The Question Your Real Estate Agent Doesn’t Want You to Ask

What is the question you need to ask your Real Estate Agent…that no one ever asks?Buyer Clients-1

Will you help another of your buyer clients buy a home…

that is perfect for me and my family?

MORE IMPORTANTLY…will you even take on a new client…

who has the same ojective as mine?

People often ask me if I am “taking on new clients” and the answer is yes…as long as you do not have the same objective as one of my existing clients. I have been wanting to write a post on this issue ever since an Agent stood up in a class I was teaching here in Seattle and said “I showed the house to NINE of my “Buyer Clients”…

What??? NINE of your Buyer Clients??? How the heck can you take on NINE clients…who all want the same thing, in the same place at the same price???

There’s a lot of talk about Agent Commissions being less, when the truth of the matter is that what we should be striving for is getting back to the reason WHY “we make the big bucks”. It is because we can only devote ourselves to the objective of a few clients at the same time, in order to eradicate any potential conflict of interest or dilution of our efforts on the client’s behalf.

I have a client who wants a condo in Downtown Kirkland for about $350,000…possibly a townhome in Redmond for the same price…but more likely a condo in Downtown Kirkland.

I have a client who wants to buy a condo 2nd residence/investment condo for about $125,000 in Kirkland, Redmond or Bellevue.

I have a client who wants to buy a primary residence for about $600,000 in the prime areas of Kirkland near Downtown.

I have a client who wants to buy a primary single family residence for $400,000 give or take (depending on condition of property) in Redmond…possibly Kirkland.

I have a client who wants to buy a primary residence in Seattle between the U-District and Green Lake for $500,000 give or take.

So the answer to “Am I taking on any new clients” is yes…as long as you don’t want the same thing as one of my existing clients as listed above.

When I speak with other agents…they wouldn’t dream of turning a client away…EVER. Which is why some of the lower cost “agent services” do not list “assistance with property selection” as one of their offered Buyer Agent services.

Most all websites say “CALL ME IF YOU WANT TO SEE THIS PROPERTY” without regard to whether NINE people will all call to see

the SAME property.

It’s really as simple as this. IF your agent will show the SAME house to more than one of their clients OR if they will even “take on” a 2nd client who has the same objective as you do, then they are a SALESMAN and not a true representative of your goals and best interests.

Ask the question. If you find anyone else who says “NO, I will not take on a new client who also wants the same kind of property, in the same place, at the same price as you do”…let me know.

It will do my heart good.


76 thoughts on “The Question Your Real Estate Agent Doesn’t Want You to Ask

    • Hi Debbie. I took the liberty of linking your moniker to your website. LOVE flooring sites. Thanks for popping by and leaving a comment.

      There are so many lists online of “What to Ask when Choosing an Agent”…but they seem to all be questions the agents WANT you to ask, vs the ones they don’t want you to ask. ๐Ÿ™‚

  1. It’s Armando!!!!!

    Rain City Guide has an ad to go see Armando Montelongo!

    Geez, talk about you higher ground all you want, but a chance to see Armando? Come on!

  2. Worth noting…if I represent the seller of the home, I can show it to any number of people whom I do not represent as buyer clients, including 20 or 30 at an Open House :). This post is speaking to my position when accepting and working with a buyer client vs a seller client.

  3. Nice post, Ardell. I agree, this is a great practice and a good way to avoid a conflict of interest – a COI that is not always appreciated by the agent.

    However, you may be stretching the COI a little far. After all, even if you have two clients who want a similar house, there’s no guarantee to say the least that they will end up wanting the same house. Now if you had two clients who wanted to make an offer on the same house, then I think you’d have a significant COI that would at a minimum require disclosure and client consent.

    Speaking of which, even if having two clients who want a similar house is a COI, I’m sure it is consentable. In other words, the COI is not so acute or significant that you are disqualified from representing the client. Raher, it’s a COI that must be disclosed to the clients, who must consent to your continued representation of both.

  4. Ardell, you make a great point, and I agree with Craig’s take on it. There is no real conflict showing to two buyers in the same market, as those buyers would be looking at the same homes anyway. If I had two buyer clients wanting to make OFFERS on the same property, then I would disclose the conflict and find another agent to represent the second buyer. It hasn’t happened to me, but the situation came up in my office and the buyer agent (who was sitting an open house) handed off one of the buyers to another agent. As it turned out, both lost out to a third buyer.

    This excerpt from Caldwell & Kearns, (attorneys in PA) gives a good example of a recommended disclosure:

    I want to inform you that another buyer client has expressed an interest in [property address]. It is my responsibility to inform both of you of this potential conflict. I assure you that I will maintain, in confidence, any information pertaining to your interest in the property, including your intent to make an offer, the amount of the offer, as well as other information that you provide. Clearly, I must respect the confidentiality of the other client and therefore will not able to advise you with the same sort of information regarding the nature of their interest or offer to purchase.

    The entire article is worth reading. http://www.caldwellkearns.com/CM/Articles/One-Agent-Two-Buyers.asp

  5. Craig and Joy,

    If that’s the best the industry is willing to do…we really should just admit that we can’t do Buyer Agency. That’s a real possibility…and why all agents represented sellers for 80 of 100 years.

