very least she should have reminded them that this is the day she turns off her phone, and offered a rememdy to that situation.

  4. Why so stuck on the figure, Ardell?

    “Abandonment of duties is tough in real estate” –

    Ardell, you are sensationalizing this because of the dollar amount and celebrity of the alleged “wronged” client. How is an agent, who regularly takes the Sabbath off abandoning her clients? They knew the rules when they hired her. Professionalism is not about sacrificing your life for a buck (or 100 thousand of them).

    “Seinfeld refused to pay the agent because she was unavailable for the 24 hour period he was ready to go, see and buy.”

    What’s next? The client refused to pay the agent because the agent refused to dress at 2AM to negotiate a contract?

    Can you see the dangerous precedent you set when you defend Mr. Seinfeld’s nefarious practices?

  5. Brian,

    I am not sensationalizing it because of…in fact I didn’t even notice it until someone asked me to comment on it. Someone asked me how I feel about it, and that’s how I feel about it.

    Mr. Seinfeld is a husband whose wife said, “I just saw the perfect place for us with the agent and we have to buy it!” He’s just a husband of a woman who just saw a house with an agent…and then the agent shut off her phone.

    Visualize that Brian. That’s what it is about. You don’t go show someone their perfect house, and when they agree with you, shut off your phone. That is not how this business works.

    She should AT MINIMUM have a backup message on Friday before she shuts down her phone that says, “I am unavailable until X, call my Broker at X if you need immediate assistance”.

  6. So Brian,

    You feel like talking about all that Weenie stuff? I couldn’t figure out why you were so outraged. I couldn’t find the “evil” in it.

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