How many times have you had a client say, “My friend told me…” or “My parents said this…?”
Our focus is always on client education throughout the process of selling or buying. When a client hires us to represent them, we accept that responsibility with a great deal of pride. We make certain that our clients understand that there are no stupid questions, and we expect to be asked about the simplest details of the process, such as, “What are closing costs?” or “How do I connect utilities?” A lot of times, our clients also receive advice and have stories related to them from their friends and family.
Sometimes those stories are true experiences, and other times they are the very best examples of “Rumor.” I’m sure you all know the game “Rumor” we used to play in grade school. One person tells a secret and passes it down a line of people, and before it reaches the end of the line, the secret is never the same as it started. That happens a lot more than we would like. There are Monday morning quarterbacks ready to tell our clients what they should be doing, or what they should have done in just about every activity in which they engage; or, someone’s Great Aunt Tilly knows a family whose real estate agent deceived them, and now they can never sell their house because it’s haunted by the ghost of Jack Benny and they are constantly tortured by loud fiddle playing at all hours.
If you’re under 50, you probably won’t get that joke, but go ahead and laugh; it is a rather amusing story, and not as absurd as some of the alleged, second-hand horrors that clients have related to me.
But how do you respond when it’s another industry professional telling your client the many possible calamities that may befall them during the transaction process? What if a home inspector questions your client about you, the real estate professional, and whether you are responsible and capable of protecting the client’s interests?
I bring this up because that exact thing happened to one of my recent clients. The home inspector the client hired questioned him about the following: the contract terms; if I knew what I was doing; was the contract actually signed by the seller; and did the client understand that the selling bank could still accept offers even though the client had an agreement.
That inquisition was of no use to the inspector, and was outside the professional scope of work for which he had been retained by the buyer to perform. Thankfully, the client responded appropriately and assured the inspector that all was well, and could he simply schedule the home inspection as requested. The client relayed the events to me – and I was suddenly boiling mad.
Another industry professional, one who was not a licensed real estate agent, was attempting to explain contract law to my client without ever having seen the client’s agreement with the seller, or without consulting me, the agent. It was a clear violation of ethical standards, and the home inspector could have been accused of practicing real estate and law without a license.
That is an extreme case, and that inspector is no longer performing the home inspection for the client. Thankfully, the client knew enough to trust the process and his real estate professional. Though you may encounter clients with friends, relatives and other industry professionals who want to relate their experiences to them, we always advise our clients to smile and nod and thank them for caring enough to share their opinions. Then we tell them to call us, the professionals, to find out the truth if they have questions.
How would you handle that situation?
One final thought: there are, in fact, unscrupulous real estate agents. As much as I hate to admit our industry isn’t perfect, it’s not. If you ever suspect you or your client are being misled or deceived, contact the managing broker at that firm, or the Georgia Real Estate Commission, to express your concerns; and always trust your instincts.
A founding partner of Maximum One Realty Greater Atlanta, C. Mark Willix has recruited more than 70 agents to the company. In March 2013, Mark formed his own sales team within Maximum One Realty, where he is an associate broker. Mark is also a member of the faculty of Georgia Real Estate Academy, where he teaches continuing education and post license courses. He currently lives in rural West GA with his partner James and their seven dogs, a one-eyed cat, several beehives, a rooster named Dave and a hen named Elle. When not assisting clients, you can usually find Mark on a karaoke stage.
He can be reached at: