Real Estate Agent Commissions: Why They Aren’t Discussed, and the Sherman Antitrust Act

Craig is the founder and Managing Broker of Added Equity Real Estate.  Added Equity charges a 2% fee to list and sell a home, total. Not 2% plus another 3%. Added Equity is different than any other firm. This is Craig’s blog series exploring why and how most realtors don’t talk openly and frankly about the actual fees they charge, keeping real estate agent commissions at their longstanding level.

First Installment: Real estate agents – intentionally or not – hide behind the law to avoid revealing their commissions.

Real Estate Broker Commissions Kept High with Secrecy

It goes without saying that real estate brokers benefit by high commissions. It also need not be said that those commissions will go down only when the prices are effectively communicated to consumers so that they can make informed decisions. By keeping commissions secret, real estate agents can keep them artificially high. How will consumers know of a better deal? They won’t. As a result, real estate agents have a strong personal incentive to “go along” with the system, charge the same high commission as anyone else, and

Real Estate Agent Commissions Are Subject to Anti-Trust Law

The Sherman Anti-Trust Act is a federal law that is nearly two centuries old. Passed during the great reform movement that began in the late 19th Century, the law bars unfair business practices. Today, the government still uses the law to make sure businesses and entire industries don’t misbehave and trample on the fair workings of the market. no high real estate agent commissions here (our For Sale sign shown)Thanks to the Sherman Antitrust Act, the only legal monopoly in this country is the board game.

Around the same time as passage of the Sherman Act, the real estate industry formed as a cooperative business model. It worked well for the first hundred years or so. But the industries’ business practices did not subsequently evolve with the times.

In the early 21st Century, the U.S. Department of Justice began using the Sherman Antitrust Act to crack down on real estate agents and bring their practices up to modern standards. The DOJ believed that some realtors worked to keep their high real estate agent commissions. But even before that, the government charged real estate brokers with felony price fixing in 1977. Because of this longstanding legal oversight, real estate agents today have huge concerns with any discussion of the commissions they charge.

Realtors Hide Behind the Law to Avoid Discussing Realtor Commissions

Ostensibly as a result, real estate brokers almost always invoke the “it’s illegal to discuss!” shield whenever anyone wants to talk about their commissions. It is the routine, standard response on blogs, social media, and everywhere else.

It turns out that the fear is almost entirely misplaced. So says Brad Inman of Inman News, a reputable source to be sure. As he notes about any discussion of commissions on social media, “Someone utters the word ‘commission’ and there is a pile-on from Realtors who say ‘no-no-no.'” It’s a veritable Code of Silence, enforced by members of the club. One new agent commented on the “standard” treatment: “I have been a real estate agent all of few weeks now, and I have been cautioned about anti-trust law violations no less than a dozen times, NOT including actually learning it in class.”

But it simply isn’t true. Generally speaking, the law bars conversations between just brokers about the commissions that they charge, if they then act together in setting those commissions. A conversation that includes consumers on social media – where many, many conversations these days occur? Not even close.

It is, however, in brokers’ interests to keep these conversations out of the public view. Any discussion of commissions quickly leads to the conclusion that the seller almost always pays the buyer’s agent a 3% commission. A commission on top of the additional “listing commission” paid to the seller’s agent. Brokers would far rather focus on just the listing commission – after all, they’re likely to represent a buyer down the road, so why jeopardize that future big payday? The 3% buyer agent’s commission is best left unspoken. For brokers, anyway.

So agents routinely hide behind the Sherman Antitrust Act, instead of openly discussing their real estate agent commissions so that consumers can make informed pricing decisions. It is a huge irony, of course. The DOJ wants the market to exert price pressure on commissions. But the law used to make sure that pressure exists, and is exerted? The same law used by real estate agents to keep their high commissions concealed from the market.

Seattle City Council preparing to regulate Vacation Rentals

It’s no big surprise that the Seattle City Council has been preparing to set regulations on vacation rentals, such as homes you find on AirBnb or Home Away/VRBO.  Typically, vacation rentals allow home owners to rent out all or a portion of a home for short periods of time. Vacation rentals have become very popular with guests in search of a different experience than what you find staying in a hotel.  Inside Airbnb states there are approximate 3,818 homes are being used as a vacation rental in Seattle that are rented, on average 110 nights out of the year. According to Inside Airbnb, 35.8% of the “hosts” or owners have more than one active vacation rental.  People who I know who operate vacation rentals do so to help cover their housing expenses or because they plan to eventually retire in the vacation/second home.

Daniel Beekman of The Seattle Times wrote an article yesterday, “Seattle may slap new rules on Airbnb to ease the rental crunch“.  The article fails to mention that Tim Burgess, who is the council member leading the charge on this issue, received a large contribution from hotel lobbyist.

The council is proposing to limit the number of days that can be rented as a vacation rental to 90 in a 12 month period. Burgess assumes that the other 9 months out of the year, these properties will be available to rent for periods of 30 days or more. This theory is flawed.

Often times with vacation rentals, an entire month is not “booked”. You might have someone staying one week and someone else staying a weekend in a month – not allowing a month to be available for a full 30 day rental period.

In addition, Mr. Burgess assumes that when a home is not booked for a vacation rental, that it will become available for longer term (30 days or more) rentals. Vacation rentals are furnished properties and, if rented for long term, will most likely not help those who are looking for “affordable housing”.

I do agree that vacation rentals should be regulated. Especially with some of the extreme examples that the Burgess used, citing:

“We have whole floors of apartment buildings that have been taken off the housing market,” he said. “We have entire buildings that essentially have become hotels.”

The “hosts” or owners who are gobbling up condos and essentially creating a hotel are a real minority and, in my opinion, should be treated more as a hotel and subject to zoning. However, folks who own just one property should be allowed to do so as a vacation rental without the 90 day limit restriction.

Should the regulations go through, limiting home owners from being able to use their properties as a vacation rental beyond 90 days, we won’t see these homes becoming long term rentals or helping the housing market. Many vacation rental home owners really enjoy the hosting aspect and meeting guest on vacation or business travel. What I think we will see is frustrated host eventually just sell their vacation homes during this hot market and again, that Seattle home will not be added to the long term rental stock.

Some neighborhoods, like West Seattle, lack hotels (we have one small motel) and actually need short term rentals to serve the neighborhood. Especially considering the alternative of just trying to get out of West Seattle and into a downtown Seattle hotel when West Seattle is where you want to stay.

From the Seattle Times article:

“The 90-day cutoff would affect just 20 percent of listings for entire houses or apartments in Seattle, according to a recent Airbnb report, Burgess says. The December report said almost 80 percent of entire-home listings here are rented for 90 nights or fewer per year…

“We don’t know how many of those are primary residences,” Burgess said. “But imagine if we put 300 homes back on the long-term rental-housing market. That would be worth a lot. To build 300 new units would cost more than $70 million.”

Burgess is looking at only allowing those who live on the property as their primary residence to be able to rent the homes longer than 90 days. His figures of having this impact only 20 percent of the listings is probably inaccurate.

I sincerely hope the City Council will take some time to do more research before impacting 3800 properties.  And a majority of those homes will not go back on the market as long-term rentals.

If you own a vacation rental in Seattle, I recommend that you reach out to your council member to share your story.

Is Quill Realty the Only non-MLS Broker in Seattle?

Updated 9/13: Quill Realty is now Added Equity Real Estate – but everything else is as true today as when I wrote it! 🙂

I am loving life at the forefront of change in the real estate industry. My firm Quill Realty left the Northwest Multiple Listing Service on July 1. Since then, we’ve picked up some listings and sold a few houses – our first non-MLS sale closed Friday. Congratulations to this beautiful family!!! Single Broker Listings in Seattle

So we’re selling houses at a dramatically reduced cost to our seller clients. In other words, the model appears to be working. Exciting times!

But it begs the question: Is Quill the only non-MLS broker in Seattle? Or are there others, such that a synergy might begin to build. To date, I have yet to find one. I even have a friendly wager with a title representative. He knows lots and lots of people in the local industry, and so far he’s struck out.

Is that right? Is Quill the only voice calling for change in the MLS-bound wilderness? If you know of any others – in Seattle, or Western WA, or even the USA – I’d love to hear about them. Please leave a comment, and thanks much.