    I can represent a buyer well…but as Craig says…I am not “the norm”. If the answer is no agent can represent a buyer as a client, vs a customer, then we should go back to the old way. At least it was honest.

    I don’t know ANY buyer…clearly none of my clients…who would see it the way you two do. Sure…you can get them to sign just about anything…but if you ask their permission to show a house to a different buyer so you can sell it…to one or the other who cares which…I doubt they will feel “well represented” by you.

    • Ardell, even “Buyer Agency” must be balanced against (a) client needs/desires, and (b) the agent’s need to make a living. Your standard is simply too high (and yes, I know you get that a lot).

      I think the way to frame it is not “so I can sell to whoever” (ooohh, I hate the term “sell” in the context of representing a buyer). Rather, its “I already have a client/I am taking on a new client who is looking for a similar property in a similar area, is that OK with you? If you both end up wanting the same property I will need to withdraw/will withdraw from representing the other client.” That allows the clients to decide whether or not they want to consent. Surely you agree Ardell that reasonable people can differ on this issue and some people would not object to their agent representing clients with similar needs. Those people should not be DQ’d right off the bat for this COI.

      • Craig,

        I think I covered this in my most recent comment. If the Buyer is free to work with other agents at any time, by a meeting of the minds vs a piece of paper, then there is an established relationship that is not based on that agent representing the buyer client’s overall objective. However I would say in THAT case…the agent is actually being paid by the seller of the home to help the seller sell “it”, and not the buyer of the home.

        The SOC can be used to help a seller sell…or it can be used to help a buyer meet their overall objectives. Once you show the same house to 5 different buyer “clients”…I think you are helping the seller sell “it” vs “representing” any of those 5 buyers.

        Both are legal…both are OK…and if you are selling the house for the seller then you don’t have a Conflict of Interest when showing that home to 5 different potential buyers.

        The key is to be honest with yourself first…and admit the fact that you are not “representing” those 5 buyers, when your actions move toward helping the seller sell “it”.

  6. You are talking about agency here, once again. Unless you have a signed document you are just talking.

    In my tour of homes today there was one that was a good value for the price, it just happened to be the cheapest home I saw today. There were others, another one in particular, that I know will take an offer less than listed price.

    Now if I had a Buyer Agency Agreement in place I would present what I found to my buyer, or buyers. What you are describing is that you would only take buyers looking for different properties, or price ranges, seems impractical, but it’s your system.

    As I don’t have a Buyer Agency Agreement with any one I can talk about what I saw today with any one who might be interested.

    What you are saying is that if you saw a home of exceptional value you would be bound to tell which of your buyers? Do you only tell your buyers about properties they specifically say they are interested in? Are you bound, when you get back from previewing, and see a screaming deal, to call each of your buyers? and in what order?

    • David,

      Pretty clear…I wouldn’t have two clients to “call” about it, as I accept clients based on no conflict of objective. That is one of the reasons I try to stick with residential real estate to live in vs for investment. I don’t think any agent who works with investors can provide a full Buyer Agent service. Even more to the point is an agent who would buy the best deals for himself, and only call “his clients” when the numbers don’t pencil out for him personally.

      Seriously David, you really need to “get” that in WA a Buyer Agency Agreement is NOT what determines whether or not you represent a buyer client. By our Agency Law…you DO…with or without a written agreement.

      It would be the reverse. You would need a written “no agency” agreement to NOT represent them.

      • Seriously Ardell, you are talking about you doing your clients a disservice, and leaving a false impression on people who might read this blog.

        More times an agent sees a property they get excited about then shares that knowledge with a buyer pool. You just never know what will click with some people.

        A family home is always an investment in financial security.

          • Oh geez David…it’s pretty simple. The Law says “…any licensee who works with a buyer…REPRESENTS that buyer…” (unless they by contract represent someone else when they meet that buyer or they ARE the seller, etc.)

            The law couldn’t make it any simpler…and yet…it’s arguable? Holy Crap! They make it nearly impossible to NOT “represent” a buyer…and yet you still claim you don’t represent the buyer…unless the buyer signs a contract.

            Talk about trying to be “above the law”.

            Maybe the Law changed after you started in real estate, and you haven’t bothered to read it since?

          • Geez, it’s simple, an agent can say whatever they want, for as long as they want.

            The Buyer is the one who needs protection. The law is in place to protect the Buyer.

  7. What if you have the opportunity to show property that you think would be of interest/the-best-value to more than one client? Wouldn’t you be acting AGAINST their best interests of your clients if you neglect showing them this one property that ticks all their boxes just because you showed the same property to someone else? Clients should be made aware of ALL their options โ€“ denying them this only robs them of choices in the end.

  8. A great agent will make each client feel like they are the only client being worked with. So what happens if you end up telling a bunch of potential buyers that you saw an awesome house? What if you have more than one interested buyer? What if the other buyers find out about that they are NOT your #1 and only client and that you are shopping 1 house around to multiple people? Who exactly is my realtor working for? How can MY realtor possibly work for ME and a whole bunch of other people and keep my interests first? Well, it would be pretty obvious whose interests are coming first – the realtor’s interest in making a sale! I would feel pretty offended that I picked a slime ball realtor.

    I think some of you are Making Ardell’s point for her: you’re not a buyer’s agent, you’re a sales person.

    • The only practical way to work with a client is by agreement.

      Most agents like this idea of we all work for the buyer, because the law says so. The reality is that agents do what they please. There is nothing to protect a buyer without a written agreement.

      • I had a whole reply typed out but decided to delete it because I have nothing at stake with you, David. You are obviously comfortable being a RE sales person so just wear the label proudly and never mind what other agents are doing or not doing that may or may not make you look bad. Only one’s own actions can reflect on one’s self good or bad. So you are right. Agents are people, and people do do what they please. That’s why it is so hard to find an agent with INTEGRITY and why they are so rare.

  9. Thanks Chereya. I honestly don’t know any agents who have the same policy I do on this…which is ridiculous given I likely have more “real” clients than they do. Yet they seem to want to keep the option open to work with just about anyone who may come along. Usually that = NO clients. But still…they want that option.

    Not sure why that is.

    I’m 100% sure NONE of my clients would agree with their perception that I can serve more than one with the same objective.

    Often I am helping my client get the lowest possible price. How can I do that if I had another “client” who would pay more than them? Makes zero sense to me.

  10. LOL…David finally agreed with me.

    “The law is in place to protect the Buyer.”

    But I don’t think he knows it. ๐Ÿ™‚

    I have no objection to a buyer signing an agreement…I just don’t like agents (or buyers) believing a buyer NEEDS to sign one in order to be represented. We are so lucky to be in a State where that is not true, but perception is reality. So if agents “think” it is true…that is dangerous.

    • The whole idea from the beginning was for Buyer to have some legal recourse, and you need to have a signed contract, or monetary consideration.

      Without an agreement it is all a he said, she said situation.

      You’re presenting the signed contract as though a buyer is better off without one. This all started when Craig told a story about how he didn’t have one.

      It’s a simple, and easy thing that should be a standard practice. Along with that, I thought Lee made some excellent points about how, if an agent is bad, there should be a mechanism in place to lodge a complaint.

      In order for a system to improve we should at least use the tools that are in place, and build on that.

      • David: ” This all started when Craig told a story about how he didnโ€™t have one.”

        I don’t recall Craig having said that…so no…that’s not how “this” started. In fact I do recall Craig saying he DOES have a written contract with his Buyer Clients. What that contract says is not likely a “NWMLS” standard form…but he does have one, I’m sure.

        The main point David, is the market must implement the desires of both the professionals AND the clients they serve. Absolutely if your client wants to have a written agreement when they hire you, then YES…absolutely, you should have one. But the public at large generally is not demanding or even wanting that stance over the last 20 years.

        We must have a written agreement with Seller Clients to gain permission to allow other agents IN the house, and to promise an SOC, and for many reasons. One cannot represent a Seller via an mls system of cooperation without a written contract.

        But buyers, by and large, do not want written contracts. For any ONE who does…yes…they absolutely should be able to get one. But what you are talking about is IMPOSING this requirement whether it is wanted or not, and treating Buyer Clients differently if they sign one or not. THAT is not acceptable.

        • In Craig’s example he told the story of an agent showing a property. In his post he made this comment:

          “I asked the showing agent if s/he was going to assert a claim on the commission (as the โ€œprocuring cause

          • Incorrect David. Craig made it clear that the buyer hired him AFTER he saw the house and Craig did not even know the buyer at the time he saw the house…so he could not have an agreement with the buyer …before he met him.

            So no…that would not “have avoided the confusion”. Sometimes you get hired AFTER a buyer sees homes with someone else. Happens all the time. Not an “avoidable” reality, with or without a Buyer Agency Agreement.

          • Craig wrote:

            “I was retained soley as an attorney to assist with a non-MLS purchase. As negotiations progressed, my clients realized that they might not reach agreement with the sellers as to the terms. Accordingly, to hedge their bets (they must move from their current residence) they began looking at homes listed on the MLS. To gain access to these homes, they contacted the number on the sign, the listing agent.”

          • That’s a bit messy.That’s a different client than the one I was thinking of. Craig has written about more than one.

            In any case…neither is where “this” post “started” as you claimed. One had nothing to do with the other. If it followed that way in your mind…great! At least you’re thinking really hard. ๐Ÿ™‚ THAT, David, is why “we” blog. Because people think a whole lot more about how and why they do things…when people are talking, than when they are simply “doing things in a vacuum”.

            It’s all good…

          • It does improve the industry as a whole…in fact I just received a private message from an agent “who never thought of it that way”. We change the industry one mind at a time…

  11. In Louisiana the real estate commission has this sentence in the law which means it may be legal but not sure if it is possible or ethical.

    B. A licensee representing a client does not breach a duty or obligation to the client by showing alternative properties to prospective buyers or tenants or by showing properties in which the client is interested to other prospective buyers or tenants.

