Money Talks; Bullshit Walks

STREET SMARTSTWENTY ONE years in the Real Estate Biz today.

I’ve gotten quite a few calls from people this year who don’t seem to have any “Street Smarts” about the value of money. Odd but true.

1) Had a buyer from out of state call me to complain that he made an offer on a house and a few days later he called the seller who told him he took an offer from someone else. The buyer was furious! I asked him how much Earnest Money he put down. He said NONE. He didn’t see why he should have to put up any money until closing.

Do you HAVE TO put down Earnest Money UP FRONT? No…no law says you “have to”.

BUT…Money Talks; Bullshit walks. An offer with NO EARNEST MONEY is…well, pretty darned easy to BEAT, don’t you think???

2) Was talking to an agent whining about POOR SERVICE from an escrow company. Asked him if it was the BUYER’S CHOICE of escrow. He said no, it was the bank-seller’s choice of escrow.

Did it close? YES! Was the service poor? YES! Why do you think the bank insisted on THAT escrow company? You don’ think they are paying the same as the average buyer or seller pays for escrow, do you?

Discounted Fee = “We will close it.”and they DID close it. They did what they were paid to do.

Money Talks; Bullshit Walks – WHY would you EXPECT to get the same service you “normally” get, if you agreed to the discounted service??? Pay less; get less. It CLOSED! You agreed to the discounted service and then what??? Wanted the better one? Get REAL!

3) Other people’s buyer clients are calling me. Had at least a dozen buyers call me in the middle of Real Estate Transactions this year.

ALL of them were having second thoughts about the value of the house they were buying. Worse…several others called me about a house they just bought!

a) They wanted my opinion of the price and value.

b) They ALSO wanted to know if I thought they were making a mistake buying that particular house.

c) They wanted advice regarding how to proceed in a negotiation of the home inspection. This relates to a) as they were trying to recoup at inspection mostly due to their 2nd thoughts about paying too much up front.

These are reasonable questions that my clients don’t even need to ask me. Why are OTHER PEOPLE’s clients calling to ask me these questions???


NOTHING…IS TOO LITTLE. Seriously, having no one to second guess you is too little. You want someone who is going to say “Are you out of your freaking MIND? Do you know there are 75 sex offenders living within a mile of that house you “chose” to buy?”

I know how much is TOO LITTLE…because their clients are calling ME! Often when it is pretty much too late to do anything about it.

Saving Money is GREAT! I will often cut my price to the bone, because saving money is fabulous! But what I will not do is cut it to the point where you are going to get less than you need.

Lots of experiments with fees out there, and there is a LOT of room for lower fees. especially when the home price is over $500,000. But TOO LITTLE is usually not a good thing.

If you wake up in a cold sweat after your contract is accepted and want an opinion from someone you trust…and that person is NOT the person you hired. Well, then you paid too little.

Do I help the people who call me after hiring the wrong person? I think that’s against some rule or some law for me to do that…so I’m not telling. 🙂

Anyway…21 years in the biz. Didn’t want it to pass without saying a few words about some of the bullshit.

A special thank you to all of the many people who have hired me over the last 21 years. I appreciate the fact that you picked me, when there were so very many to choose from.

Get Creative


We lost IT. We use to have IT and now we lost IT and now you can get it on ebay! This IT is that huge chunk of our commission that used to come from being the gatekeeper to the multiple. At a listing presentation our competition was only another agent that charged the same fee (there were a few reduced fee offices but it wasn’t a trend).

But they don’t need us anymore for that. They can get it on ebay. And they can get listed for under $400! Of course, taking and uploading the listing in the multiple is just the beginning, but if we’re going to separate out tasks like the actual listing going into the multiple, why not separate out all the tasks and see what they’re really worth. I agree that uploading the listing is a pretty simple task and a lot of agents just fax it in so it probably is only worth $400 (you have to be registered with the mls for this, plus it involves contracts and accuracy of the listing information)….. if that’s all the service a seller wants.

So, last summer I decided to address all of the things that agents do by breaking up the tasks and establishing a monetary value to each. It’s the ala carte menu of listing services and I googled and googled but couldn’t find anyone with anything complete enough online. I even took the coursework to get licensed as a consutant from the National Association of Real Estate Consultants (NAREC) so I could see if someone had already done all that work.

I separated out the tasks ranging from $20/hr for real estate data input, filling flyer boxes, dropping off keys, etc. (a high school kid couldn’t do all of this) to $300/hr for negotiation and problem solving. Wow, I was surprised at how often I worked for $20/hr. I tried to figure out what I’d be charged by different people doing different levels of work and then added a profit margin.

The $300 work i assumed would be done by the senior agent taking the listing and running the team but personally doing tasks that take a lot of experience and skill like price opinions, market timing, the totally important negotiations with both buyers and the buyer’s agents and solving all those problems (I had a list of 88 things that can go wrong with a transaction). Personally, this is where I’d prefer to spend my time.