The Future of Real Estate? It Arrived Today

This is what the future of real estate will look like - no MLS number

This is what the future of real estate will look like – no MLS number

I could not be prouder today. Quill’s first Single Broker Listing is live and looks great! On the Quill Blog, on Zillow, on Redfin – heck, it looks great EVERYWHERE!! By my estimation, this is what the future of real estate will look like: One broker marketing a property directly to buyers via multiple channels, without offering to pay the buyer’s agent’s commission (so no MLS number). Exciting times here at Quill!!

Why I am Withdrawing from the Multiple Listing Service to Offer Single Broker Listings

Today, my real estate firm Quill Realty is announcing its imminent withdrawal from the Northwest Multiple Listing Service [Quill Press Release 5/19/15]. We have some current inventory we need to clear. But by July 1, and likely sooner, Quill will withdraw from the NWMLS.

Why? Because that is where the future of real estate lies. For a long time – 10 years – I have been working on developing a better business model in real estate. It’s been apparent that real estate simply would have to change given the ongoing information and technological revolutions that have changed pretty much everything else.  Yet 10 years on, and nothing has changed much at all.

The real estate broker system, with its hallmark of cooperation between brokers, has been around for more than a century. A hundred plus years ago,  the term “marketing” didn’t exist, and the only way to sell a house was to have folks talk it up, literally. So today, just like 100+ years ago, a seller must hire two brokers to sell the house: the listing broker; and the cooperating or selling broker who often represents the buyer.

Notwithstanding the fact that listing brokers today take pride in their marketing abilities and are more than capable of selling the home themselves. Or that the internet  allows for easy and widespread dissemination of market information. Or that nobody – nobody – “brings a buyer” to the sale anymore. Buyers usually find the home themselves, and very few – if any – buyer’s agents today actually “sell” a house to their client.  Buyer’s agents today simply are not, either legally or ethically, “selling” brokers (a fact long recognized by Ardell).

So why do sellers continue to pay a selling office commission? Because it is a requirement of entry into any MLS (understandably so, given their cooperative nature). And for whatever reason – conspiracy theories abound! – sellers today continue to pay at least 2.5% and usually 3% to buyers’ agents. So the price of admission to the MLS is steep.

Meanwhile, the ability to market a property off of the MLS has continued to grow. The FSBO market has been around for a long time, and today there are more opportunities than ever to list a home in places other than the MLS.
This of course allows the seller to skip paying the selling office commission. Today, non-MLS listings appear on Zillow and Redfin, two very large and very popular real estate web search sites, as well as elsewhere across the web. Plus, in this seller’s market, does a seller even need that sort of high tech marketing? A professional yard sign and a couple of open houses are likely enough to get full market value in this historic seller’s market.

So Quill will be withdrawing from the NWMLS. We will be the very first and only broker in Seattle – as far as we know – to offer “single broker listings.” It’s a brand new term to refer to a listing contract with only a single broker. That one listing broker then has the opportunity to sell the house and earn the commission. Until today, sellers only had access to “multiple broker listings,” notwithstanding the fact that there is no longer any actual reason for or benefit to such a listing, other than that is simply how the system works.

Surely we can do better. Ten years on, and I feel like I might finally be making progress. Single broker listings will of course not appear on any MLS. They will, however, appear in many other marketing channels where buyers are looking (like Zillow, and Redfin). Plus the broker has access to every other marketing tool: a yard sign; high quality flyer; open houses and tours. And what about social media? Surely that offers an untapped opportunity for marketing a home. In other words, sellers simply don’t have to pay a cooperating broker commission in order to sell their home for market value, if they get the professional services of a real estate broker. So that is where Quill is headed.

What do you think? Is there a future in single broker listings? Or is Quill doomed to scuffle along like every other alternative brokerage, staying in business but neither getting rich nor changing the world?

“Zillow Talk: The New Rules of Real Estate”: Zillow Tries Too Hard, Tips Its Hand; the Future of Real Estate Isn’t Here Yet (But It’s Close)

Zillow Talk: The New Rules of Real Estate, by Spencer Rascoff and Stan Humphries

Reviewed by Craig Blackmon

This book by Zillow’s CEO and Chief Economist, respectively, is a wonderful advertisement for Zillow. It’s also a good book. It’s easy to read – really easy, clearly written to appeal to the broadest spectrum of readers – and very informative. It does a good job of illustrating the power of data and how it can be harnessed to make the most informed investment decision possible when buying a house.