    • Miriam,

      Love the way that is spelled out. I would agree that it is not a breach of duty under the Law of pretty much any State. The issue becomes the reasonable expectations of a client-agent relationship which may vary from one client to the next. Market Conditions also play into the equation. Also, if the buyer is wanting to be free to use any agent at any time in the process, they are not hiring any particular agent to represent their overall goals and objectives. What is the Buyer hiring you to do, is the key point.

      Example:

      Had a client who wanted to spend up to $1.2M. While a buyer may look at homes with asking prices in their price range, I often identify the one “BEST” home with an asking price well OUT of their price range, that I believe may sell within their price range.

      After working together for about six months, I identified two homes that were better than any with asking prices in the price range. Both were priced at approximately $1.6M, and I felt they might sell for $1.2M or less. That is not about what a seller is willing to take (given they were both vacant properties). That is about what another buyer might be willing to pay, given at the time there were not many buyers in the marketplace at that price range, and jumbo loans were extremely difficult to get. All things considered, at least one of the two might sell in their price range.

      It took SIX months (one year total) to get the “BEST” house at $1.1M. The other sold earlier for closer to asking price. We continued to look at other homes during that six month period while watching the one at $1.6M. The $1.6M house continued to be the best option for my client based on homes on market and coming on market during that time.

      Our objective became to get THAT house for less OR find a better one while waiting for that one. Consequently it would have been a Conflict of Interest for me to try to find a different buyer for THAT house who would pay more.

      I think it helps to say “OUR objective” vs “the client’s objective”. We are a team working toward the same goal. If MY objective is to help THIS client get THAT house for less…it would clearly be a conflict of interest for me to represent a different buyer in buying that house for more, as that works directly against my first client’s (our) objective.

      The only way I know how to do this right and well, is to not take on any other clients during that whole period of time who have a similar stated objective as to price and location.

      I do agree with Craig and the other agents above and your State’s Law that I “could” do that without breaking a law…but then I would be putting my desire to sell a house above the best interests of my client. The issue then becomes do you put yourself above the best interests of your client? Some will say yes to that because they need to SELL something. That’s OK as long as your relationship with your client is as a Salesman. That’s between you and your client.

      Usually that means the buyer is also free to work with many agents at the same time, if you are free to show the same house to many buyers at the same time. The two go hand in hand. But an exclusive relationship is not formed by a piece of paper…it is formed by a meeting of the minds. My clients usually hire me to represent their best interest at all times.

      Let’s change that to someone who called me to see a house, though that doesn’t happen these days unless it is my listing and I represent the seller, given people call to hire me…not to “see a house”. Someone calls me to see a house and I agree to meet them at the house. We decide not to work together for whatever reason. We do not form a client-agent relationship. I am free to help a client buy that home, as to do so is not a breach of my client relationship with that person…as I don’t have one.

      If a buyer wants to work with many agents, they in turn cannot expect any of those agents to put their personal goals above any others. BUT if the basis of the relationship is exclusive…then it cannot be a one-way street where the buyer doesn’t use other agents…but the agent tries to sell the home they are interested in buying…to the highest bidder.

      That is why an agent who is the Agent for the Seller of the home…cannot represent the best interest of a potential buyer of that home.

      Perhaps a good way to judge conflict of interest is…would you invite all 5 of those buyers to view the home at the same time? Have a mini Open House where you call 5 buyers to come at 2:00 p.m.? Or would you try to hide the fact that you are showing it to multiple buyer clients? A pretty simple test. Of course if you represent the seller of the home, you can invite all 5 at once. But NEVER have I seen an Agent for the Buyer show the house to more than one client at once. That in and of itself reveals the conflict of interest.

  12. I totally get what you are saying and agree with you. I have over the years found myself in circumstances with multiple buyers in the same price range and it is not possible in my opinion to do the right thing for each of them there are too many conflicts that come up. Buyer’s having full and truthful disclosure will choose to have another agent represent them and I have handed off buyer’s who felt that it is a conflict. Agency and the understanding of it is often muddied. You raise some really important issues. I also will not handle buyer’s in the same price range, etc as it just isn’t the right thing to do and now you have met someone else who sees it the same way you do.

    • Yes Miriam…and it DOES “do my heart good”, as I noted at the end of this post. ๐Ÿ™‚

      If it didn’t matter “who I tell” which house is the absolute best value on market today…I could write a blog post on that house. But it DOES matter, and calling attention to a home my client should purchase works against their objective.

      Conflict of Interest is pretty easy for people to figure out. I like this one. Picture yourself standing in front of the house with buyer clients…while a different buyer client that you told about it this morning is driving by. If you can picture the clients in the car being 1) sad 2) confused 3) disgusted LOL! …it’s a “conflict of Interest”.

      It’s not necessarily about what your clients “agreed to” in a standard form…it’s how they “FEEL” about it, that determines Conflict of Interest.

      (P.S. to Miriam…I just sent you a “friend” request on facebook, as you are clearly someone I would be proud to call “a friend”. ๐Ÿ™‚ )

  13. I believe conflict of interest is absolutely how they feel about it. I have shown a house and had a second buyer drive by and it is not pleasant. Sad, confused and disgusted is exactly what happens.
    It’s a betrayal….it’s a breach of trust.

