Behind the Scenes

J Philip Faranda November 23, 2010

Catherine and MarkThere are times when I wonder if the public really knows what it takes to run a decent business when they bring up our real estate commission. Today, for example, we got our error and omission (E & O) insurance premium for fiscal 2011 and it was over double what I paid in 2010. And I never had a claim. I could see if they had to pay a liability claim of some sort, but I’ve never had one. We don’t assess our agents any part of our premium the way large firms do. I started my own firm in large part because I didn’t like getting nickeled and dimed. That policy will not change. But it doesn’t mean I have to be delighted for having my premium doubled for stellar conduct. The reasoning for the increase was higher revenue this year than last. A happy reason perhaps, but I’d expect a lower premium for no claims, not a doubled one. 

Being self employed in this environment is no picnic. I have a government that defines me as part of the wealthier class if the business makes a commensurate profit with revenue, and over on my side I have 4 children to feed, clothe and educate, one of whom may well need assistance all his days. That’s a worthier cause in my book than 90% of what the federal government throws money into. 

Not long ago, I had a listing expire unsold when the owners refused to accept an offer that was on the table toward the end of our term. Really sadly, our cordial relationship blew up at their dining room table when my client informed me that he was going to let the listing expire, then sell to the prospective buyer after the end so he’d be exempt from paying me. When I reminded him that he’d have to wait until the protected period was over, he was unapologetic. It was “business.”

I got a call from his attorney the following day asking for a copy of our listing contract. Of course the client had a copy; he either lost it or misplaced it. I told the attorney, whom I had been plenty friendly with beforehand, that I knew full well what was going on- he was going to see where he could find an “out” so his client could squirm out of paying my fee. He got nasty when I said this, but I learned a long time ago when an attorney calls with a chip on his shoulder asking for paperwork nothing friendly ever comes of it.

The crux of all this, ironically, is a walk in closet. My client’s home was paid for, and his retirement was secured.

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He was moving south after he sold to a less expensive area, where he and the missus would live in their dream home. And it had to be the model with the walk in closets.

This guy wanted me to subsidize his retirement. He couldn’t live in what he earned. I had to chip in and work for free. People that put their hands in my pocket stink. People that put their hands in my children’s pocket should lose that hand. 

I think I put the fear of God in the guy and his attorney after that little episode. As far as I know, they did not sell, most likely because the buyer walked after they waited out the terms of our contract. Serves them right. My heart goes out to those folks out there who  have little or no equity and face hardship. Paying for food, clothing and necessities are tough enough these day, let alone a real estate commission. I know that. Interestingly, those are the people that give me the least grief about fees. But people with no such hardship who want me to subsidize their lifestyle on the backs of providing my family and livelihood don’t get it, and that is a shame. 

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