But the book aims higher. It concludes with some stirring language about the power of data (don’t worry, this doesn’t require a Spoiler Alert): “Numbers don’t lie. And they won’t lead you astray. Indeed, they’ll help you find your way home.” (The same expression dominates the Zillow home page.)

Ah, home. The term is associated with so many wonderful things: family, laughter, love, shelter, protection, and on and on. “Home” is not just a place. It’s a very special place, a destination that is both more common and more unique than any other.

Is this book going to help you find your way to your home? Probably not. In fact, I hope not. Home requires more than a well-researched financial decision. Much more. Besides, any prediction of the future is just that, a prediction, and in the meantime life marches on. A good life needs a good home, regardless of the financial future.

With its focus on the trees and not the forest, the reader is left with a sense that it is much ado about nothing. The book relentlessly promotes the web site, implicitly and explicitly, from start to finish. You’re left wondering: Is that it? Has Zillow really changed real estate? The web site provides useful insight, sure. But it hardly upends real estate, an industry that continues to operate on a 19th Century model. Does Zillow show us the final, evolved real estate industry of the modern, technological, information age?  I mean, nobody uses a travel agent or a stock broker anymore….

The answer is revealed by a closer examination of Zillow and the people behind it. I believe Zillow is an ongoing project that will change dramatically as real estate evolves. And it will be instrumental in that evolution. But Zillow itself cannot lead the change. And in the meantime, it uses a business model that keeps it in business, biding its time until the eventual evolution.

This book is a “must read” for investors and real estate brokers, but not homeowners

In other words, folks who make a business out of real estate will benefit from reading this book. It does an excellent job of demonstrating how data – available via, a constant underlying refrain  throughout the book – can be used to calculate a property’s current and future value. So if the primary and essentially sole reason for purchasing a house is to make money (or if you sell houses yourself), this is a great book. It’s loaded with a lot of great insight.

For example, did you know that proximity to Starbucks is a good indicator of better appreciation? (Chapter 4) Or that you should list your home between March Madness and the Masters if you want the best chance at the best price? (Chapter 12) Fascinating stuff and worth considering when you are investing hundreds of thousands of dollars. A slightly better percentage return, thanks to in-depth analysis of the available data, can lead to quite a bit more money.

But if you’re looking to buy a home, don’t bother with this book. It’s myopic focus on dollar values simply doesn’t foster a good decision when looking for a home. Should you take into account financial considerations? Of course. But the primary focus should be on finding the right home for you and your family. So, while good schools may be an indicator of future value (Chapter 6), that shouldn’t be the focus. Rather, look for good schools so that your kids get a good education. This is a home. Not just an investment.

Zillow Is Setting the Stage for the Future of Real Estate

In its current iteration, Zillow doesn’t really do  much in terms of bringing the real estate industry into the 21st Century. As the book makes clear, Zillow simply wants to attract as many visitors to its web site as possible. Why? Because Zillow makes money as a lead generator for today’s real estate brokers.

In other words, Zillow currently complements and feeds off of traditional real estate brokers. The more people who use the Zillow site, the more leads that Zillow generates, and thus the more money it makes. Zillow is built on web traffic, nothing more. And it doesn’t do anything to disrupt a long-standing traditional industry, because that industry is it’s target market.  Even though that same industry is ripe for disruption.

Which is weird. Because the guy who co-founded Zillow previously co-founded Expedia. The web site that put travel agents out of business. Rich Barton is a widely recognized and highly regarded “disrupter.” His motto is “power to the people.” He believes that the internet can empower consumers in new ways that lead to better and more efficient ways of doing things. According to Mr. Barton, his companies Zillow and Expedia have “created new opportunities for new professionals to make new businesses for themselves.”

Except that Zillow hasn’t. Not yet, anyway. It’s merely expanded existing opportunities (lead generation) for a long-standing professional industry that allows it to sustain it’s dominant market position. Nothing new there.

But what if Zillow is a work in progress? What if, in only the highest level strategic planning documents, there is a plan for Zillow 2.0? That would start to make some sense.

What the Future of Real Estate is Going to Look Like

Today, there are two ways to sell your home: FSBO, or using the traditional cooperative real estate broker system. Home sellers can market their properties via many different channels other than the local MLS. Including, of course, Zillow, which shows both “Make Me Move” and true “for sale by owner” listings. So an owner is empowered by the internet and can forego using the real estate broker system, which includes payment of a commission to a cooperating agent.

But what if the home seller wants the professional insight and counsel of a real estate broker? From advice on preparing the home to market, to staging, to keeping the seller informed and educated, a real estate broker provides substantial value. And the broker is a trained marketing professional who will efficiently and effectively utilize the full array of marketing channels available in the 21st Century: yard sign, flyer, and open houses and tours, of course; but also web sites and social media.

Today, that real estate broker can exist, thanks to Zillow. With its brand recognition and size, it is used by a large number of home buyers. A “listing” on Zillow can lead buyers to the home, without paying for other agents to bring them. So a home seller can sell for a fraction of the cost, as they will no longer need to pay the 3% buyer agent commission.

In other words, Zillow has positioned itself to be one of the successors to the multiple listing services maintained by cooperating real estate brokerages all over the country. And by positioning itself there, it provides the platform necessary for meaningful change in real estate. But until that change happens, Zillow will sustain itself (and its shareholders) by working within the existing system.


What is an Alternative Brokerage? Who is an Alternative Real Estate Agent?

One of the great challenges of being on the “bleeding edge” of change in any industry is identifying the words to be used in discussing the new model. The real estate industry is, at more than a century old, steeped in history and culture. So it’s even more of a challenge to create a dialog that accurately captures the essence of a particular innovation and the characteristics that distinguish it from the old way of doing business. It’s hard to create new meanings for words that have long-standing and well-understood definitions.

One term used to describe real estate firms that are working to change the industry is “alternative.” But absent some definition, the term is meaningless. So what is, exactly, an “alternative brokerage”? And who would be an “alternative agent”?

Does use of the internet define Alternative Brokerage?

One possibility: A firm that leverages the internet to more efficiently provide client services, and passes at least some of the savings back to the consumer. The second clause is important. Every real estate broker by now has leveraged the internet, in particular by sharing their listings not just with other brokers but with the public via the internet (a change driven by anti-trust efforts of the Department of Justice). So simply using the internet cannot be considered alternative.

But passing the savings created by this efficiency back to the consumer? Now that’s new. On the other hand, though, there are lots of brokers out there now who will negotiate unique fees with their buyer clients and who will then rebate the balance of the seller-paid commission to the client at closing. These brokers recognize the fact that most buyers now do at least some of the home search themselves. Does that make their real estate firm an alternative brokerage?

No. If that’s the case, then the term “alternative” doesn’t begin to describe the many distinctions between the new business models that are emerging in the real estate industry and the traditional way of doing business. Agents (legally now called brokers, previously licensees) have been independent contractors, each largely responsible for their own real estate practice (independence is the hallmark of being an “independent contractor”). Every agent must be licensed through a managing broker, who remains responsible for the agent’s conduct. That agent then either pays a flat fee to the managing broker (i.e. a desk fee), or splits in some percentage with the managing broker (and firm) the commissions earned. One managing broker can be responsible for two hundred or more agents in the office. Each and every one of those 200+ agents is responsible for finding their own clients and generating their own income.

So the traditional model is defined in part by independence for the agents and limited oversight. If one agent in the office decides to charge a lower fee, does that make the whole office “alternative”? Clearly not.

It’s more than the internet. Modern business principles define an Alternative Brokerage

Therefore, the definition needs to be expanded. Here’s another possibility: A real estate firm that operates as a modern business and passes some of the savings realized by those modern efficiencies back to the consumer. This definition still captures “leveraging the internet,” clearly a hallmark of operating as a modern business. But what about the notion of branding and efficient marketing? In the 21st Century, there are more efficient means of advertising the firm’s services and acquiring new clients than making each agent responsible for their own business.

Finally, a modern business is more likely to value the brand and the resulting need to provide high quality service every time to every consumer. Many of the new real estate models employ their agents. This gives them a far greater degree of control over their agents’ conduct and the services they provide. While generalizations cannot be drawn about any particular agent, there is no dispute that the bar to entry into the profession is quite low. A modern business structure reduces the risk generally that a consumer will be poorly served by a real estate agent.