  14. It’s like the Al Pacino speech in Scent of a Woman:

    “Now I have come to the crossroads in my life. I always knew what the right path was. Without exception, I knew. But I never took it. You know why? It was too damn hard. Now here’s Charlie. He’s come to the crossroads. He has chosen a path. It’s the right path. It’s a path made of principle that leads to character…Embrace it. It’s gonna make you proud one day, I promise you.”

    Clearly this describes the world as we know it. I’m a Charlie. But for most, it is “too damn hard”. That’s Life.

  15. I must say never thought of it, as I never came across that, but you are so on the mark. It is in the same sphere of Daul Agency in some form. Thanks for connecting and I look forward to reading more as you have the out side of the box thinking that I believe.

  16. I’ve never faced this situation personally, but I remember the question on the real estate exam. Realtor Sally shows a home to two separate buyers. Both buyers like the home and Realtor Sally makes an offer for one of the buyers. Is Realtor Sally guilty of violating the Code of Ethics by showing the home to two buyers? The answer is no. Theoretically.

    What happens if both of the buyers want Realtor Sally to write an offer for the home? She knows the financing ability of both clients and what each client is willing or able to pay. Now what? I sure don’t want to be Realtor Sally.

    Not a place I want to visit. I have a really hard time with dual agency (you can call it limited) but it still puts you in the middle of trying to represent the best interest of two people who are seeking opposite goals. Much like writing an offer on one property for two different clients.

    You’re right Charlie – It’s too damn hard for most.

    • Paula,

      Buyer Agency is really in its infancy relative to Seller Agency. The Powers That Be are not necessarily an “authority” on this issue, as we in the streets are making the future of Buyer Agency…by our actions…not by their words. Brokerages do not “get it” as they are too clouded by their needs, and most basically treat real estate the same as it was before Buyer Agency existed.

      I appreciate your popping by, as these discussions and thought provoking posts are really the first line of communication to the future of hopefully doing it better, and best.

  17. OK, this is kind of like Real Estate agents can choose who to work with. Most agents I know are having a hard time today, and it’s going to get harder.

    This all sounds great in theory, but what would be a practical solution?

  18. David said” “Most agents I know are having a hard time today, and itโ€™s going to get harder.”

    If they don’t have enough clients…then why would it be a problem to not have two who want the same thing? If what you are saying is they have very few, it should be easier for them to not have two clients with competing interests. Maybe I’m not understanding what you mean.

    I think what you mean is they have NO clients, and they are calling a bunch of people asking them all to go see the same house, but those people never hired them in the first place. Just a list of people they may have met at an Open House? Like I was saying before…”fishing” for someone to sell something to?

    Maybe that’s why they are having a hard time. Maybe if they treated buyers like “clients” vs people to sell something to, they would have clients. Just a thought.

  19. That’s not the case. Every one I talk with are established agents.

    Here, or in any market place that is geogrphic, there is a tendency for people to want the same thing. Close to the Microsoft campus, Close to Tangle Town, three bedrooms, two baths. That’s why you see multiple offers on properties that are priced well.

    Many times agents farming, or working geographically, will find people who want the same thing.

    Your saying agents should turn business away. Great thought, but I don’t see the benefit to the client.

    • “Thatโ€™s why you see multiple offers on properties that are priced well.”

      I agree. Take the house in the photo in the post as example. VERY hard to find a house in Kirkland for $650,000 or less that is in good shape, has a good floor plan, from which you can walk to the Lake and Downtown on a full sized lot.

      As soon as this hit the market I was there. Called my clients…they left work and met me at the house before noon. When I got there, it looked like a busy Open House! Hit the mls that morning and the place was crawling with agents showing it to their buyer clients. Definitely could have ended up in multiple offers over the weekend. It was Thursday morning before Memorial Day weekend with an Open House scheduled for both Saturday and Sunday.

      We put an offer in quickly with a short response time. We beat everyone to the punch. No multiple offers…not even a full price offer. I did put an escalation clause in just in case someone else was as fast as we were. The strategy was to tie it up by Friday night before the long holiday weekend. It was listed Thursday morning and in escrow by Friday night and before the Open Houses.

      Now explain to me how I could have done that if I had 3 buyer clients who wanted a walk to Downtown Kirkland for $650,000 or less? I agree there are lots of people who want that. But how could I have done what I did if I had more than one client waiting for a house like that? My best strategy was to beat everyone else to the punch. How could I beat myself to the punch if I had 2 or 3 or 4 clients who all wanted a $650,000 walk to town good house?

      You explain that to me. If I had three clients who all wanted the same thing…one of them would have had to pay more than asking vs my client paying less than asking. How is that better for any of my clients?

  20. There is a perfect example of you having one buyer, when you know a lot of people would want that house.

    My point is that with a Buyer’s Agency Agreement your buyer has the assurance they will get the call.

    Without a signed agreement it is all just talk.

    The only way for your buyer to have the assurance, or recourse, is by signed agreement.

    • David…I don’t think that agreement says what you think it does.

      I had a client on a property where the SOC was $65,000 and our agreement was for $20,000. Had another where the SOC was $33,000 and our agreement was for $20,000. No written agreement.

      Are you saying I would renege on our agreement if it isn’t in writing? My clients don’t think that. Do yours? If they want a written agreement, I’m fine with that…but my clients don’t want it. We like trusting one another. As a wise broker once told me…once everyone is ready to sign it…it doesn’t need to be signed. In fact it’s a great compliment when my client trusts me to only charge $20,000 when I could take $65,000. That’s a lot of TRUST and I greatly appreciate and honor that trust.

      What’s your hangup on these written agreements? I just read it and it seems to favor the agent, not the buyer. But my point is any buyer who actually wants one can surely get one. There just doesn’t seem to be a public outcry of buyers wanting written contracts. The only time I hear about them is from agents whose buyers leave them…and a written agreement is not the answer to that problem.

  21. Love what that wise broker said, once everyone is ready to sign it does’t need to be signed. that is so true. I again agree with Ardell. You shouldn’t need a written agreement. If your buyer trusts you and you do not betray that trust that is far better than a written agreement. WIth a written agreement an agent has assurance they will get paid and if it has to be in writing the agent probably doesn’t deserve the commission. If a buyer is not happy with an agent and their services a written agreement presumably holding that buyer to the agent is a miserable situation for all. If a buyer is not happy let them go and move on.

  22. You’re right, there is no public out cry.

    The public, buyers, and sellers come to the internet for information, and property searches. Many web sites are set to capture those leads.

    That’s the problem.

    A lot of promises are made on the internet. People search for homes, or get ideas for marketing a property. This post is just another promise. It’s more so because it’s recommending other agents follow a fanciful ideal.

    It’s a situation that would present itself rarely, because Real Estate is a snap shot in time. If a buyer is buying they consume your time to look at the market place. In most cases people don’t have time to work with multiple buyers, unless that is all they do.

    Here in Seattle Ann who works with Chuck Cady is the only dedicate Buyer’s Agent I can think of.

    When a buyer says they are ready to buy, that’s all an agent should be doing, in order to be working in the best interest of that buyer. I think ultimately that’s what you are saying.

    A buyer takes much more concentrated effort than a listing. You could, or should be spending all of your time looking for what your buyer wants.

    Sure, if you are just waiting around until something pops up on the computer, then the buyer can do that on their own. For that you should be the cheapest business model out there.

  23. David, finding properties for buyers is important but is only one small aspect of what we earn our commission for and yes they often can find a property on their own, but getting a good price, inspections, guidance as to all the stuff they need to check before signing on the dotted line, being protected in the transaction and in the contract are far more important. You are right a lot of promises are made on the internet and many sites are set to capture leads but a buyer who is captured online will not necessarily stick with that agent just because. I give consumers more credit than that. Ardell puts this out there to get agents and public to think about stuff and the process. Not speaking for her I don’t believe she thinks that all agents will agree or follow her example.

  24. David,

    Now I remember how this started. ๐Ÿ™‚ An Exclusive Buyer Agent (from Massachusetts) came around on one of my older posts here and complained that Redfin calls their Agents “buyer agents” even though some of the homes their buyers chose to buy were Redfin listings. That got into a big discussion regarding of what Buyer Agency is and my stance that the greater conflict may be two buyer clients wanting the same house vs a single buyer wanting a house listed by the same Company.

    After a lot of back and forth, I told him I would write a separate post on the conflict of being an Exclusive Buyer’s Agent who never lists a house…but has many buyer clients who all want the same type of product. If you only work with buyer clients and never list a home…you increase the odds of that happening.

  25. David said: “Youโ€™re right, there is no public out cry. The public, buyers, and sellers come to the internet for information, and property searches. Many web sites are set to capture those leads. Thatโ€™s the problem.

    No David, that is not the problem. Buyer Agency Agreements came out back when we had mls books. Buyer Agreements became available the day Buyer Agency became available. But the agent thought process started out on the wrong foot, and many viewed them as a way to “lock in” a buyer.

    The problem started when Brokers chose not to retrain agents in the changes they needed to make when they were no longer “selling to” a buyer. To recreate the industry there would need to be a lot of training on the difference between how we worked with buyers prior to Buyer Agency vs after Buyer Agency. But the talk inside a Brokerage has not changed. The manner in which Brokers and Agents speak of buyers, has not changed.

    Offices still focus on their listings…and who can you get to buy them or buy something…anything…get that buyer “off the fence”. The manner in which agents speak on the internet, as if there is something wrong with a buyer who does not view any of the available homes as being good enough.

  26. David said: “Itโ€™s a situation that would present itself rarely,…”

    Actually, it comes up fairly often. Had a potential one when I had the client for the house in this post. The other client did not know where they wanted to live and were all over the place. Bellevue, Kirkland, Seattle…turns out they may end up buying in Mukilteo. They both started at $500,000 but one stayed under $550,000 and the other moved up to $650,000.

