When I got into the real estate business as an agent a few years ago, one of my first and greatest disappointments was with the relationships that agents have with each other. The competition for buyers and listings and the competition in the negotiation phase of a transaction always seemed (and seems) to create a lot of negativity.
Real estate isn’t alone in this. I know a certain large high-tech company in the area where this can come into play. The review/reward model is competitive and pay and raises are based on ‘merit’. I’ve seen a lot of people take that to mean that, in order to get ahead, the other people around me have to lose… and the assumption can be that you shouldn’t help each other. Happily, in most of the groups and teams I worked on there, folks quickly realized that part of the grading system was on cooperating with other people. And, with so many dependencies between people and teams you can’t get ahead unless your team members are getting ahead, also.
So, it was disappointing to come into the RE world and see agents at the same company doing each other in… someones client comes in and they don’t get helped because their agent isn’t in, or an agent has too many clients (remember those days?) who need to see properties at the same time and no one is willing to go show a house for them… unless you are willing to cut them in for 50% of the commission. New to the business? Forget it! It sure seems like experienced agents don’t have the time or the patience to help someone they see as a competitor. And that is in house! It can be even worse working with agents from competing companies. Gossip, back-stabbing, stealing buyers, trying to shark listings, etc. And the attitudes about negotiation! Its not personal people! Its business and to some extent a game. Please don’t get mad because I negotiate hard! I enjoy this business and I enjoy the negotiations. But, most importantly I believe in the win-win scenario, where everyone walks away happy in the end. That is one reason I enjoy commercial real estate and leasing transactions, especially. When negotiating a lease, its always important that we remember that this is a long-term relationship we are building between our clients… they will be doing business with each other for 5, 10, 20 years or much longer. So, the attitude between agents tends to be a bit more cooperative. And, since its a business decision, there is a little less emotion involved (a little less, but not much less… most business owners love their businesses and building owners love their buildings.)
OK, back to the point. Its not always negative. Over time I’ve found plenty of agents and companies that are great to work with. I treasure those transactions when I can walk away feeling that I not only did good for my client, but I built a new relationship with the agent and the client on the other side of the transaction, too.
I recently got to experience a shining example of positive results when agents are willing to cooperate.
I got a call a few weeks ago from the listing agent/builder’s agent for a local development in town. She works at Windermere Everett, one of the other companies prominent in our area. As the listing agent for several developments, she doesn’t work at the site or hold the model homes open. She finds other agents to do that work and be “site agents.” (For those of you not familiar with the term, a site agent is a buyer’s rep who is located on site at the development and shows he model home and works with the walk-in prospects who don’t already have their own agent. The main thing here is that they are a buyer’s agent, not the builder’s agent.)
She needed at least one more site agent for the builders development in our town, and one of the current site agents, who happens to work at a differentcompany (ReMax Northwest), had suggested she contact me since she knew me and I live here in town. We talked about the concept, I and my partner, Kathi Jackson, toured the development (I had been in it once before, since I live around the corner). We talked about expectations from both the listing agent and the builder (what happens if we get a prospect at the site, but those homes are not a good fit, for example?) and we talked about the benefits to us as site agents, the schedule/commitment requirements, etc. and in the end, we all agreed it would be a great working relationship.
So, to recap… 4 agents, 3 different real estate companies, working together to the mutual benefit of each other and their clients. The listing agent knows that her builder’s needs are being met. The builder knows their needs are met. The site agents get the inside track on some good prospects. The buyers get knowledgeable agents who don’t have competing allegiances. And, the various real estate companies have a much better chance of getting $$ coming in from their various agents, because those agents have a better chance at success. Is that cool or what? I think its amazing and almost unheard of in almost any business for folks from 3 competing companies to do this. I think its actually possible because this is the real estate business and we have clear legal and morale guidelines… do what is best for the client.
And the results… Kathi and I have been site agents at the development for several weeks now… through snow, floods, sunshine and today… fog. The builder, Harbour Homes, has doee a great job of providing us information that helps us to help prospective buyers make a good decision and to know their options if they buy a presale home… and it helps that Harbour really does build a nice home. The listing agent sends us the contact info for prospective buyers when they call her. And, we help everyone who comes by, including the agents representing buyers already. And, you should see the surprised looks on some of their faces… I guess they were worried the site agents would try and steal their clients.
This has been a good start to the year. It was great to start out with such a positive experience (OK, I guess we actually ended 2008 with this, but I am much happier looking at it as a positive start to 2009.)
I’m hoping this good vibe continues and I’ll have not only lots of transactions, but lots of transactions I can come away feeling good about both the transaction and all the people involved. I hope everyone out there helps me out with that. 🙂