So operating as a modern business, and passing the savings realized by the resulting efficiencies back to the consumer, seems to define an alternative brokerage. Which begs the question: Can an alternative agent only work for an alternative brokerage? I think so. Otherwise, we once again define “alternative” way down, such that it’s only a shade off traditional. In today’s real estate industry, where there lots of alternative brokerages – as defined here – that definition just doesn’t convey reality.

What say you, RCG community? What is an “alternative brokerage“? Who is an “alternative broker”?

Ask not what your client can do for you…

Bill Gassett wrote a blog post a couple of days ago titled “Things Buyers Do That Real Estate Agents Hate”. I happen to know and like Bill and would not normally engage in a “correction”, point-counterpoint post with him. However one of my clients posted Bill’s article on his facebook page with this tag “Ardell DellaLoggia? Thoughts?”

Since my thoughts are more than will fit in a facebook comment…I am writing the full answer here. My facebook comment answer was:

I like Bill…and his piece is somewhat right…but for ALL the WRONG reasons. The only thing I “HATE” that a client does, is something that is against their own best interests OR anything that hints of fraud or discrimination. I would never HATE something one of my clients may do because of how that might impact me vs them or the public at large. Writing a point counter point to Bill’s piece…be back with the link when I am done.

Bill Gassett’s post has 13 points and I will use his point captions…but with my answer vs his. To compare to his answers…read his post in conjunction with this one.

Things Real Estate Agents Wish Buyers Wouldn’t Do

1. Buyer Calls Listing Agents On Their Own

Even MORE “wrong” than the buyer doing that is the real estate industry still using the term “Listing Agent” vs Agent for the SELLER. The main reason a buyer should not call the Seller’s Agent is the ONLY job of that agent for the seller is to answer your questions, and listen to what you say, to and for the seller’s benefit and not yours. In multiple offer situations, what the buyer may have revealed about themselves to the Agent for the Seller during that call could cause their offer to not be accepted…even if they would otherwise have had “the winning offer”. It’s like asking your wife’s attorney questions during a divorce. After warning you that they represent the other party…their job becomes to use what you are saying to THEIR client’s advantage, if you continue to talk after they ask you not to do that. Perhaps we need a miranda-type warning:

“I represent the seller and not you. Anything you say can and will be used to further my client’s best interest and not yours.”

2. Buyer Asks the Listing Agent to Show Them the Home

Same answer as 1 except even worse. Now not only do your words help further the seller’s best interest, but your general demeanor and body language as well. Not a good idea for a lightweight to get into the ring with Joe Frazier.

3. Ask Real Estate Agents to Show Them Properties Before They Are Pre-approved

It does not serve a buyer’s best interest for them to succumb to multiple and unwarranted credit checks needed for a pre-approval, because the act itself will lower their credit score. There are many contradictory versions of whether or not and when that is true. But a homebuyer’s loan costs and mortgage interest rate, when they do purchase, is directly tied to that credit score. If they are shopping for an agent while viewing 3 to 5 properties with different agents before they are ready to choose an agent and property, then getting 3 to 5 pre-approvals through those agent’s many and varied preferred lenders could seriously harm the buyer for years to come. EVERY real estate agent learns how to qualify a buyer as part of their required education for licensing. There is no reason an agent can’t qualify a buyer well enough to show them enough properties to decide if they are well suited to working with one another, usually 1 to 3 properties. The potential damage to the buyer has to outweigh the potential damage to the agent in this case. If the buyer tells me they have worked at Microsoft or Google for 5 to 7 years and have a salary of $200,000 and a credit score of 760 and want to look at houses costing $500,000…I don’t need a lender to run a credit check that I believe will lower the buyer’s credit score by about 25 points. Many of my clients fit that scenario and are well qualified and are buying below their means. If I worked in an area where 9 out of 10 buyers who come to me can’t get a mortgage…I would feel differently. An agent needs to consider the harm to the buyer and not just protect themselves from “wasting their time”.

