Earlier this summer I was contacted by a Manhattan resident who found me on the Internet and wanted me to show her and her husband some seven figure priced homes in an affluent suburb about 2 towns over. They chose me for a number of reasons, and our communication prior to our first meeting was promising. I scheduled 5 homes that fit their criteria and met with their approval, and we met at the first home, which was one where the listing agent was to accompany the showing. This is rather common in higher priced homes, and all but one showing would be accompanied. I don't consider it ideal, but the bigger and more complex a home is, the more value a professional listing agent can bring.
I said a "professional" listing agent.
As we walked through the home, the discussion rapidly evolved from all the facts about the house and its features to my buyers, where they live, what they do, why the town we were looking in appealed, and so forth. Now I am watching the listing agent chatting with MY people about THEM. This woman was standing in a master bedroom kibitzing with my people about Manhattan neighborhoods and where SHE lived 25 years ago.
You see where this is going, right?
- Prohibition 1: "Did you, Are you, Were you, Will you" In other words, engage with the buyer in nothing personal. It's not your job to bond with them. You don't need to match their intimate, personal needs with the house. That's their agent's job, and it may be done in a half hour at a coffee shop. I'd just have you sitting at the kitchen table reading a magazine, but if you have to trail us, play it straight.
Then the phase 2 of client meddling began: "Did Phil tell you about the Park and Ride for the commuter train?" "Did Phil tell you what week of June you can grieve the property taxes?" " Did Phil tell you how much train station parking passes are?" Of course we just met, so the answer was no. And this "professional" agent with the $2 million listing proceeded to subtly chip away at my new relationship with the buyers who chose me after research and work online.
They never called me again. The houses, and we are talking about 5,000 square foot homes with all the trimmings of affluence one could expect in suburban New York for $2 million, were put in the back seat.
- Prohibition 2: "Did your agent tell you...?" There is no upside to this question, and it is a not so subtle way of disempowering the buyer agent. Buyer agents do not always have an opportunity to recite a master's thesis on all the nuances of the surrounding community, the history of the subdivision, or the extracurriculars offered in the local schools. I've got news for you: if your listing doesn't feel like home, it won't matter.
Now, anyone who knows me will rightly conclude that I am not the sort of guy to take this sort of thing sitting down. The rather overt passive aggressive suggestion that a buyer is with the wrong agent and not the local expert on the diner menu or PTA minutes is not working for the seller, it is working for oneself. And it is not professional, it is mercenary. That's another blog.
Here's the upshot: If you are a listing agent accompanying showings, the buyers are not your client. They are there with the agent they have selected and you need to respect that. Sell the house. Blab all you want about why the owner chose the bamboo floors, Venus de Milo faucets on the master bath tub, and kitchen island shaped like Guam. Play it straight, because you might be doing a deal with the buyer agent and you need good will going forward.
Epilogue: This post started as a draft earlier this week. I have since heard from the prospective buyers, who emailed me back that they wish to remain in the city for now. I believe them, as none of the homes we saw that day with that listing agent have sold yet.
Epilogue II: If you like this post, you might be interested in my thoughts on this post:
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