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Buyers are Liars

I received an interesting phone call after hosting an open house for one of my new listings. The call came from a real estate agent I didn’t know who tersely rattled off the names of three people.

“These are my clients,” the agent said. “If they go straight to you, remember they are mine.”

I recognized one of the names as that of a prominent plastic surgeon who had called me only the day before to arrange a private showing of the property. As we toured the home, I had made a point of asking the doctor who is agent was. (I prefer this direct question rather than “Do you have an agent?” which usually elicits a vague, unhelpful response.) The doctor candidly shared that he was working with several Realtors and whichever one brought him a property he liked would be the one he would use to represent him.

For better or worse, it’s a common practice. It is also the reason you hear this mantra in the broker community:

“Buyers are liars.”

For a real estate agent, there is nothing more disheartening than working for weeks or months with people who are looking to buy a home – giving them valuable advice, searching for properties that fit their needs, driving around showing them house after house – only to have them go with someone else, often the listing agent, when it comes time to write an offer.

But who can blame them? As long as an army of desperate agents are willing to run after buyers and do their bidding without a formal agreement, written or otherwise, many of those buyers will take advantage of all the attention and use it to their benefit.

As someone who values loyalty and strives to conduct business as ethically as possible, I would never dream of trying to steal another agent’s client. For one thing, it’s a small town. Word gets around fast. For another, I do my best to treat people the way I would want to be treated. However, if buyers make clear to me that they are unrepresented or working with several agents, I feel perfectly comfortable telling them about my value proposition: what sets me apart from other real estate professionals and why I might be their best choice.

I politely explained this to the agent who called me about her so-called clients.

There was a weary pause on the line, then she mumbled a thank you and hung up.