4. Buyer Asks to View Property Outside of their Price Point

This involves more than the buyer and the agent, as the main reason NOT to show properties outside of a buyer’s price point has more to do with licensing ethics and sellers. We as agents have “The Keys to the Kingdom”. Having access to enter people’s homes is a HUGE privilege that comes with a responsibility not to abuse that privilege. Since I have been in the business for almost 25 years, I can’t say that I have never had someone ask me to enter a $2 Million listing for “the fun of it”, as example. My answer is no because my access to people’s homes is to a given purpose and “fun” isn’t one of them. If there is an Open House, well that’s an open invite. But using my access key to enter someone’s home for other than the purpose of buying it…answer has to be no. The main reason I don’t like Bill Gassett’s answer vs mine is many agents do, and often, make appointments to see homes to value a home they are soon going to be listing. If the home is occupied, I don’t think it is right to do that unless I disclose to the seller that I am not there for the purpose of showing their home to a prospective buyer. But MOST agents do think seeing the home to help them list a competing home in the neighborhood IS a legitimate reason. When you think about the seller cleaning for you and leaving their home for you…you have to agree that for them to do that to help you do your job for a different seller, is clearly not OK…in my book.

5. Buyer Does Not Respect The Agent’s Time By Calling Last Minute

I don’t get this one at all because in a hot market we have to be very “Johnny Jump Up”. Anyone who doesn’t want to jump through hoops to get their client the house they want, just shouldn’t be in this business. Often “the early bird gets the worm” around here. Last Minute is really First Minute in a hot market. I can’t tell you how many times my client got the house they wanted because we were there “Johnny on the Spot” and the first offer in. To hell with respecting the agent’s “time” and schedule. Whatever makes the most sense for the client to achieve their objective is the ONLY respect factor in the room! End of Story.

6. Buyer Looks At Home 5 Times and Does Not Make an Offer

Thank God they stopped themselves from buying a home they didn’t want, I’d say. Really? If it takes 5 times for them to know they don’t want it…then 5 times it is! This is just ridiculous, Bill. Sorry, you know I like you, but Holy Caboley! I have in fact had a client or two say they were going to buy a house because they felt badly FOR ME if they didn’t because of all the time and work I had invested in the endeavor up to that point. I was aghast that they would put me before their family’s best interest. I love those people…but Oh My God! No!

7. Buyer Not Researching Where They Want To Live Before Asking Agent to Show Them Homes

Duh! Isn’t looking at a few homes in various areas part of that “research”? Another “I don’t “GET” what Bill is getting at…or I don’t agree. Hard to say which.

8. Buyer Makes Unjustified Low-ball Offers

That’s a tough one to answer as everyone’s definition of “unjustified” and “low-ball” is different. If the market has already proven by lengthy days on market that the asking price is the wrong asking price, then basically it’s time to ignore that asking price in the offer. There are too many considerations here. If the buyer and I decide the price is $100,000 over-priced, and that happens often, and it came on market at that price 5 minutes ago, and my clients really want the house at the correct price, then the strategy of how we get that house for them at the right price is very important. I get Bill’s point here, but if you accept that person as a client, then…well…if you don’t like the way the client is acting you need to help that client find an agent better suited to their needs. This may be a reason to drop a client or not accept them as a client in the first place. But you don’t get to continue a bad relationship. Once you view your client as “an unreasonable low-baller”…it’s time to part ways. Breach of relationship, I’d say. There’s another agent who might love that client…release them so they can find a more compatible agent to work with.

9. Buyer Wants To Make An Offer Contingent On The Sale Of Their Home

I have to quote Bill’s Opening words on this one ” Sellers are not going to accept an offer with a home sale contingency 99% of the time.” Another Duh! If you knew your client needed to sell before buying, and you took them to see homes they now want to buy with a home sale contingency…whose fault is that? The time to have this conversation is NOT after you brought them to see the house and now it’s time to write an offer and you don’t want them to have to sell their house first. Why did you bring them to a house they now love…and then tell them they can’t buy it? Mean…just mean. ALSO AND IMPORTANT if the forms are available to make a contingent offer…and they ARE…then guess what? It IS sometimes OK to make a contingent offer and sellers DO sometimes take them, for sure! Might have to buy new construction, as example, to do a contingent offer. But if your client needs to do a contingent offer…then you have to figure out how to make that work. If you can’t…then drop them so another agent who does know how to do that can help them achieve their goals.