The results are on the website if you want to see how it works. My slick computer tech even built it to automatically compute based on different packages and house price.

What got me thinking about this was today’s Inman article on bloated commissions and how much I agree with it. The article suggests, “consumers would benefit most from fee-for-service real estate companies that base compensation on flat fees, hourly fees and other specific payments for services rather than relying on a commission rate that is based on a percentage of the sale price of a home.

Negotiating the Commission vs. “Discounting”

[photopress:album2.jpg,thumb,alignright]My very first entry here on RCG discussed the manner in which a buyer and their buyer’s agent negotiate the buyer agent commission. Being a “Discount Broker” and Negotiating are not one in the same. A “Discount Broker” usually has a set fee or menu of services with set prices. Many traditional brokers have a set range within which their agents cannot deviate. “Negotiating the commission” is a simple phrase for no carved in stone set amount. It means sitting down with a client and determining a fair and reasonable price for this client given this particular client’s needs and expectations. The end result being an unknown factor until the end of the interview. The end result could be higher than the client’s desire, lower than the client’s expectation and in many cases no change at all from the agent’s expectation. Negotiation is about an intelligent discussion with a mutually agreed upon end result.

Last night before I went to sleep I popped over to Greg’s excellent blog and his article that referenced my feelings on the topic of buyers and buyer’s agents. I was a little surprised to see a “nastygram” comment there aimed at me personally and my feelings on this topic. It amazes me that agents who sit down with sellers every day to negotiate the commission, become absolutely outraged at the suggestion that buyer’s should do the same with their agent.

I would like to dispell the myth that I am a “Buyer’s Broker” who exclusively works with buyers only. Not because there is anything wrong with that business model, but because it simply isn’t true. The only reason I highlight buyers with regard to commission negotiations is because agents negotiating with seller clients is a given. There is absolutely, never a listing appointment with a seller, that does not include the topic of commission. Consequently there is no reason for me to evoke change or explain the parameters within which the seller consumer can negotiate with their agent.

One of the main reasons to highlight the difference between “discounting” and “negotiating” is the fact that Buyer Agent Bonuses are on the rise. Every night I receive emails and “Zip Your Flyers” from agents around the Puget Sound offering “$5,000 EXTRA Buyer Agent Bonus!” and “4% SOC!”

The mere concept that a Buyer Agent will be enticed to lead a buyer to one house over another, because of the amount of money that Buyer Agent will make when it sells, shoud be offensive to every single agent in this country.

The Buyer Agent represents the Buyer. The Buyer Agent is not “Selling a House to Make Money”. The Buyer Agent, in representing the Buyer’s Best Interests, should never be offering advices based on the fee structure of each property. That doesn’t mean that a low fee doesn’t infiltrate and influence the thought process. We are human. It would have to be a perfect match for my client and a great house for me to truly buckle down and recommend a house that is paying five bucks or nothing. But there have been times when I recommended a house and walked away with absolutely nothing, just as there are times when I have represented a seller and found that my walking away with nothing was the only way to achieve the objective. It happens once in a while the same as a lawyer does a pro bono case once in a while. I don’t make a business model out of it, but I don’t rule out the possibility of that end outcome either.

As for the jab at the end of the “nastygram” comment “NOTE: Ardell is NOT a REALTOR”, it is absolutely true that I “stepped out of the pew” after having been a member for 14 years or so. I have given NAR over ten years of those 14 years I was a member, to raise the status of the buyer to CLIENT level. I am disappointed that Buyer Agency has not progressed further than it has, and clearly I have given them sufficient time to meet my expectations.

Does anyone really think it matters if I go over and slap my $500 or so over at the Board of Realtors on Monday to “become a REALTOR”? Does taking five minutes out of my day and $500 out of my pocket really make any difference in who I am or how I do business with my clients? I think it is more honest and ethical to be true to myself, and stay out as long as I agree with the DOJ’s position. I think it is more honest and ethical for me to stand outside the fray until our basic thinking is more in line, than to be a member who dissents from within. I’m the one who has to look at myself in the mirror in that regard, and make a personal choice. At present, this is the one I can live with.

As long as the buyer is not expected to discuss commissions when they meet with an agent, the same as a seller – no more, no less, I will remain where I am. Discussing commissions with a seller does not automatically translate into discount nor does discussing commissions with a buyer automatically translate into discount. It is a matter of equal treatment and respect, pure and simple. How can that possibly be wrong?

ON A LIGHTER NOTE – THERE WILL AGAIN BE A PRIZE, ON BOTH SITES, FOR NAMING THE BAND AND ALBUM TITLE OF THE PICTURE IN THIS POST. Same era, late sixties, fabulous Rock and Roll band from the West Coast that might have done better on a different label. Not a One Hit Wonder, with many albums in our collection, and one of Kim’s favorite bands of all time. There are other clues to the band’s name in the photo itself, but this one should not be an easy ,”googleable” answer. Good luck!