    That is why an agent must be keenly aware of potential conflict early on. Since one could spend more and the other couldn’t, and they had completely different commute areass, I was fairly certain they would not end up at the same house, and I was correct. But I did disclose to both that there was a narrow overlap at the onset. One was $450,000 to $550,000…not really qualifying at the tippy top of that range and the other was $550,000 to $650,000 that could well afford above that range.

    I did disclose and proceed, but I might have had to decide between one or the other. Have another potential conflict right now from a buyer who called me a couple of nights ago. It comes up fairly often…actually the potential comes up a lot more often than the actual.

    It’s hardest when you are not looking for the right “house to buy”, but when you are exploring the options. In the beginning the options can be all over the place, until the buyer and I explore the possibilities. That part of the process can often take many weeks.

    Being a Buyer Agent starts at helping a buyer determine “what and where” would be best for them vs finding a “what”. I don’t simply help people do what they come to me “to do”. I take what they think they want to do…and try to make that better. We are the ones who know more than “what is for sale today”. We need to open up the entire range of possibilities, seeing beyond current inventory.

    That is more true today than ever…because available inventory leaves a lot to be desired.

    I found three “right houses” for a client recently, but the best one is way overpriced and the counsel as to when this buyer should buy suggests that could be six months from now. Maybe that best house will be the right price by that time.

    It’s a juggling act for sure…managing conflict of interest. Removing our self-interest is clearly the hardest thing we do. To suggest we don’t need to do that tells me who does and who does not understand what a fiduciary is. Now here in WA, fiduciary standard may or may not be the bar. But for me, it will always be. I can’t help that. I was a fiduciary for many years before I became a real estate agent. I can’t remove that part of me from my brain and heart.

    It is why I don’t fault agents who are not “like me”, as Craig said, my standards are too high. That is because I was trained as a fiduciary outside of the industry long before I became a real estate agent. It is not a reflection on other agents who were never expected or trained how to act in a fiduciary capacity by their brokers.

    What sets me apart is what I used to do…and removing self interest is not easy…but I do think it may get me in to Heaven. So I’m sticking with it. ๐Ÿ™‚

  27. We must all balance our work between no work, and too much. I am sure most would agree that we’d love to have to say to new clients: Sorry, I am too busy. But, I bet for most, the opposite is true. Like many of you, I too, am looking to expand and maintain a steady flow of clients.

  28. Most of the clients that I have worked with do not initially have a clear enough objective for their property search that I could even reasonably consider whether there is a direct conflict of interest due to them searching for the same property. Seems to me that letting the relationship continue until it becomes clear that there is a conflict is a pretty reasonable approach.

    • I half agree with you, Milan.

      It does take a little time…I don’t accept a client “on a first date”.

      Price and Location are somewhat known early on. Rarely does someone buy at $700,000 that started out thinking they might buy for $300,000. So a range of price within $50,000 is usually known. Sometimes tighter if they are spending their max qualifying and that max is at starter home price. If someone qualifes at $325,000 and wants to spend $300,000 and there aren’t any decent houses under $300,000…you can pretty much bet they are going to spend $300,000 to $325,000.

      Some people have a huge geographic “where”…but then they can’t really be clients that you “reserve a spot” for…especially if they may live in Seattle or Colorado. ๐Ÿ™‚

      If you are “letting the relationship continue until…” then you are not providing enough value. The value an agent brings is in knowing much more than the client so that they waste less time getting from square one to a fairly well defined place…within reason. You need to not simply “show houses they want to see” if they are all over the place. You have to show them in a sequence…like condo, then townhome, then house – repeat. That should help them get to “class of property” more quickly. They may think they want a house, until they see the huge variance from house to condo or house to townhome, and then rule out house, especially in the below starter home price range.

      You should be adding value by helping them make these decisions…vs merely showing things they ask to see…and waiting “for the relationship to continue until…”

  29. Really? People’s tastes are so different. I think the chances that you have multiple clients wanting the same property are fairly slim.

    If you do get into that situation just disclose to your clients.

    If I were an agent (I’m not, I’m a lender) there’s no way in hell I’d turn down a client because I already had a client looking in the same neighborhood in the same price range. No chance.

  30. Scenario:
    IF I was a buyer, looking to buy a home in an area with decent schools (which I will be someday). My agent knows my price range and over the months we have been looking. A house goes on the market! My agent shows it to one of her other clients or to us both.
    As a buyer, trying to finally get a place of my own, I would feel a complete disservice from my agent. Are they for me or the money?? How could they be looking out for my best interest, if they had multiple clients with the same interests?? The COI of having two buyer clients with similar interests means something!

    How can you be a good agent for your CLIENT if you are showing the same dream home to ALL your clients??

    I actually feel you would be even more successful having mutiple clients with different interests and price ranges. Staying true to each client and satisfying each of them 100%, getting to know each one on a personal level. By making all of them so happy they will refer their friends and family to you and you will have life long business….

    Not only will you be successful this way, but wouldn’t you feel more satisfied inside yourself?? That you had integrity and sincerity…. I don’t know… I like honest people who really care. I work in the medical field… and it’s not how many patients I can see a day and how much money I can bring in, but how can I help them all in their individual way and make them feel better when they go.