10. Buyer Asks To Negotiate Items That Were Visible Prior To Inspection

Huh? If the house needs a new roof, and I could tell that before the inspection, the buyer can’t negotiate that as part of the Home Inspection Negotiation…why? That’s just wrong. Of course the buyer can negotiate items “that were visible prior to the inspection”. Why not?

11. Buyer Expects the Home To Be Perfect After the Inspection

Now I just feel like someone Turned Back Time. Who died and made the agent in charge of what is and isn’t a “reasonable” request? If it hinders their objective to ask and sometimes it does, then we have to figure out how to meet the buyer client’s needs without risking losing the house, if getting that house is the client’s primary objective. The buyer in escrow is protected from the seller viewing their request “unfavorably”. That is why we do the inspection when IN escrow vs at time of offer. In fact your #11 explains why your #10 makes perfect sense to you. You seem to be more worried about the other agent’s seller client than you are about your buyer client? Do you not have Buyer Agency where you work? You do. Take the seller’s agent hat off when representing a buyer please.

12. Work with a Buyer’s Agent for Months and then Buy a House Through a Different Agent at an Open House

I have never had that happen to me in 24 plus years, not with another agent. But one time about 22 years ago I had a buyer client who got cornered by a seller at a ForSaleByOwner Open House. It was kind of funny too. I was doing their Open House on the property they needed to sell in order to purchase. They called me all excited “We Just Bought a House!!!” They were so happy. Had already signed the contract with the seller who had contracts AT the Open House for buyers to sign. It took them a few minutes after telling me their great news to realize what happened. LOL! They were so happy…how could I not be happy for them? They started apologizing once they realized that I basically felt like they just punched me in the gut. But I told them that THEIR goals and happiness was truly my foremost consideration. It happened. I was truly happy for them. I picked myself up…dusted myself off…and proceeded to help them in any way I could. Now as to Bill’s tale of woe…yes…I have seen that happen to many other agents. Most of the time it is the agent’s fault. Sometimes it is the seller agent’s fault at the Open House just like that FSBO Seller in my example. Sometimes it is the Buyer’s Agent who was not realizing that it was a one sided relationship for way too long. In any case this is usually a “look in the mirror” problem and not the buyer’s fault.

13. Buyer Works With More Than One Agent

You really can’t marry the first frog you kiss. Most of my clients are committed at first contact because they are referred to me by friends and family who highly recommend me. But buying a home with an agent is a very personal thing, and without a good personal referral a buyer needs to try a few agents on for size before choosing one. Also…it is sometimes hard not to use more than one agent if you have two completely different geographic options. I don’t have that problem here in the Seattle Area, but I did when I worked in PA and people often made a choice between Yardley PA and Princeton NJ. No one agent could do both. Any agent should know if a buyer needs to use more than one agent to best serve their interests and should actually be recommending that they use more than one agent if that is what is needed. They should be the first to tell the buyer to do that if and when it is needed.

Again…not to pick on Bill Gassett here, and the ONLY reason I have gone through this point by point is because my client happened on Bill’s post and asked me for my thoughts. I saw no way to do that without covering all of the points…and to do that on facebook where my client asked the question…well, too long. So I am posting a link to this post there now.

Buying a House in Seattle 2015? Check out Quill’s free Home Buying Class

2015 Home Buyer Class

Free Home Buyer Seminars offered by Alternative Brokerage in Seattle

Are you thinking of buying a house in Seattle in 2015? Or perhaps it’s time to sell your home? Either way, you’ll learn some great information at Quill Realty’s free House Buying Seminars for 2015.  We ‘re offering a free home buyer class – great for sellers too – on the fourth Wednesday of every month through June, from 7p – 9p here at the Quill office in Georgetown. Whether you’re a first time homebuyer or a seasoned veteran looking to “move up,” you’ll learn something valuable at these free real estate classes. Topics will include the current and anticipated future of the real estate market, common real estate legal issues (including from the seller’s perspective), and real estate search tips for finding “the one” (and other good marketing tips for sellers). All from the unique perspective of a consumer-driven, alternative real estate brokerage.   Continue reading