  31. Tina, here’s a medical field scenario then.

    You are really awesome, lots of people want to use your services because of your expertise and skill in a particular procedure. You have a current patient waiting on this procedure in which you specialize in. A few days later another patient walks in wanting the same specialty procedure you are an expert in.

    Do you send them packing to someone far less qualified to administer that treatment or do you disclose that there’s another patient ahead of you, but once we take care of them we’ll do everything you can to help you as well?

    There’s two ways to handle nearly all situations; ethically or unethically. There’s also smart business and poor business. Bidding for multiple clients on the same property without full disclosure is unethical AND bad business.

    Turning away clients to a possibly less qualified agent is harmful to the agent’s business and to the potential buyer. Disclose the situation honestly and let the buyer decide.

  32. I see your point,
    But medical and real estate is apples and oranges. There is no dream catheter for one patient. Patients come in like waves for all different things at different times.

    I am not putting a catheter in two people at once to save time and be able to bill that much more in less time.

    Each individual gets my attention with their specific need.

    If a doctor took on too many patients in their specialty they wouldn’t have the time of day to give 100% to all of them, there is a limit in some offices on how many patients they can accept.

    And there should be a limit for each real estate agent – taking on buyers of similar interests.

    If a doctor had 1,000 patients and spent 30 min. with each patient, the patient would feel like the doctor really cared, answered all their questions, and felt healthier when they left.

    If the doctor took on 10,000 spent 5 minutes with each patient, the patient was confused and frustrated with his diagnosis, and left feeling like they needed to find another doctor…

    Every profession has guidlines and limits.

    Like I said apples and oranges…

    Everyone knows what feels right inside, just some deter off that path to suit their own personal needs.

  33. I understand your point as well.

    Since you are not in this business you don’t understand that 80%+ of the agents out there (lenders too) are not very good at what they do.

    I’d rather have 5 minutes with a great agent than 30 minutes with the a poor agent.

    If the agent is busy enough to have several people in one neighborhood wanting the same thing it means they KNOW THE NEIGHBORHOOD and are good at what they do. That is the person you want to work with.

    Regardless, if you are a buyer and have found Rhonda’s awesome blog then you will clearly do just fine without my advice when you start your home search ๐Ÿ˜‰

  34. LOL nope catheters don’t involve any morphine… yes the stories I could tell would add to your nightmares… LOL

    • Ok so now that we are on gross topics…. Try working in a Cath Lab or in Radiology and participate as tech doing Barium Enema Lower GI series exam for patients. I did for about 6 mos. and while I enjoyed the medical environment and staff I really did not enjoy sticking a tube up the rear end of someone.

      =)

  35. LOL alot of things don’t gross me out…. The smell of infected urine actually gives me a bad headache! I learned there are ALOT of smells out there in the world…. and I have grown to appreciate perfume way more than I did before.

    Sticking things into patients isn’t so bad, but the things that come back out is another story…When you do the Barium enema do they have a bowel movement while still in the office? How does that work I am sooo interested now! LOL

  36. Wat happens if 2 clients both meet the sellers asking priceand the seller counteracts. Both clients counteract with client 1 offering 300 more dollars

  37. Mary,

    Usually $300 is not enough of a difference to consider them to have a price difference. Then the decision usually falls to which buyer they feel is more ready, willing and able to close and close on time.

    That becomes a subjective decision and often based on the credibility of the agents representing those buyers vs the buyers themselves. The agent you hire in this case is selling both you and their ability to keep the process moving in good faith.

    But to directly answer your question, I don’t know of any seller who would consider a $300 difference…a different price as to offer price.

  38. Finally ! An agent who answered the question that I was made to feel like an idiot for asking. When we were looking to buy our first home, I looked into the whole “agency” thing in great detail. No one could ever explain to me how they would handle the situation when more than one client was looking for the same thing. As they often are. Handing me off to another agent AFTER I’ve seen a property would seem like being scammed to me. If the agent knows they have another client who may be in the market at the same time it would only be fair to disclose it and let me decide if I want to go with them regardless.
    Thanks for explaining this. I know I was not crazy to pose the question

    • You are very welcome, Sashi. I must say I find myself faced with this problem from time to time, even though I have this general policy. Sometimes people just do not know what they want or where they want to live or how much they want to spend. Once in a while I have a client who says they want to live in Sammamish for $500,000 but wants to see property in Kirkland for $300,000 one day in Redmond for $350,000 another day for $600,000 in Bellevue another day and then to $450,000 in Kirkland another day.

      When a client cannot clearly define within at least a $100,000 range what they might be interested in, it becomes very difficult to not have “overlap”. Once in a while a client wants to see a property totally outside of their original and ongoing stated objective. Consequently I could in fact end up showing the same house to two different people, and it is very uncomfortable for me and I do disclose it. It happens when someone wants to see a property below their lowest stated price or above.

      It is not always easy to manage this lofty goal. But I do the best I can. If your area of interest or price changes a lot, it’s hard to allocate a “slot” for you…or if someone else does that they may flit in and out of your “slot” and never landing there as to home to purchase. So I don’t think anyone can actually guarantee they will never have two clients interested in the same house.

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